Local nonprofit to host Annual Disability Impact Awards next week

On July 11, the nonprofit organization RespectAbility will host its 3rd annual Disability Impact Awards in Washington D.C., honoring disability activist Lex Frieden and the world’s first Black deaf and blind journalist, Steven McCoy.

The awards will be held at K & L Gates LLP, located at 1601 K St NW # 1, Washington, DC 20006. The diverse, disability-led organization works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, while also advancing policies and practices that empower people with disabilities to have a better future.

Frieden, one of the chief architects of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), will receive the 2024 Steve Bartlett Award, named after the Honorable Steve Bartlett, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and was a principal co-author of the ADA. The award recognizes and honors an individual in the private or public sector who demonstrates a strong commitment to using the political system to advance public policy in support of people with disabilities.

Frieden is a quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury, and he has had a long career of advocacy for disabled people. Frieden has previously served as the cchairperson and the executive director of the National Council on Disability, a member of the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Standard Rules for Disability, and President of Rehabilitation International.

“Through his work, Steve Bartlett has created opportunities for millions of people with disabilities,” said Frieden. “I am most honored to receive this honor in his name.”

McCoy has been living with Usher Syndrome, which affects his hearing and sight, since 2019. He will receive The Ben Spangenberg and Justin Chappell Memorial Award, which honors a former or current Fellow of RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program who demonstrates a solid commitment to advancing the disability community in policy, entertainment, or philanthropy.

With a deep passion for the arts, McCoy has covered numerous red-carpet events, bringing his unique perspective and personality to his work. He is also the host of the popular podcast, “Sessions with Steven,” where he engages in personal interviews with media and public figures, sharing their stories and insights.

As he continued to grow in his career, he realized that while asking for accommodations, there was still a lack of accessibility. This led him to launch his nonprofit Spoken Heroes, which strives to empower individuals with disabilities and create a more inclusive society. Through various initiatives and programs, Spoken Heroes provides support, resources, and advocacy for the Deaf and blind communities, making a positive impact on the lives of many.

“Being acknowledged in the footsteps of Ben Spangenberg and Justin Chappell is truly humbling,” said Steven McCoy. “I hope to continue their legacy by striving for positive change and empowerment within the disability community.”

Ariel Simms, president and CEO of RespectAbility, said that Frieden and McCoy’s work  continues to inspire us and newer generations of advocates to keep going until every person with a disability truly belongs.”

Those interested in attending the 2024 Disability Impact Awards, starting at 5:30 p.m., can purchase tickets here. Those who are unable to attend the ceremony can still support RespectAbility and leaders with disabilities by donating here.