Reeve Spotlight: The Viscardi Center

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on July 06, 2016 # Rehabilitation

Fully wrapped in American flag images and a huge “The Road to Freedom” sign, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Legacy Bus Tour was difficult to miss during its cross-country travels last year. Designed to raise awareness and build excitement toward the 25th anniversary of the ADA in July 2015, the traveling exhibit featured iconic images by veteran disability rights photographer and ADA Legacy Bus Tour driver Tom Olin, as well as information to educate the public on disability rights.

Between July 25, 2014 and July 28, 2015, the tour bus crisscrossed the nation, logging 23,000 miles with more than 115 stops in 33 states. The ADA Legacy Project focused on efforts to preserve disability history, celebrate milestones, and educate future generations of disability advocates. From July 13-14, 2015, the Legacy Bus Tour was escorted by NYPD through high-traffic areas in New York City, making stops in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

“The bus served as a rolling billboard as well as a back drop and platform to raise awareness through all kinds of events ranging from grassroots activities to large gatherings in celebratio of the ADA,” said Kim Brussell, associate vice president, development & external relations at

The Viscardi Center, which organized the bus appearances through New York City.

Founded in 1952 by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who wore prosthetic legs and served as disability advisor to eight U.S. Presidents, The Viscardi Center provides a lifespan of services that educate, employ and empower people with disabilities. To help cover the tour-related expenses for bringing the bus to New York City, The Viscardi Center reached out to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grants Program.

“The tour was a tremendous success as not only those with disabilities but others learned about disability-related topics that need to be addressed in communities, such as employment, overall accessibility, transportation accessibility, and etiquette,” said Brussell. “Without the Reeve Foundation support, the bus likely would not have stopped in New York City.”

Generating an impressive turnout, each stop attracted almost 1,000 people. Local organizations, like the Bronx Independent Living Center and the United Spinal Association in Queens, encouraged their members to greet the Legacy Bus Tour. The New York City Department of Education arranged group trips to the tour stops for students in District 75, which provides citywide educational, vocational, and behavior support programs for students living with a variety of disabilities.

“The school district utilized these outings as part of their travel training curriculum, and the students gained a better understanding of what the ADA stands for in history and were able to share their own interpretation of ADA and their feelings about living with a disability in NYC,” said Brussell.

During the stop in Queens, Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, demonstrated the easy access to new taxi cabs designed primarily for riders in wheelchairs. In the Bronx, Calise addressed the issue of employment for people with disabilities and how more needs to be done. In Brooklyn, a press conference announced “Access Friendly NYC,” an initiative promoting a new level of accessibility in public buildings in the city. In addition, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared July as “Disability Pride Month” and all three borough presidents proclaimed the bus visit as “ADA25NYC Day.”

“The whole experience was very people oriented and a wonderful opportunity to speak one-on-one with people with disabilities about their challenges, aspirations and recommendations going forward,” said Brussell. “It also served as the perfect extension of the first annual Disability Pride Parade in New York City the day before, when thousands showed their pride and enthusiasm for the continued fight for disability rights.”

The Viscardi Center has received two prior Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grants. One being a 2008 grant supporting supplies and materials for the Henry Viscardi School Medical Suite which conducts more than 70 life-sustaining procedures every day so students who have severe physical disabilities and are medically fragile can attend a traditional school setting instead of being educated in at home or in a hospital. The second was a 2011 grant supporting the Henry Viscardi School Friday Night Rec program activities, like adapted sports, art, cooking, and dance, which enable students to spend time and socialize with friends outside of school.

“Funding from the Reeve Foundation over the past several years has allowed The Viscardi Center to not only provide an enriched academic setting for children with disabilities who are as eager to learn as their peers, but also an opportunity to educate others about the valuable contribution all people with disabilities make to our workforces, our communities and our world each and every day,” said Brussell.