Leadership Awards Gala


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2021 Virtual Leadership Awards Gala

April 28, 2021 | 7:00pm Eastern


Click here to view video with captioning and American Sign Language interpreting: https://aapd.streaminglive.live


Click here for video with audio descriptions: https://aapd.streaminglive.live/descriptive.html


This event is free and open to all!

The AAPD Leadership Awards Gala is the one night a year that the disability community comes together with business and government leadership to celebrate the progress of disability rights. This year’s Gala will provide a unique opportunity for AAPD’s partners, supporters, colleagues, and friends to demonstrate their continued support for access, equity, and inclusion.

Special Guest

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President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

AAPD is honored to announce that President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will be joining the 2021 Virtual Leadership Awards Gala with a pre-recorded message on April 28, 2021.

Special Guest

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Taraji P. Henson, Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winning actor, producer and activist

Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winning actor, producer and activist Taraji P. Henson is known for her powerful roles in HUSTLE & FLOW, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, EMPIRE, WHAT MEN WANT and THE BEST OF ENEMIES, among many others. Henson recently launched her own production company, TPH Entertainment, which has a first-look deal with Twentieth Century Fox TV and she will make her directorial debut this year with the Bron Studios drama ‘Two-Faced’. In addition to her work in the entertainment space, Henson founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her late father to focus on the many different facets that encompass mental health services and education within the Black community. In 2020, Henson launched her own haircare line TPH by Taraji, with a focus on a scalp first approach and self-care for individuals of all different hair types.

AAPD Democracy Award

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Stacey Abrams, Founder, Fair Fight

Stacey Abrams, political leader, voting rights activist and New York Times bestselling author, will be honored with the inaugural AAPD Democracy Award for her work to enfranchise all voters, including the disability community of over 60 million strong. Over the course of her career, Abrams has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels. 

AAPD Catalyst Award

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Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller

Thomas P. DiNapoli will be awarded the AAPD Catalyst Award for his efforts to drive forward disability rights and inclusion through corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investing. As Comptroller of the State of New York, DiNapoli oversees the third largest public pension fund in the United States. He has called on companies within the Fund, which includes 49 of the largest U.S. companies, to report on their inclusion of people with disabilities. DiNapoli has also encouraged the Nasdaq to include “disability” in the definition of diverse for its listing rules.

AAPD Image Award

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Jane Pauley, Host, CBS Sunday Morning

Jane Pauley, one of the most respected figures in American broadcast journalism and Host of CBS Sunday Morning, will be joining us to receive the AAPD Image Award. Ms. Pauley has used her platform and voice to serve as an advocate for mental health awareness, including sharing her own story and journey through her bipolar diagnosis that she received over 20 years ago.

AAPD Capitol Champion Award

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Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley

AAPD will award Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley with the Capitol Champion Award. Since being elected to office in 2018, Congresswoman Pressley has introduced numerous pieces of legislation, including the Ending PUSHOUT Act and Mental Health Justice Act, aimed at protecting those who are multiply marginalized in the disability community. In addition to her advocacy on Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Pressley’s candid story of living with alopecia has empowered and created space for others to share their own experiences of living with hair loss.

AAPD Capitol Champion Award

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Congressman Don Young

Through his tenure in office and as Co-Chair of the House Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, Congressman Don Young has fought for protecting the rights of Americans with disabilities and against the weakening of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, opposing disastrous legislation like the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. Congressman Young has also been active in promoting disability rights worldwide through introduction of the Office of International Disability Rights Act and advocating for the recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

AAPD Corporate Leadership Award

AAPD will honor its long-standing supporter, AT&T with the AAPD Corporate Leadership Award. Through its critical investments and partnership, AT&T has played an instrumental role in the growth and development of the AAPD Summer Internship Program, its Disability Advocacy Certificate Program, and the AAPD Technology Forum. The AAPD Corporate Leadership Award will be accepted by John Stankey, Chief Executive Officer of AT&T.

AAPD Ally Award

AAPD will honor The New York Times for Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths went unreported in The Times. The series has highlighted the stories of disabled advocates who were instrumental in the civil rights movement leading up to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The AAPD Ally Award will be accepted by Amy Padnani and Peter Catapano.

Special Guests

2021 Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Awardees

2021 AAPD Leadership Awards Gala Emcee

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Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post, Host, The Sunday Show, MSNBC

Thank you to our 2021 Virtual Awards Gala sponsors!


National Platinum Sponsor

National Gold Sponsor

National Silver Sponsor


National Leadership Circle

Nancy Dorn & Will Ris | Laura Randa 

National Advocate Circle

Senator Bob Dole

National Supporter Circle

Maureen Flood | Dan Goodmann 


The 2020 Leadership Awards Gala was held on March 10, 2020.

For more information, please contact development@aapd.com.



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