On Saturday, November 2nd, 2019, the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) presented its 44th Annual Franklin D. Roosevelt Awards Dinner to benefit legal advocacy and representation on behalf of people with disabilities. Each fall, the event honors notable figures and organizations who exemplify DRLC’s values and vision for an inclusive society.
Over 300 guests filled the outdoor space for dinner under the stars at Fox Studios, with live music provided by LA-based guitarist Gaku Murata. During cocktail hour, attendees browsed silent auction items and made donations to DRLC’s mission through a custom website created by ZenythGroup, a digital agency specializing in accessible web and mobile applications.
The program opened with a touching story by DRLC board member Allison Buchner, who shared about her experience as a parent of a child who finds too much of the world to be inaccessible, and how she has learned to become an advocate not only for her child, but for all children with disabilities. Allison turned the mic over Danny Woodburn, emcee, who delivered personal remarks on his experience as an actor, combating stereotypes of people with disabilities in Hollywood, and advocating for greater representation in film and television.
Down for Dance, an inclusive dance troupe for people with Down syndrome, delighted the crowd with performances to songs including “The Way You Look Tonight” and “This Is Me.”
The program honored pro bono partners who devoted countless hours to DRLC’s civil rights cases, drawing special attention to internationally recognized law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman for years of pro bono partnership, resulting in landmark victories for thousands of people with disabilities.
Alexander LaCasse and Erica Kram delivered remarks on behalf of Netflix and accepted the Chuck Siegal President’s Award for the company’s commitment to on-screen representation and accessibility for users with disabilities.
In keeping with the emphasis on on-screen representation, the event featured a screening of the trailer for upcoming documentary Let ‘Em Play by DRLC partner and independent producer Scott Marshutz; the film follows four hopeful para athletes on their journey to make the U.S. Paralympic Team.
With his mother Tina Lee, Kodi Lee accepted the DREAM Award, for excellence in arts and entertainment, from DRLC Executive Director Jordan Kough. In a moving introduction, Ms. Lee reflected on the struggle that parents too often face as a result of the lack of accessible resources for children, as well as the joy and importance of finding a “village” of adults who recognize and cultivate the unique gifts of children of all abilities. Accompanied by his mentor
Sal Spinelli on guitar, Kodi Lee delivered a stunning performance of several numbers, including John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
At the close of the program, President of DRLC’s Board of Directors and Munger Tolles & Olson partner Joseph Lee took the stage to draw attention to DRLC’s successes on behalf of those with disabilities, recognize those who gave, and look forward to victories still to come.
About the Disability Rights Legal Center
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. To learn more about the FDR Dinner and DRLC’s mission, visit theDRLC.org.