September 26, 2005

Contact: Bridgid Isworth: (505) 925-4071, (505) 463-6044 cell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Southwest Conference on Disability periodically recognizes individuals or organizations that have made outstanding contributions to aspects of disability.The National Distinguished Disability Research Award and the Justin Dart Advocacy Awardare given on an annual basis and other awards are presented when warranted.

This year's winner of the National Distinguished Disability Research Award goes to Glen White, Ph.D., Director of the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas .

White's recent research has focused on disaster planning and emergency response for people with disabilities . White has also conducted research into housing, advocacy, and for the past several years has been developing a systematic line of research in the area of prevention of secondary conditions and health promotion for people with disabilities. White is currently a Professor in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science and directs the Research Group on Rehabilitation and Independent Living at the University of Kansas , where he teaches in the areas of applied behavioral science, community psychology, and disability studies.

Honorees of theJustin Dart Advocacy Awardinclude Elizabeth Peterson and Ruth Luckasson, J.D. The award recognizes individuals who have, through outstanding and sustained advocacy efforts, contributed to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Peterson is Coordinator of the Brain Injury Advisory Council (BIAC). She is being recognized for her creative and tireless advocacy efforts that finally resulted in legislation in New Mexico authorizing the Brain Injury Waiver. Because of her work in educating the Secretary of Health, the Secretary of Aging and Long Term Services, and the Secretary of Human Services Department, the bill was signed by Governor Richardson.

Also a winner of theJustin Dart Advocacy Award, Luckasson is a Regents' Professor and Professor of Special Education at the University of New Mexico , where she is Chair of the Department of Educational Specialties. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Judge David. L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and The Arc-US Legal Rights and Advocacy Committee.

The southwest Conference on Disability also recognizes outstanding students with the Outstanding Student with a Disability Award. The award recognizes New Mexican undergraduate or graduate students with a disability who are enrolled in an institution of higher learning or seniors in high school preparing to attend college. The awardees receive a $500 prize and a full scholarship to attend the 2005 conference. This year's winners include Betty Conyers-Parish and Sierra Rasmussen.

Betty Conyers-Parish is a graduate student in the University of New Mexico Master's of Social Work program. Noted for a "will that enables her to pursue her advanced degree at midlife," Conyers-Parish's goal is to design assistive technology supports to help meet the needs of people with diverse abilities. When she was an undergraduate student at UNM, she advocated to have the automatic door opener installed on the building where the Student Disability Services are located.

Fellow outstanding student, Rasmussen, is a student at San Juan Community College where she has maintained a 4.0 grade point average. She did so well in her Freshman comp class that the instructor has used her as a model for other students.

Rasmussen's nominators said that she had offered hope, understanding and inspiration to families and self-advocates in her community.

"Being in a wheelchair just gives you four wheels instead of two feet," Rasmussen said.

The final award presented at the 2005 conference will be the2005 Community Involvement Award, which is given to a business, organization, or government agency that has made a positive difference in the quality of life of people with disabilities through innovative programs, services, or advocacy in the areas of employment, training, access or community involvement. This year's honoree is Martha Mason of Farmington , NM .

As the Executive Director of the Arc Thriftown, Mason is the driving force in theCommunity Means All Peopleproject, which has been very successful in Farmington . She was also instrumental in establishing an independent Human Rights Committee that has served as a vehicle to address the area of human rights of people served by provider agencies. According to many of Mason's supporters, Mason practices what she preaches: "She provided an opportunity for a person with a disability to do his social work practicum with her when other organizations had turned him down because of his disability."

The 2005 Southwest Conference on Disability is an annual event hosted by the University of New Mexico School of Medicine's Center for Development and Disability (UNM CDD), the New Mexico Governor's Commission on Disability and the New Mexico Department of Health. National Conference partners include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Christopher Reeve Foundation and the American Association on Health and Disability.