On Saturday, October 7th, the Disability Rights Legal Center hosted its 42nd Annual FDR Dinner at iconic Fox Studios in Los Angeles. Named for the only U.S. President to enter office with a physical disability, the FDR Dinner celebrates luminaries in the entertainment, education, civil liberties and business communities for their commitment to inclusion and social progress.
Over 300 guests attended the outdoor event, emceed by actor and comedian Danny Woodburn. Festivities included photo booths designed by students with autism at Exceptional Minds studio, a silent auction to benefit DRLC, and summaries of precedent-setting lawsuits settled over the past year on behalf of people with disabilities.
The evening opened with a performance by Infinite Flow, America’s first professional wheelchair ballroom dance company, featuring founder Marisa Hamamoto and guest artist Piotr Iwanicki. The program included remarks from all awardees, as well as members of DRLC staff, event sponsors and pro bono partners.
DRLC awarded Apple with the Business and Technology Award, received by Director of Accessibility Sarah Herrlinger, for the company’s contributions to assistive technology. Los Angeles-based design studio and nonprofit vocational school for students with autism, Exceptional Minds, received the Excellence in Education Award.
Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for U.S. Social Impact, accepted the Community and Progress Award on behalf of Sesame Workshop for its commitment to promoting inclusion and understanding.
Actor and director Helen Hunt received the DREAM Award for her engagement in social issues and her commitment to treating disability on screen with care and excellence. Before delivering remarks, Hunt was introduced by co-worker on The Sessions and DRLC board member Ben Lewin.
At the close of the program, Joseph Lee, Partner at Munger Tolles and DRLC Board President, gave an address which highlighted the DRLC’s successes, including a settlement in which the City of Los Angeles commits to spend $1.4 billion over 10 years to make the city’s sidewalks safe for people with disabilities—a settlement “that is literally saving lives.” Mr. Lee also stressed the need to meet the challenges ahead. “We are in a constant battle,” he stated, “to make this world a place of inclusion, not exclusion. And we could not do this vital work without the contributions made by our extraordinary staff and dedicated volunteers and pro bono partners—by everyone here tonight.”
Founded in 1975, DRLC is the oldest disability rights organization in the U.S. and a leader in championing the civil rights of people with disabilities as well as those affected by cancer. This special annual event benefits DRLC and permits DRLC to continue this important work and recognize partners and supporters in the organization’s mission for a more inclusive society.