Laurence (Larry) W. Paradis, the former executive director of Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) was awarded posthumously the Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights. Paradis died July 28, 2016. The ABA Commission on Disability Rights selected Paradis for his advocacy and leadership for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of American life.
Created in 1999, the award honors the work of Paul G. Hearne, a lawyer with congenital connective tissue disorder who was a leader in the disability rights movement. The award, co-sponsored by Starbucks Coffee Co., will be presented at the commission’s Reception for Lawyers with Disabilities during the 2017 ABA Annual Meeting in New York.
Robert T. Gonzales, CDR chair, says of this year’s honoree: “I can think of no one who deserved this award more than Larry. He was a role model for every lawyer and advocate in the field of disability rights. The profession and the Nation reached new heights as result of the work he accomplished in too short a life.”
Paradis became disabled while attending Harvard Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1985. He cofounded and served as executive director of Disability Rights Advocates (DRA). Established in 1993, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. Describing his vision for DRA, Paradis stated: “We are committed to using the law as an instrument for social change . . . [and] are focused on changing institutions and the entire fabric of American society so that people with disabilities have a fair shot at being full participants.”
A giant in the field of disability rights, Paradis took on and won hundreds of cases, achieving dramatic improvements for people with disabilities seeking access to disaster preparedness planning, education, employment, healthcare, housing, transportation, and voting. He broke down barriers. “Larry was an amazingly talented, brilliant, and accomplished disability rights trailblazer, and a deeply good caring, decent, and giving person, said Linda M. Dardarian, chair of DRA’s Board of Directors.
During his career, Paradis served as a member of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and on the board of directors of many advocacy organizations, including the National Council on Disability, the Berkeley Center for Independent Living, the Disability Rights Bar Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Throughout his career, he received numerous honors, such as Trial Lawyer of the Year by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association (2004) and one of California’s Attorneys of the Year in 2003 and 2011. Paradis also served as the court-appointed mediator for the U.S. District Court for Northern District of California, as well as the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council Lawyer Representative from the U.S. District Court for Northern District of California.
More information about the Paul G. Hearne Award is available here.