Disability Culture Heroes
KQED, AT&T and Kaiser Permanente honored four outstanding individuals who made a difference in the disabled community in 2007.
California State Council on Developmental Disabilities
Sascha Bittner is Chair of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD), an independent state agency (composed of 29 Governor appointed members representing all regions of California and various state agencies) established to ensure that people with developmental disabilities and their families receive the services and supports they need to achieve self-determination, independence, productivity and inclusion in all aspects of community life. After years of experience as a key public policymaker on the local, state and national level, Sascha was appointed to the Council in 2003 as the representative from Area Board 5 (covering 5 Bay Area counties), and is currently serving her second term as Chairperson. She is committed to the Council's vision that Californians with developmental disabilities are guaranteed the same full and equal opportunities for life and the pursuit of happiness as all Americans.
Sascha is also the Program Coordinator for KIDS (Keys to Introducing Disability in Society) Project, and has given hundreds of presentations to thousands of students (pre-K thru college), parents and professionals in the Bay Area, using a voice interpreter. KIDS Project is a member of the SNIP (Special Needs Inclusion Project) Interagency Council of San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. Sascha first joined the board of KIDS Project as a young teenager, after facing teasing and harassment from some fellow students. She wanted to do something to change attitudes and provide a more respectful, inclusive environment for all students. KIDS Project brings speakers with disabilities into the classroom to share the stories of their lives and to discuss such issues as access, adaptations, accommodations, the Disability Rights Movement and disability culture, while dispelling stereotypes, identifying commonalities and celebrating diversity. Through KIDS Project, Sascha met successful adults with disabilities for the first time, and began to feel a strong sense of pride in this community and culture. She became an activist for inclusion, access and self determination, and has given many speeches on disability issues throughout California and in Washington, DC, and has also performed with Wry Crips Disabled Women's Theater Group.
Sascha has been blessed with amazing opportunities and a tremendous amount of support and encouragement, and has always felt it a privilege to have the opportunity to give back to the community. She has done volunteer work with many disabled children and youth through the San Francisco schools, United Cerebral Palsy and the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley. She served as a volunteer coordinator for the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, and worked in the AIDS Dementia Unit at St. Mary's Hospital. Sascha has also served on boards of directors, advisory panels and committees for several organizations and projects including: Community Alliance for Special Education; KIDS Project; Community Advisory Committee for Special Education; Living Out Loud Project; and the World Institute on Disability.
Sascha has received several honors in recognition of her community service, activism and other contributions. Some awards include the Dole Foundation's Young Scholar winner, "Woman Making History" for Woman's History Month by San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano and the Commission on the Status of Women.
Mary Lou Breslin
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Mary Lou Breslin has been a disability rights law and policy advocate for over thirty-five years. In 1979 she co-founded the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), a leading national disability rights law and policy center, and presently serves as senior policy advisor with DREDF directing the organization's special projects.
During her career she has served as a policy consultant, trainer and lecturer on disability and related civil rights topics. Ms. Breslin taught graduate courses at the University of San Francisco, McLaren School of Business, and the University of California at Berkeley. For eight years she served as editor and researcher with the Disability Rights and Independent Living Project of the Regional Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. She has written and published on various disability rights topics, most recently on health care and disability, co-authoring "Structural Impairments that Limit Access to Health Care for Patients with Disabilities" published in March, 2007 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
In 2007 Ms. Breslin was honored for her work to improve healthcare access for people with disabilities by the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco and the San Francisco Mayor's Office on Disability. She received the prestigious Henry B. Betts award in 2002 for improving the lives of people with disabilities. She also received the Paul A. Hearne Award from the Physical and Mental Disability Rights Committee of the American Bar Association in 2000, and a Mary E. Switzer Merit Fellowship in 1995.
Richard "Rick" Spittler
Title IX Squared
Rick has worked for the past 30 years to promote and develop accessible sports and recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. Growing up with a disability and a love for sports and the outdoors, Rick experienced first hand the positive impact of recreation on the health, social integration, and quality of life of people with disabilities.
In 1974 he co-founded Environmental Traveling Companions, an outdoor adventures provider for special needs population. He later founded and co-directed Healing Adventures, a not for profit dedicated to providing wilderness adventures for people with life threatening illnesses. In 1997, Rick became the first project manager for the Ed Roberts Campus, a partnership of Bay Area disability rights, education and service organizations working to create a world center on disability. He served on the Ed Roberts Campus Board of Directors for 10 years and was Board President from 2002-2004.
From 1996 through April 2007, Rick was the Executive Director of Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program (BORP), a Berkeley-based nonprofit organization promoting the health, independence and social integration of people with physical disabilities through accessible sports and recreation programs. Under his leadership, BORP grew into a sustainable organization with a diverse financial base and significantly expanded its programs and services to the disabled community.
Rick is currently focusing his efforts on a new project to create a Title IX inspired law for individuals with disabilities. The goal of the project is to establish national guidelines to open the door for students with physical disabilities throughout the United States.
Albert Y. Wang, MD
Friends with Children with Special Needs
Dr. Albert Wang is Chair of the Board of Directors for the Friends with Children with Special Needs. When his son, Lawrence, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, he and his wife struggled to find the appropriate therapy and school programs. Going through the exhausting 3-4 year process, he realized how much more difficult it must be for new immigrants who face language and cultural barriers, financial hardship, and the stigma associated with disability in most Asian cultures. Along with other Chinese American families, he founded the Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN, (www.fcsn1996.org) to support immigrant families. It started out as a support group for 10 families meeting every other week, but quickly grew to today's size of over 500 families, 35 programs running in 8 cities throughout the Bay Area. To accommodate the growth, Dr. Wang led the effort to raise $2.5 million, mostly from private sources, to build the "Dream Center" in Fremont. The 6,000 square feet multipurpose center began operation in 2006, and now provides services to a full spectrum of disabilities, ethnicities, and age groups. FCSN has also pioneered the movement to lead Chinese American families with special needs children out of the shadow of guilt, shame, and isolation, through community education.
When, in 1975 he was commissioned to provide historically and culturally appropriate music for the celebration of the bicentennary anniversary of the founding of the Mission and City of San Francisco he had already done the research and knew where he could retrieve the music composed at the time of the dedication. He recognized this celebration of the founding of the city of San Francisco as a real opportunity to realize his long-held vision to create a Latino chorus from within the Latino community that would be exclusively devoted to the celebration of the musical heritage of its peoples.
Dr. Wang is an internist and a partner at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic. He is married to his wife Anna, and a proud father of three wonderful children, age twelve to twenty. He has broad experience in community service in many areas. He has served as President of the American Cancer Society, Northern California Chinese Unit, Citizens for Better Community, Friends of Children with Special Needs, and Vision New America. He is currently a member of the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism (http://senweb03.senate.ca.gov/autism/index.html), which just completed its comprehensive recommendations to address the crisis of a ten fold increase in autism cases in the state.
Dr. Wang is the recipient of the American Cancer Society Silicon Valley Region Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award, the Dana Sambor Volunteerism Award from Alameda and Contra Costa County Joint Developmental Disability Council, "A League of Their Own" award from the Fremont Education Foundation, and was selected as Community Hero by the World Journal for 2005.
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