Betsey Johnson brings fashion world sizzle into disability advocacy.
By Dawn Lim
Pink was the color of the evening at the American Association of People with Disabilities gala night. New York fashion icon Betsey Johnson left her whimsical imprint upon the glowing fuchsia décor of the Ronald Reagan Building’s ballroom. In a characteristically theatrical appearance, Johnson burst onto the stage in a bright pink ballerina-influenced skirt, draping an arm enthusiastically around AAPD President and CEO, Andrew Imparato.
“As someone who grew up as the son of a fashion journalist and has devoted my life to disability rights, I’ve endeavored to find a way to bring the sizzle and creativity of the fashion world into the work we do to improve the way people with disabilities are perceived by the broader society,” said Imparato. “I thought it would be appropriate to reach out to the fashion industry to help us celebrate and help others see that disability is, and can be, sexy.”
It was a night of effusive speeches and hyperbole. Steve Bartlett, Financial Services Roundtable CEO and former U.S. Congressman, urged, “Let us recommit ourselves to continuing to cross that bridge, continuing to cross the river that divides.” Ted Kennedy Jr, the son of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, presented policy advisor Connie Garner an award for her service to his father and the disability community.
Receiving awards for their work was Don Dew, founder of ReachOut USA, an advocacy group that unites disability and LGBT concerns, and Lawrence Carter-Long, executive director of the Disabilities Network of NYC, which works for inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of life in New York City. And Stevie Wonder accepted his award with a rich rendition of “You’re the Sunshine of My Life.”