An historic event took place with the first-ever Disability Inaugural Ball held Sunday, January 19, 2009, at the Press Club in Washington, DC. More than 1,000 people of all disabilities, both physical and intellectual, and leaders in those communities, joined to celebrate our new president and administration. The Hearing Loss Association of America was a supporter of the event and HLAA staff joined many organizations for people with disabilities to celebrate this event.
Tony Coelho, former senator who served under President Clinton as Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and chair of the Ball Planning Committee said:
“DISABILITY POWER & PRIDE…These words distill decades of dreams and struggles, progress and challenges. They reflect the life work of countless leaders, legislators, advocates, and individuals of all ages, abilities, and political affiliations. There is no marquee large enough to show all their names. But as we gather tonight, their spirit is with us not only as part of our history but as an inspiration to the path ahead. The Disability Power & Pride Ball is a testament to the way Barack Obama’s presidential campaign captured the hope and imagination of people with disabilities….We have proved we can do what every other major political constituency does: mobilize capital to advance our agenda. The Ball represents one more step toward full inclusion for people with disabilities."
Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa) noted the progress that people with disabilities have made since the America with Disabilities (ADA) was passed, but he reminded us that there is one exception – employment. Sixty-three percent of people with disabilities are still unemployed.
Entertainment included Comedienne Geri Jewel who has Multiple Sclerosis. Geri is best known as Cousin Geri on the NBC sitcom, “The Facts of Life.” She was the first person with a disability to have a regular role on a prime time series. Bill Shannon, dance and media artist also appeared and performs on crutches due to a mobility disability. Bill is widely recognized in the dance/performance world, the underground hip hop and club dance scene as well as the disabled artist community.
The Hearing Loss Association of America was a supporter of the event and HLAA staff joined many organizations for people with disabilities to celebrate this event.
From left: HLAA Executive Director Brenda Battat, Lauren and Larry Goldberg, and Christopher Sutton, HLAA director of development. Larry Goldberg is the director of The Media Access Group at WGBH in Boston. The Media Access Group produces captions and video descriptions for all media. Through its Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media, they conduct research and development, develop guidelines and standards, and author publications – all in an effort to make media and technology accessible to people with disabilities in their homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.
From left: Christopher Sutton, HLAA development director, Barbara Kelley, HLAA deputy executive director and editor of Hearing Loss Magazine join Mrs. Pennsylvania and Mrs. Galaxy who were invited guests of the chair. Mrs. Pennsylvania, Wendy Sledd, works with children who are autistic and who have intellectual disabilities. She also supports the wounded warriors program as a military spouse.
HLAA members and staff join people from across the country and across the disability field at the 2009 Disability Inaugural Ball. From left: Lise Hamlin (HLAA director of public policy), Dana Mulvany, Barbara Kelley (HLAA deputy executive director), George Kosovich and Bill Kelley.
Barbara Kelley and Brenda Battat, representing Hearing Loss Association of America, meet people from all disability groups at the historic 2009 Disability Inaugural Ball. Executive Director Brenda Battat has spent 21 years in the field working on major pieces of legislation affecting people with hearing loss, often working within coalitions with people across the disability spectrum.