Valerie Vanaman, Esq. 2015 Recipient of the Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy Acceptance
Friday, March 13, 2015
On this 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I am humbled to receive this Diane Lipton award. Diane is one of the folks responsible for the fact that in the year 2015 there is an organization of consumers, parents, attorneys and advocates holding this 17th Annual Conference.
Diane emanated in everything she said and did a profound belief that, in the words of members of the community of individuals who are disabled in Israel, nothing about us without us. She also demonstrated a deep understanding of, and appreciation for, the concept that a society is ultimately best understood on how well it works with and for those who struggle to care for themselves.
When lobbied for and ultimately passed in the mid 70”s EHA was a product of dedicated consumers, parents and professionals working together in every available venue. As with the larger civil righs movements of the time those involved hardly imagined that more than 40 years later the dreams, the hopes, the acceptance we all thought we were putting in place would still fall short of fruition and in some ways be more fragile than ever before.
The struggle to maintain progress, to avoid treatment drift, and classrooms of students dumped together solely because they have a label, to avoid and negate application of cognitive referencing, to preserve the ability of consumers and those they choose to represent them to challenge decisions of bureaucrats has never been greater.
The framework so many gave up so much to put in place is under serious attack supported by the self-citing and obtuse articles of Professor Zirkel, school board associations and others across the country have worked hard and long to eliminate the fundamental accountability that is the very heart of the Act. Hey claim the act has failed, yet have no real data to support that claim. They claim that it costs too much yet lack any real data to suggest that the benefits are not worth the cost.
If ever there was a time when COPAA needed to be its strongest and best, this is the time. If ever there was a time to learn from each other so each could be stronger this is the time. If ever there was a time when effective, skilled, well-developed strategies were to be put into place, this is the time. If ever there was a time when consumers, parents, and professional organizations needed to occupy a seat at the table and in the press and every place else, this is the time.
Every chair in this room is occupied by someone who should have this award. I accept it not for myself, but only as a symbol for each of you. Knowing that it is incredibly dangerous to do so, and that I shall surely offend someone and from whom I ask forgiveness, I must note that this award belongs to those from the beginnings in California. To Lori Waldinger, Katheryn Dobel, Debbie DeLauro, Maureen Graves, Cathy Blakemore, Patty Cromer, and Joan Honeycutt who I understand is recovering from several broken bones in a rehabilitation center in Florida to name but a few.
It belongs to those who believed a form of public interest law could be done from a private office, Joel Aaronson, Kathy Krause, Bob Meyers, Jodi Ossen Bynder and to my dear departed assistant Beverly Ossen.
It belongs to those who carry on every day. To Alexis Casillas and her work with COPAA while carrying a full case load. And to all the attorneys and staff at Newman Aaronson Vanaman; Valerie Gilpeer, George Crook, David German, Eric Menyuk, Sophia Bliziotis, Bryan Winn, Sharon Robinson, Bobbie Westil, Annabelle Blanchard, Maria Austin, and all the staff we work with.
But mostly is it COPAA’s Never before has there been as great a need as there is now for this organization. An organization of motivated and dedicated individuals who form an essential community for us all. If ever there was a time for us to be collectively be at our best, that time is now and because of COPAA, we will do so.