Last night at Gracie Mansion, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg held an event to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I accepted an award on behalf of The AbleGamers Foundation, of which I am a board member. (Congrats, AbleGamers!!) While sitting up on stage as the Mayor gave his speech, I looked around the room for CART services. Figuring they didn’t offer CART, I tried to follow the sign-language interpreter. About halfway into the program I happened to look up: CART was on the ceiling!! I must have looked terribly foolish stretching my neck to read the Mayor’s words upside down. But I don’t think he noticed.
The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, led by Commissioner Matthew Sapolin, holds this event each year to recognize individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to increasing accessibility for people with disabilities. Says Bloomberg: “We have worked hard to make sure New Yorkers with disabilities have improved access to every aspect of the city, and we remain dedicated to making New York the greatest city in the world for people with disabilities.”
Here are the five recipients of the disability awards, which are given out based on the category — known as a title — of the ADA that they have helped advance.
Bank of America: Title I Employment Award
Bank of America was honored for its commitment to diversity and inclusion in its everyday activities such as charitable giving to organizations aiding those with disabilities, promotion and encouragement of internal volunteer-based affinity groups, and recruitment of diverse talent including its job accommodations group that integrates people with disabilities and arranges accommodations. Bob Qutub, Chief Financial Officer, Global Banking and Markets, Bank of America, accepted the award.
American Museum of Natural History: Title II Public Service Award
The American Museum of Natural History was honored with the Title II Public Service Award for its accessible exhibitions, theaters, and food service areas, as well as its Science Sense tours, which are geared for the blind and visually impaired, are free with admission and involve specially trained museum tour guides who highlight specific themes and exhibition halls while engaging participants through extensive verbal descriptions and touchable objects. Ann Siegel, Vice President for Operations and Capital Programs, American Museum of Natural History, accepted the award.
The NYC Independent Living Centers: Title III Reasonable Accommodation Award
The New York City Independent Living Centers was honored for providing a wide array of services to people with disabilities free of charge, including benefits counseling, housing assistance, employment-related assistance, healthcare access, skills training, recreational activities and more. Robert Gumson, Unit Manager, Independent Living Services, New York State Education Department’s Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals With Disabilities (VESID), accepted the award.
The AbleGamers Foundation: Title IV Telecommunications Award
The AbleGamers Foundation was honored with the Title IV Telecommunications award for its use of technology and accessible telecommunications, including its website, AbleGamers.com; its annual “Game Accessibility Day“, its interactive event “The Accessibility Arcade” that allows non-disabled people to look at, and experience the gaming world from the perspective of the disabled; and its “Path to Games Accessibility Project.” Suzanne Robitaille, Board Member, The AbleGamers Foundation, accepted the award.
Autism Speaks: Frieda Zames Advocacy Award
Autism Speaks, a nonprofit corporation that funds research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism, was honored with the Frieda Zames Advocacy Award, given to an individual or organization whose efforts for greater accessibility are a fitting tribute to the late Frieda Zames. Autism Speaks’ annual “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” event in New York City raised over $1 million and involved the participation of over 4,700 walkers. Mark Roithmayr, President, Autism Speaks, accepted the award.