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Mayor de Blasio Hosts ADA Sapolin Awards to Commend Businesses, Organizations, New Yorkers at Forefront of Disability Advocacy

August 9, 2016

ADA Sapolin Awards and Frieda Zames Advocacy Award commend New Yorkers dedicated to supporting people with disabilities on the 26th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Ceremony comes at the heels of the release of AccessibleNYC, City’s first annual report on state of people with disabilities

NEW YORK––Mayor de Blasio and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities hosted a reception at Gracie Mansion tonight to honor the work of disability rights advocates in New York City and celebrate the 26th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This year, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Victor Calise presented awards to Brooklyn Roasting Company, Theatre Development Fund, New York City Regal Cinemas, New York University Ability Lab, and Edith M. Prentiss, a longtime disability rights advocate and New Yorker.

The ceremony is part of a larger effort by the de Blasio Administration to recognize and support New Yorkers with disabilities. In July, Mayor de Blasio and MOPD released AccessibleNYC, the City’s first annual report on the state of people with disabilities. The interagency report outlines current and forward-looking efforts to improve accessibility and inclusion in transportation, education, employment and health, as well as City services, institutions and resources.

“We are proud to celebrate the anniversary of one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in our history by honoring the work of disability rights proponents in New York City,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “These individuals and organizations – Brooklyn Roasting Company, Theatre Development Fun, New York City Regal Cinemas, New York University Ability Lab, and Edith M. Prentiss – have demonstrated an incredible commitment to inclusion, accessibility and equality. They have allowed us to come so far since the passage of the ADA 26 years ago, and we will continue to work with them to make our city more accessible for all.”

“Today we come together as a community at the people’s house, Gracie Mansion, to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and New York City individuals and organizations that have shown a true commitment to embracing and advancing New Yorkers with disabilities,” said Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Victor Calise. “From providing our city residents with accessible entertainment to ensuring New Yorkers with disabilities have opportunities for employment, this year’s awardees exemplify the NYC values of inclusion and diversity.”

“In the community of One Brooklyn that opens its welcoming arms to all people, we cannot and will not exclude anyone because of their disability,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I commend the honorees of the ADA Sapolin Awards on their commitment to providing full access to facilities for all New Yorkers, a right that has often been denied to people with disabilities more than 25 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was created. I am particularly proud of local success stories like Brooklyn Roasting Company and the New York University Ability Lab which are trailblazing pathways of opportunity through their important work and community engagement.”

“On this anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we celebrate a more inclusive, integrated and accessible New York” said Assembly Member David Weprin, Chair of the New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities. “I am proud to join Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Victor Calise to honor the individuals and organizations that make New York a better place to live for all New Yorkers.”

"This is a great way to celebrate the people who are on the front lines fighting for New Yorkers with disabilities," said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. "Because of the work of these outstanding individuals, and with the support of the de Blasio Administration, our City is making strides towards accessibility and ADA compliance. We have a ways to go, but these incredible New Yorkers give me great confidence in what the future holds for our city. My congratulations go to all of the evening's outstanding honorees."

"These organizations and individuals lead by example in giving New Yorkers with disabilities jobs, independence, and a voice for change. I'm particularly thrilled that Edith Prentiss is receiving the Frieda Zames Advocacy Award. Edith comes to every press conference, committee hearing, and bill signing on issues around people with disabilities. She is a fierce advocate for equal rights, and I value her insight around any work I do for people with disabilities. Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Victor Calise for recognizing the work of these trailblazing honorees," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

Council Member Andrew Cohen said, “The 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is truly an event to celebrate, and there is no more fitting way to do so than by honoring people and organizations here in the city who have taken steps to make their facilities accessible for all. These concrete efforts are a model for the entire city and I am pleased that Mayor de Blasio has chosen to present these awards at Gracie Mansion tonight.” 

Signed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has fostered independence, empowerment and inclusion for millions of Americans living with disabilities. To honor and celebrate the passage of the ADA, each year the City of New York presents four awards in recognition of individuals who have made significant contributions to increasing accessibility for people with disabilities under the Titles of the American with Disabilities Act, known as the ADA Awards, and one Advocacy Award to an individual or entity that has demonstrated a commitment to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities.

The ADA Sapolin Awards are named after the late MOPD Commissioner Matthew Sapolin and the Advocacy Award is named in honor of the late Frieda Zames, a disability rights advocate, historian and author. 

The recipients of the 2016 ADA Sapolin Awards and the Frieda Zames Advocacy Award are as follows:

Brooklyn Roasting Company: TITLE I ADA Sapolin Employment Award

The Brooklyn Roasting Company (BRC) offers New Yorkers best quality Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and Organic certified and sustainable coffees. As part of their strategy to bring on the best talent Brooklyn and the boroughs have to offer, BRC has partnered with JobPath to provide employment opportunities for young adults with developmental disabilities as well as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Providing jobs, training and career advancement for the participants of JobPath has created a diverse and inclusive working environment which benefits the business, co-workers and the BRC neighborhoods. As BRC expands to many more locations, opportunities will continue to grow. As Michael Pollack, of BRC has stated, "It is so easy to say yes to good ideas" - and hiring people with disabilities is good for business and for NYC.

