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Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy

Photo of Diane Lipton (1994, credit Ken Stein)Each year as part of the Annual Conference, COPAA honors the memory of Diane Lipton, a tireless advocate for children with disabilities for over two decades, with the Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy. Diane began as a parent-advocate on behalf of her own daughter, Chloe, who had been placed in a segregated school, separated from her peers without disabilities by a chain link fence. Diane became an attorney for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, where she championed the civil rights of children with disabilities. She advised President Clinton on special education issues and helped shape the laws prohibiting schools from segregating children with disabilities. In memory of Diane, COPAA honors individuals who are exceptionally dedicated to the rights of children with disabilities.

Previous recipients of the Diane Lipton Award have included Wendy Byrnes (2006), Kathleen Boundy (2007), Judith Gran (2008), Ellen Chambers (2009), Warren J. Sinsheimer (2010), Joseph Tulman (2011),  Dorene J. Philpot (2012), Terrie A. Rymer (2013), Leslie Seid Margolis and Susan Tobin (2014), Valerie Vanaman (2015), Debra Liva (2016), Robert K. Crabtree (2017), Janeen Steel (2018), Sonja D. Kerr (2019), Louis H. Geigerman and Gail Stewart (2020)

Read More About the 2020 Honorees.


Learn more about Diane and her accomplishments at the UC Berkeley's website on the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement.


 Award Criteria



The Diane Lipton Award recognizes outstanding achievement by a member of the special education advocacy community. The following criteria will be considered by the Awards committee (note that the questions that follow each criterion are not all-inclusive but are listed as examples to help those who are nominating a person better complete the application and to help the Committee better assess the nominees):

Direct interaction/effect: What kind of direct work does the nominee do on behalf of students or children with disabilities and/or their families? Does the nominee have a professional relationship with or on behalf of students with disabilities or their families, such as attorney-client,  advocate-client, therapist-client, mentor-mentee, etc.? Does the nominee's advocacy work take the form of direct care or direct services? How does the nominee's advocacy work have a direct effect on specific children and their families? Does the nominee's work have an impact beyond his or her individual clients?

All nominees must demonstrate direct interaction/effect in one or more of the ways listed above. In order to be eligible for the Diane Lipton Award, nominees must also meet at least one of the following criteria:

Education/Public awareness efforts: How does the nominee educate others regarding their rights and assist them in advocating for themselves? How does the nominee promote awareness about specific disabilities, disability rights, special education, the law, person-first language, etc.?

Legislation/Public Policy: How does the nominee inspire positive change in local, state or national policy to further the rights of people with disabilities? Is the nominee involved in grassroots organizing efforts? More formal legislative or administrative policy efforts?

Championing a Cause: Has the nominee championed specific causes within special education, such as a particular issue or children with a particular disability? Does the nominee serve on committees or boards dedicated to particular issues or disabilities? Does the nominee dedicate him or herself to particular areas such as under-served rural or non-English speaking families?

Litigation: Does the nominee litigate special education/disability cases? What have been the outcomes of the cases? Does the nominee's case results have an impact beyond his or her individual clients?

NOTE: In addition to these criteria, the committee shall consider any other relevant Information about the nominee as submitted by the nominator(s). Current COPAA Board Members are ineligible for the award.

Nominations for 2021 must be submitted via email to < awards @ copaa . org > (remove spaces to email) by January 5th.  

Please be sure information submitted is as comprehensive as possible for the Awards Committee's Consideration. 

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