Award honoring disabled is named for New Yorker

Monday December 10, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- An international award whose board includes former Sen. Bob Dole will honor leaders in the disabled community.

The Viscardi Center based on Long Island created the awards to honor the legacy of Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr., who used prosthetic legs, and was an adviser on disabilities to veterans and to eight presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter.

"We are conducting an international search for contemporary figures who, like Dr. Viscardi, are leading by example," said John Kemp, president and CEO of The Viscardi Center, a pre-kindergarten through high school facility that also offers job placement and other services for the disabled.

"These awards are designed to acknowledge influential individuals with disabilities who serve as leaders, mentors and role models and are dramatically improving the lives of people in the disability community on a broad scale," he said

The first awards will be announced March 4, the 80th anniversary of Roosevelt's first inauguration as president. The Democrat was paralyzed by polio when he was 39, served as New York's governor, and became one of the most respected presidents during some of the nation's toughest times.

In October, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was dedicated on an island in New York City's East River.

A planned sculpture will depict Roosevelt in a wheelchair reaching for the hand of a young girl on crutches.

Disabled people in any field may be nominated. Nominations can be submitted by Jan. 22 at

The advisory board includes Dole, a World War II combat veteran who uses a wheelchair, and Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf.

Dole said he's honored to be a co-chairman.

"Thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of people such as Dr. Viscardi, the disability community is no longer a marginalized constituency, but rather a vibrant voice for civil rights and full participation for all people," said Dole, a former Republican nominee for president.

Matlin said Viscardi broke through physical and social barriers.

"It's an honor to be part of a team that will honor his legacy by identifying those who, today, are changing the world and attitudes," Matlin said.




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