The international 2014 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards pay tribute to exemplary leaders in the disability community who have had a profound impact on shaping attitudes, raising awareness and improving the quality of life of people with disabilities.
Arlene Mayerson played a pivotal role in drafting of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In a largely behind-the-scenes capacity, she led a legal team that advised Congress, drafted the legislative language, prepared congressional testimony for others, testified before Congress herself, and prepared educational materials for the national disability community. Her intellectual prowess, vision, and tenacity strengthened the law in untold ways and shaped the debate altogether in certain key areas. Ms. Mayerson continues to guide the evolution of the foundational disability civil rights law of which she was a key visionary and architect. In 2012, Ms. Mayerson presented oral argument in a groundbreaking case, National Association of the Deaf, et al. v. Netflix, in which a federal court held, for the first time, that internet-only businesses are covered by the ADA. This decision led to a settlement with Netflix which ensures 100% closed captions in Netflix’s On–Demand Streaming Content. Since then, other entertainment streamers have followed suit. In addition to online entertainment, the decision and settlement have implications for the ever-growing provision of education, public benefits, healthcare, and other materials and services through streaming video and other technology. The ability to recognize and respond to such far-reaching issues emerging in disability rights law has been a hallmark of Ms. Mayerson’s work throughout her career. In addition to serving as Directing Attorney for Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) since 1981, Ms. Mayerson has taught Disability Rights law at Berkeley Law for over 25 years, is the author of a 3-part treatise on the ADA, and served on the Civil Rights Review Board of the Department of Education throughout the Clinton Administration.