ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Yesterday, Governor Wes Moore celebrated the winners of the Governor’s Award for Disability Culture and Achievement at the State House. The event, hosted by the Maryland Department of Disabilities and attended by Maryland Commission of Disabilities Chair Van Brooks, Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Carol Beatty, and Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Director Rachel London, and members of Maryland’s disability community recognized the outstanding achievements of Marylanders with disabilities.
“Today, we lift a community that has long gone unsupported. There is not a single room you’re in where you don’t belong,” said Gov. Moore. “In Maryland, we’re going to do things differently. We’re going to stand up for our disability community – unapologetically and that work continues today, as we celebrate today’s five honorees. These individuals show us what belonging looks like and I’m proud of you all not just because of what you’ve done, but because of how you will inspire others to do more. You’ve laid the foundation for others to see just how much they belong.”
Aynex Mercado, a quilter from Frederick and Justin Valenti, an artist from Montgomery County were presented with Disability Culture Awards. Mike Bullis, the recently retired executive director from Image Center of Baltimore, and Tatyana McFadden, paralympian and advocate from Howard County were presented with Disability Achievement Awards. Abigail “Abby” Leach, an actress from Anne Arundel County, received the Rising Star Award, which is presented to a person under 21 who is making a difference in the disability community. The honorees have a variety of disabilities including blindness, spina bifida, mobility issues, and intellectual disabilities.
“Representation matters,” said Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Carol Beatty. “Lifting the voices and accomplishments of Marylanders with disabilities allows others to see their own value and dream big.”
The Maryland Department of Disabilities and the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council co-sponsor the awards, which were created to extend the celebration of Disability Pride Month in Maryland which coincides with the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26. Nominations for the awards were solicited in July from the public.
“These awardees highlight the amazing impact people with disabilities have on our communities,” said Executive Director of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council Rachel London. “Inclusion matters, and honoring their contributions moves us toward a Maryland where more people with disabilities live, learn, work, and play alongside people without disabilities.”
For more information on the awards or the winners, contact Kim McKay, Assistant Secretary of Programs at the Maryland Department of Disabilities.