“We are honored to have people with disabilities as members of this workforce helping us to grow our business,” said Michael Pollack, co-Founder, Brooklyn Roasting Company.

Theatre Development Fund: TITLE II ADA Sapolin Public Service Award

Theatre Development Fund, a not-for-profit organization, was created a twofold mission to identify and provide support, including financial assistance, to theatrical works of artistic merit and to encourage and enable diverse audiences to attend live theatre and dance in all their venues. In conjunction with the Broadway League and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, TDF released a new website, Theater Access NYC, which consolidates all the accessibility information that lets a theatergoer pick the accessibility option that is needed and see if that particular show can accommodate their needs. Through Theater Access NYC and other projects, the Theatre Development Fund encourages and enables diverse audiences to attend live theatre and dance in numerous venues providing individuals with disabilities accessible seating, audio description, sign language interpreters, and open captioning at select performances and Autism days where parents who have kids with autism can enjoy theater in an environment that is welcoming.

Victoria Bailey, Executive Director, Theatre Development Fund, said, “Theatre Development Fund is deeply honored to receive the Title II ADA Sapolin Public Service Award in recognition of all the services we provide through our Theater Access Program. The program, started in 1979, helps theatregoers with disabilities get special assistance according to their needs. Through our latest initiative – the website which we created in partnership with the Broadway League – theatregoers with disabilities have one place to find out everything they need to know to plan a trip to a Broadway show. We are grateful to the many donors, ranging from foundations to individuals and the City of New York, for their sustained support of our access programs. “

New York City Regal Cinemas: TITLE III ADA Sapolin Accommodation Award

Regal Cinemas have led the cinema industry in creating access for all individuals including those with disabilities. They have strived to provide access to their facilities and provide captioning and audio track descriptions of the on screen action. Regal Cinemas has distributed Sony Entertainment Access Glasses for captioning to more than 6,000 screens across the country including the screens in the seven theaters located in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The captions are projected onto the glasses and appear to float about 10 feet in front of the user.

“Over the years, Regal has been a leader in the entertainment industry in providing greater access for all of our guests and in particular those individuals that are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision. With Regal’s rollout of the Sony Entertainment Access System, and other accessibility equipment, we have been able to make practically all first run feature films available to individuals that need accommodations to enjoy our goods and services. Today our guests have access to closed captioning glasses, seat mounted LED personal closed captioning, neck loops, assistive listening devices and headphones for individuals that are blind or have low vision such that they may enjoy descriptive audio of the feature film. With these assistive technologies, Regal is able to provide complete access to practically all features and show times daily,” said Randy Smith, Chief Administrative Officer and Counsel for Regal Entertainment Group.

Jason Sills, District Manager, Regal Entertainment Group, said, “Regal Cinemas is proud to provide the magic of movies to all audiences across New York City and America by providing technology that provides access to individual who are deaf, Hard of Hearing, or blind. We are honored to receive this award.”

New York University Ability Lab: TITLE IV ADA Sapolin Telecommunications Award
The ABILITY Project is an interdisciplinary initiative dedicated to the study of disability and the development of accessible, assistive and rehab technologies. They use a human centered approach to design assistive and adaptive technologies that are meant to enhance the lives of people with disabilities and empower them to accomplish tasks in all facets of life. Current projects include a platform for people with visual disabilities to learn coding and processing, adaptations to Microsoft Connect that’s used for rehabilitation exercises for stroke patients, umbrellas for motorized wheelchair users, and technology to aid in speech therapy. The ability Project also has hackathons such as the Access Design Competition to encourage students to design projects and concepts that will influence the future of assistive technologies.

Anita Perr, PhD, OT, ATP, FAOTA, Clinical Associate Professor, New York University, said, “The NYU Ability Project is honored to receive this 2016 Sapolin Award. At the NYU Ability Project, all of our work involves and is informed by people with disabilities. Our collaborations with people throughout New York City are helping to push forward participation in desired self-care, work and avocational activities. We look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities and with Commissioner Calise in order that people with disabilities in New York City and everywhere can participate in their desired activities using the assistive technologies they need or want.”

Edith M Prentiss: Frieda Zames Advocacy Award

Edith M. Prentiss is commended for her commitment to advocating for individuals with disabilities to transportation, governmental process, and overall awareness of accessibility in our communities. Active in various political, civic, aging, disability, and health care advocacy organizations, she tirelessly lobbies elected officials and others in New York City and New York State. Her primary focus is accessibility in all and every context including elected officials’ district and legislative offices. She has received numerous honors for her service to the disabled community, including a Commendation from Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr in 2006 and honors from the Independent Care System with the Sandra Schnur Award in 2014.

Edith Prentiss said, “I have actively advocated for years on many issues of importance to the disability community such as accessible taxis, improved mass transit, and increased access to women's health care, housing and education. I have worked with MOPD on many issues. I am honored to receive this award and will continue my advocacy efforts particularly around participation in civic engagement and voting by people with disabilities.”

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