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Alan Reich Receives George Bush Medal; N.O.D. Founder and President Emeritus Honored for Lifelong Work on Disability


WASHINGTON -- National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) founder and President Emeritus Alan A. Reich received the George Bush Medal for his work on behalf of people with disabilities.

Former President George H.W. Bush presented the Medal at a ceremony at the Kennedy Center to Reich’s wife Gay, as Reich is recuperating from a recent illness.

In commenting on Alan Reich’s extraordinary leadership, President Bush said: “As the Honorary Chairman of N.O.D. and its World Committee, I’ve observed first-hand Alan’s tenacious commitment to providing hope and opportunity for millions of people with disabilities, not only in this country but also worldwide.”

The George Bush Medal is intended to reinforce the nation’s commitment to keeping the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to all Americans and to encourage the spirit of the ADA throughout the world.

Alan Reich has been at the center of progress on disability issues - including public awareness, programs and legislation - since a swimming accident put him in a wheelchair over 40 years ago. He founded N.O.D. in 1982 and led it with inspired vision until his retirement this spring. In 1981 he founded the U.S. Council for the International Year of the Disabled.

In that capacity, Reich was the first wheelchair user to address the UN General Assembly when he called for 1981 to be declared the UN International Year of Disabled Persons.

When notified of this Award, Reich said, “By accepting the George Bush Medal, I am mindful of the continuing commitment it implies-to ensure that the promise of the ADA be fulfilled to all Americans and the spirit of the ADA be projected throughout the world.”

While President of N.O.D., Reich built the coalition of disability groups that successfully fought for the inclusion of a statue of FDR in his wheelchair at the FDR Memorial. He has spearheaded the critical survey research that tracks the progress of Americans with disabilities in key areas of life. Reich is Chairman of the World Committee on Disability - the international arm of N.O.D. and a founder of the World Committee’s Franklin D. Roosevelt International Disability Award recognizing nations for progress toward the United Nations’ goals for disabled persons.

Reich served U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for East-West Trade and Director of the Bureau of East-West Trade. Previously, Reich was an executive in manufacturing management and corporate long-range planning with Polaroid Corporation.

In 1984, Reich founded the Bimillennium Foundation to encourage leaders of nations worldwide to set year 2000 goals aimed at improving the human condition. Reich is past Chairman of the People-to-People Committee on Disability. As Chairman of the Paralysis Cure Research Foundation and as President of the National Paraplegia Foundation (now the National Spinal Cord Injury Association), he worked to further research in regeneration of the central nervous system. Reich also founded the National Task Force on Disability.

“This award is a wonderful recognition of the steadfast dedication and extraordinary accomplishments of Alan Reich as the spirited leader who was instrumental in advancing the disability movement, from its formative years to the present,” said Michael R. Deland, who succeeded Mr. Reich as N.O.D.’s President.

Other recipients of the Bush Medal were I. King Jordan, President of Gallaudet University, and Congressman Steny Hoyer. Both of these gentlemen also have ties to N.O.D., Jordan as a Board member and Hoyer as a Congressional Sponsor.

More extensive information about Reich’s accomplishments was published in an article written by Jennifer Salopek for the March 2004 issue of Executive Update. Please visit the N.O.D. website to view the article at

The National Organization on Disability, founded in 1982, promotes the full and equal participation and contribution of America’s 54 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. For more information about N.O.D.’s programs, visit


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