FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Contact: HHS Press Office
HHS Honors People Making a Difference in the Lives of Persons With Disabilities
At an awards ceremony in Washington D.C., the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services presented the Secretary's Highest Recognition Award to four individuals in celebration of National Disability Awareness Month.
The honorees came from across the country to attend the ceremony. They include: pioneer of the first infant hearing screening program Marion Downs, Ph.D.; autism advocate Temple Grandin, Ph.D.; the U.S. Paralympics; and documentary filmmakers Kathleen and John Ryan. They were joined by special guest Tatiyana McFadden, winner of two medals at the 2004 Athens Paralympics wheelchair races and recipient of the Secretary's Highest Recognition Award three years ago. Awards for Distinguished Service were also presented to two local individuals, Brenda Leath, MHSA, and Robinsue Frohboese, J.D., Ph.D.
At the ceremony, Acting Surgeon General Rear Adm. Steven Galson told the audience, "Today's award recipients are changing the perception and improving our understanding of persons with disabilities. I am honored to be a part of today's ceremony to recognize these truly great leaders who are working to improve the lives of people living with disabilities."
Currently, 54 million Americans, or one in five people, are living with at least one disability. Most Americans, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity will experience a disability at some time during the course of their lives.
The New Freedom initiative, among President Bush's first policy efforts when taking office, is working in public-private partnerships to eliminate barriers that keep persons with disabilities from participating fully in community life. The award recipients are helping to advance the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New Freedom Initiative.
The Secretary's Highest Recognition Award:
Marion Downs, Ph.D.: In 1963, Dr. Marion Downs pioneered the first infant hearing screening program in the United States, and has played an critical role in achieving national newborn hearing screening and implementing early identification and services for infants and young children with hearing loss. The Marion Downs Hearing Center at the University of Colorado Medical Center was created in 2005 to honor her legacy, and provides resources, education, and research to support the needs of individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, their families, the community, and hearing health professionals. Dr. Downs is a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She is 93 years old and has written extensively, lectured worldwide, and been the recipient of many awards in her field. She is considered to be the "Mother of Pediatric Audiology." Dr. Downs recently published her latest book entitled, Shut Up and Live!
The U.S. Paralympics (Charlie Huebner): In order to become a world leader in the Paralympic sports movement and promote excellence in the lives of persons with disabilities, especially those with physical disabilities, the U.S. Olympic Committee created the Paralympic Division only six years ago in 2001. The U.S. Paralympic Division coordinates the selection and preparation of American Paralympic competitors as well as coordinates with national sports organizations to organize Paralympic programs for children and other developing athletes. Through the organization's work, it upholds the Olympic ideals and promotes the participation of individuals with disabilities in sporting events.
Temple Grandin, Ph.D.: Dr. Temple Grandin is one of the world's most accomplished and well-known adults with autism. She has been featured on major television programs and written about in national publications. Dr. Grandin did not talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping and humming. In 1950, she was labeled autistic, and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. Dr. Grandin has become a prominent author and speaker on the subject of autism. She works as an associate professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and speaks around the world on autism and her professional specialty area, the handling and welfare of livestock.
John and Kathleen Ryan: The brother and sister team of John and Kathleen Ryan created the inspiring and motivating film, "Right to Risk," a documentary that accompanies eight individuals with significant physical disabilities on a 15-day, 225-mile whitewater raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. "Right to Risk" is about every individual's right to choose what they are willing to do and risk in pursuit of their dreams. John and Kathleen reside in San Francisco and northwestern Washington Sate, respectively.
Awards for Distinguished Service:
Brenda Leath, MHSA: A non-federal employee, for commanding leadership, commitment, tireless energy and passion not only for the National Consortium for African-American Children but for persons with disabilities nationwide.
Robinsue Frohboese, J.D., Ph.D.: A federal employee, for commanding leadership in the Office for Civil Rights and deep understanding in ensuring the rights for persons with disabilities nationwide.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last revised: January 20, 2009