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Autistic Georgetown Student to Speak Today at White House Disability Rights Event

July 25, 2013 – An autistic student at the university who is also a disability rights activist is speaking today at a White House event commemorating the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lydia Brown (C’15), an Arabic major, has been named a White House Champion of Change and shared her thoughts at the event, which includes remarks from U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez; Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the President and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Ceciila Munoz.

The event will be livestreamed beginning at 11 a.m. EDT at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

“I am humbled to receive this great honor,” she says, “and hope that my work in the future will continue to reflect the values of translational social justice and equity for all.”

Second Georgetown Champion

Brown is the second person from the Georgetown community this month to receive the White House Champion of Change recognition.

Laura Anderko, a nurse and professor at the university’s School of Nursing & Health Studies who specializes in environmental health, received the honor at a July 9 event at the White House.

Anderko was honored for her leadership in raising awareness about climate-related health effects.

Emerging Leader

Brown is one of only eight young people being recognized today for "their advocacy efforts, their innovative projects and their embodiment of the spirit of ADA. She was invited to the Jan. 25 event by the White House Office of Public Engagement.

The U.S. National Council on Disability nominated Brown, whose work includes creating an online resource and advocacy website called the Autism Education Project and speaking at numerous disability conferences.

“Lydia has been an enthusiastic advocate for the inclusion of all students on our campus. Her dedication and vision have been inspiring,” says Todd Olson, vice president of student affairs at Georgetown. “Our Jesuit mission calls us to be women and men for others, and Lydia exemplifies this commitment on a daily basis.”

The Massachusetts native is also active in advocating for disability rights on campus, and is a member the board of directors of TASH New England, a disability rights organization; the National Council on Independent Living Youth Caucus; and the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities’ Consumer Advisory Council.

Urgent Need for Change

This summer she is interning at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia as part of the American Association of People with Disabilities summer internship program.

She will return in the fall to the Washington, D.C.-based Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, where she interned for a year-and-a-half and last spring was promoted to project assistant.

The rising junior, who authors the blog, “Autistic Hoya,” has been invited to speak at numerous conferences, including the annual Association on Higher Education and Disability annual conference, the Girl Scouts National Conference on Inclusion and the Autism National Committee annual conference.

“Despite many advances in disability rights activism and public policy advocacy, it is imperative that we recognize the crisis of violence against disabled people,” Brown says. “There is an urgent need for change in public discourse about the murders of disabled people. As long as disabled people can be killed with impunity, the promise of the ADA will remain unfulfilled.”