Atlanta Disabilities Rights Advocate Anil Lewis to Receive Award from ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 27, 2004 – The American Bar Association Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law will present the 2004 Paul G. Hearne Award to Anil Lewis, chair of the board of directors of the Disability Law and Policy Center of Georgia. ABA President Dennis W. Archer will present the award to Lewis during a ceremony at the Omni Hotel on Monday, Aug. 9, during the ABA Annual Meeting. The award is presented in conjunction with the National Organization on Disability, and includes a $1,000 ward from Aetna.
Lewis’ vision, effective communication and persistence resulted in Georgia being the first state to make voting machines accessible to individuals with disabilities available in every polling precinct for the 2002 elections. In 2004 Lewis was instrumental in securing the unanimous passage in the Georgia House of Representatives of legislation creating NewsLine, an audio service that enables people with print disabilities to access newspapers via telephone.
The Disability Law and Policy Center of Georgia uses a variety of methods to influence and enforce disability policy. In 2003 the center prevailed in an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit against Atlanta’s rapid transit system, a nationally significant case that requires transit systems to make their Web sites accessible to the disabled.
Lewis was born in 1964 in Atlanta. He is the third of four children; both his older brother and sister became legally blind at an early age due to retinitis pigmentosa. Early in his life Lewis was labeled “educable mentally retarded,” but as the first member of his family to attend a four-year college, he excelled academically and received many awards, including numerous college scholarships. Although he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a nine-year-old, his vision was reasonably unaffected until he was 25.
Paul G. Hearne, for whom the award was named, was born with a connective tissue disorder that physically limited his growth and restricted his movement. Yet through tenacity, intelligence and initiative, he created opportunities for himself and others and proved a leader for all people with disabilities. Hearne’s life was marked by many pioneering endeavors in the legal and disability communities. He served as the director of Just One Break, Inc., the nation’s first private job placement agency for people with disabilities; The National Council on Disability; The Dole Foundation for Employment of People with Disabilities; the International Center for the Disabled; the Very Special Arts International Fund; and the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.
The Paul G. Hearne award is presented each year to an individual or organization that has performed exemplary service in furthering the rights, dignity and access to justice for some 54 million Americans with disabilities.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.