In recognition of his notable and sustained service and leadership as an advocate for disability issues, U-M alumnus Richard Bernstein has been chosen to receive the 2011 James T. Neubacher Award.
Regent Julia Donovan Darlow will present the award at a ceremony that begins at 10 a.m. Friday in the Rackham Building Assembly Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
The Neubacher Award honors members of the U-M community (faculty, staff, students or alumni) who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in enabling full participation in programs and services by people who have disabilities; promoted acceptance and awareness; advocated for civil rights of people who have disabilities; and demonstrated a commitment to the concept that all people, regardless of disability, have the right and obligation to be full and contributing members of society.
It was established in 1990, in memory of U-M alumnus and Detroit Free Press columnist Jim Neubacher, who advocated tirelessly for equal rights and opportunities for people who have disabilities.
“As a tireless advocate for disabled rights, who gives voice to those who would otherwise be forced to be silent, U-M alumnus Richard Bernstein meets and exceeds all of our criteria,” says Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, chair of the Neubacher Award Committee.
“His energy and enthusiasm in his work inspires others, and the fact that he is completely non-sighted is forgotten. People who have disabilities who know him feel strengthened because they know they can turn to him for advice. Richard also knows how to have fun. He competes in marathons and triathlons, and shows others what can be done if one has the will and discipline to do it. In other words, he is a role model for everyone, whatever their level of ability.”
Blind since birth, Bernstein is a graduate of U-M and Northwestern University School of Law. He is an attorney with the Sam Bernstein Law Firm in Farmington Hills.
Bernstein successfully partnered with the U. S. Department of Justice to force the City of Detroit to fix broken wheelchair lifts on its buses, is working to make Detroit Metro Airport more accessible to travelers with disabilities, and he fought the State of Michigan and won to preserve special education funding throughout the state.
The Neubacher Award is presented annually in October during Investing in Ability Week, a series of programs and activities designed to increase awareness and understanding of people who have disabilities and disability-related issues. The award is sponsored by the Council for Disability Concerns, the Office of Institutional Equity, and the Office of the President.
Also at the Oct. 28 event, Certificates of Appreciation will be presented to the following individuals in recognition of leadership and service in raising consciousness about disability issues, and advocacy on behalf of individuals or groups who have disabilities:
• Robert Adams, assistant professor of architecture and urban planning
• Renee Echols, graduate student, LSA
• Ronald Gilgenbach, professor and chair of the Department of Nuclear Engineering
• Paul Guttman, construction services director, Plant Operations
• Lori Isom, professor of pharmacology
• Jacqueline Kaufman, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation
• Rebecca Parten, student, LSA
• Kathleen Russell, alumna
• Edward Eric Timke, graduate student, LSA
• George Woods, maintenance mechanic III, Housing Maintenance
• Michigan Student Assembly Commission on Disability Team: U-M students Michael Brandon, Mitchell Crispell, Robbie Dembo, Elan Green, Allison Horky, Megan Marshall and Jeremiah Devlin-Ruelle.
Maj. Jonathan Liscombe, assistant professor of the Air Force Officer Education Program, on what inspires him: "People who sacrifice their well-being and wealth for others."