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April 01, 2008

April 2008: Andrew J. Imparato, Esq.

Lawyer with bipolar disorder finds recovery in his advocacy work for the disabled.

As many lawyers who practice disability law know, the Americans with Disabilities Act has been one tool to help individuals with disabilities attain accommodations. In addition to legislative solutions, many with disabilities find alternative ways of properly navigating their disability. Andrew J. Imparato, Esq., President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), has found such a substitute in the work he does everyday for the AAPD. By utilizing the passion he has for disability rights advocacy, Andrew has found a way to advance a cause he believes in while also mitigating the effects of his disability.

Mr. Imparato, a graduate of Stanford Law School, was previously General Counsel and Director of Policy for the National Council on Disability. He has been a lawyer for the past eighteen years. His list of accolades include the title of one of “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce in 2005, honors from the Secretaries of Transportation and Health and Human Services in 2006, and a seat on the Maryland Statewide Independent Living Council, which he currently holds. All of these honors were a result of the contributions he and AAPD have made to American society on behalf of those with disabilities.

During his last semester of law school, Andy was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He is depressed with low energy for about half of the year and an abundance of energy and self-confidence for the remaining time. Mr. Imparato has traditionally asked for accommodations on an as-needed basis. In dealing with this sometimes “hidden” disability, he has asked for employers to give him honest feedback. “I especially wanted to make sure my supervisors alerted me during my periods of high energy,” Imparato says, “so as to make sure that I was not inadvertently offending people or jeopardizing an organizational or person goal through my behavior.” Andy also wanted to be open about his disability so that others with a non-apparent disability might feel comfortable about “coming out” with their status.

Andy stresses the importance of having a passion for his mission in advancing civil rights for those with disabilities. He makes sure to distinguish having a passion from a simple liking or a desire. “A passion for this work, or any type of work for that matter, means that it is something you were called to do. When you have a passion for a cause, the work is energizing, not energy-draining,” he reflects, “Life is too short to be going to work for just a paycheck—you need to love what you do as well.”

By feeding off of his passion for disability rights, Andy steers the AAPD, one of the largest volunteer associations for individuals with disabilities in the country. His law degree certainly prepared him for his leadership position in helping him solve problems and understand legislation; however, it is currently his passion for disability rights that helps him get through those depressing periods. In addition to crediting the strong support of his family and colleagues at work, Andy puts it best: “Going to work to do something that I love is one of the best anti-depressants I can ask for."