Berger helped transform AAPD into one of the nation’s leading disability civil rights organizations
Washington, D.C. (November 5, 2018): The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) announced today that the organization’s President and CEO, Helena Berger, will retire as leader, effective August 2, 2019. Under Helena’s leadership over the last 20 years – in various senior roles, including President & CEO — AAPD has become one of the nation’s leading cross-disability civil rights organizations dedicated to social reform and equal rights for people with disabilities.
“It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that AAPD’s Board of Directors accepts Helena’s decision to retire as the leader of AAPD. Helena has played a critical role in the development and success of AAPD, and has earned tremendous respect as a leader in both the national and international disability rights movement. While we will all miss her and her steadfast advocacy for justice and inclusion, we know that she will never stop fighting to ensure that all Americans have an equal opportunity to pursue the American dream,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., AAPD Board Chair. “Because of Helena, AAPD has never been in a stronger position, organizationally and financially.”
During Helena’s tenure, AAPD has:
- Executed an effective grass roots communications advocacy strategy to educate, mobilize, and activate the disability community to protect hard-won legislative and legal advances and resist harmful policy and program changes;
- Organized and coordinated nationwide efforts to educate, encourage, cultivate, and train new and emerging leaders of the disability rights movement through initiatives such as AAPD’s Washington, D.C. Summer Internship Program, Disability Mentoring Day, and other AAPD leadership development programs;
- Spearheaded the national REV UP (Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) Campaign, to include the creation of State Disability Voting Coalitions and National Disability Voter Registration Drives, significantly increasing the political participation of Americans with disabilities and elevating the power of the disability vote;
- Advanced disability inclusion in the workplace and increased job opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities through the Disability Equality Index (DEI), in partnership with Disability:IN, which has now become the nation’s leading corporate benchmarking tool for disability equality and inclusion;
- Founded the We Will Ride Coalition to work towards ensuring autonomous vehicles start with the design and manufacturing of fully accessible vehicles so all disabled Americans are served by this new and revolutionary transportation alternative;
- Fought to ensure that all children with disabilities are afforded the right to education free of bullying, inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint as punishment for behavior, and discriminatory school discipline practices;
- Worked with policymakers on Capitol Hill to promote key civil rights legislation and block efforts to repeal civil rights protections for people with disabilities; and
- Recruited and motivated AAPD’s staff and created the strongest financial balance sheet in AAPD history.
In seeking to identify the next leader of AAPD, the Board has appointed a search committee, to be chaired by executive recruiter and former AAPD Board Chair, Joyce Bender. Chris Griffin, immediate past AAPD Board Chair, will assist AAPD in the search process and field all questions and applications. Helena Berger will remain in her position as President and CEO during the search process and to ensure a smooth transition to her successor during the summer of 2019.
“Serving as President and CEO of AAPD and working alongside so many passionate, determined, and dedicated advocates in the pursuit of justice has been an honor and a privilege,” said Helena Berger. “And during these uncertain and challenging times, I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this strong, undeterred, and resilient community. Although the time has come for me to hand over the reins to the next leader, I will continue to fight with all of you for a society where every person with a disability is valued equally and participates fully. I am confident that I am leaving AAPD in a strong position to continue to organize and advocate for the civil and human rights of all disabled Americans.”
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