Ensuring All People with Disabilities Can Answer One Simple Question
By Guest Blogger John D. Kemp, President & CEO, The Viscardi Center
Who do you aspire to be? When asked, no matter what your age, it’s likely an individual you can relate to in some sense. All too often this question, seemingly simple in nature, becomes difficult for people with disabilities to answer. Why… because many with disabilities have few aspirational role models, leaders and mentors they can liken themselves to in their midst.
For this reason, the Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards were established in honor of our organization’s founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr. Dr. Viscardi, who used prosthetic legs, transformed the lives of countless individuals with disabilities around the world. In fact, he served as disability advisor to eight presidents, wrote eight books, was the inspiration for countless disability-related organizations, led the first U.S. business to be staffed primarily by employees with disabilities, and opened an accredited, private school giving children with severe physical disabilities the opportunity for an education in a more traditional setting.
Most importantly, Dr. Viscardi was one to admire. A shining example and living proof for thousands of children and adults with disabilities, including myself, that we should aim high and that we could accomplish anything we put our minds to academically, vocationally and socially. I now have the privilege of leading the organization he founded over 60 years ago. The Viscardi Center continues to educate, employ and empower people with disabilities, guide employers on the benefits of an inclusive workforce, and shape policy changes that will benefit the people it serves.
The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards are an opportunity to spotlight influential individuals with disabilities who are today’s leaders, mentors and role models for our peers and our next generations of people with disabilities. Every day, people with disabilities are leaving their mark all over the world, with their work often transcending the geographical boundaries of where they live. Since inception, the Viscardi Award recipients have been a dedicated, diverse, and trendsetting group that reminds us all how a single person can spur change on a global scale.
The 2016 Viscardi Awards Selection Committee is being co-chaired for the fourth consecutive year by Robert Dole, former U.S. Senator, along with Sherwood “Woody” Goldberg, Esq., retired U.S. Army Colonel and current Senior Advisor for Asian Affairs at the Center for Naval Analysis.
Each year, the global nomination pool has included business and healthcare professionals, wounded warriors, advocates, governmental leaders, to name a few. Read about past Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards recipients.
I encourage you to nominate an exemplary leader in the disability community who has had a profound impact on changing attitudes, raising awareness and making the lives of people with disabilities great so we have more men and women to emulate and we can all answer the question: who do you aspire to be?
Nominations are being accepted until September 30, 2016 and more information may be found athttp://www.viscardicenter.org/about/hvaa/hvaa.html.
About the Guest Blogger
John D. Kemp is president and CEO of The Viscardi Center and School in Albertson, NY, a national disability employment and education organization. He is widely respected for his many achievements in the corporate and non-profit worlds.
From 2002 to 2011, Mr. Kemp was a partner in Washington, DC’s Powers Law Firm. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Washburn University School of Law in May 2003.
In 2006, Mr. Kemp received the Henry B. Betts Award, America’s most prestigious award within the national disability community. In 2014, he received the Dole Leadership Prize from Senator Robert J. Dole’s Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. In 2015, Mr. Kemp was one of twenty-five inaugural inductees into the National Disability Mentoring Coalition’s Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame, in honor of Susan B. Daniels, for demonstrated commitment to mentoring and the impact of their contributions to improving the lives of people with disabilities. In addition, he has received top awards from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services.
Mr. Kemp served as CEO of UCPA, VSA Arts, ACCSES, and USBLN, and as General Counsel for the National Easter Seal Society, and managed law and consulting firms that advised companies on state/federal civil rights, employment and education laws and policies regarding persons with disabilities.