Award Presentation to be Made at the AAPD Leadership Gala in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 7, 2007
WASHINGTON, DC, December 13, 2006 — The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is delighted to announce that the 2007 Henry B. Betts Award will be presented to Mark Johnson, a nationally-recognized activist, community organizer, and Director of Advocacy at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Henry B. Betts Award is named in honor of Henry B. Betts, M.D., a pioneer in the field of rehabilitation medicine who started his career with the Institute in 1964, making it the base for his career as an advocate for people with physical disabilities and leader in the field of rehabilitation medicine, and who has devoted himself to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. The award program, which is administered by AAPD, was created in 1989 by the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
"Mark Johnson is an extraordinary grassroots leader who has helped to grow organizations, connect individuals and constituencies, and catalyze major societal changes that are improving the quality of life of people with disabilities around the country," says Andrew J. Imparato, AAPD President and CEO. "His organizer's approach is what the disability movement needs more of, and his pragmatic strategies have proven effective in breaking down barriers to full participation and equal opportunity in a wide range of areas, including housing, transportation, health care, sports and recreation, and worship."
Johnson, who at the age of 20 sustained a C 5-6 spinal cord injury, went on to dedicate his life to creating an identifiable sense of community among people with disabilities. After completing a Masters in Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, he became a counselor at the Charlotte Rehabilitation Hospital, and helped establish the Metrolina Chapter of the National Paraplegia Foundation and one of the first Title VII Independent Living Centers in the U.S.
In Denver, Colorado, in the '80s, Johnson ran the Transitional Living Program at Holistic Approaches to Independent Living (HAIL) and was subsequently its Director of Advocacy. He also became Colorado’s first Statewide Independence Living Coordinator.
Johnson also helped to create Americans Disabled for Accessible Transportation (ADAPT) in 1984, a grassroots-driven organization that has been an effective force for change in the national disability rights movement.
In 1987, Johnson assumed the position of Director of Advocacy at the Shepherd Center, recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the U.S.
He is a founding member of the board of the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, which awards more than $4 million annually to organizations throughout Georgia, and was formed as the result of litigation filed against Blue Cross Blue Shield, a case in which Mark was a plaintiff. Johnson also helped to create the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund, which provides independent living services to thousands of people with brain or spinal cord injuries throughout Georgia. He has also created a website (www.lgtinc.org) that is dedicated to the pioneers of the disability rights movement and the people and groups that are making a difference today.
It was Johnson's extraordinary vision and years of planning that resulted in the Spirit of the ADA Torch Relay, a tenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebration hosted in 24 locations around the country in 2000. The Spirit of the ADA Torch Relay was effective at bringing together - in cities and communities around the country - people with disabilities, their friends and families, and disability rights advocates, thus also bringing much public national attention to the legislation.
Says his friend and colleague, Paul Timmons, CEO of Portlight Strategies, Inc., "Mark Johnson inspires us all to believe, and helps us to get organized to succeed."
It will be collaboratively presented by AAPD and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at the 2006 AAPD Leadership Gala, an awards ceremony and dinner, on March 7, 2007, at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. For additional information about the gala, visit the AAPD website at www.aapd.com.