Independence Care System (ICS) President and CEO Rick Surpin was honored at Gracie Mansion by New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) Commissioner Victor Calise and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for his decades of fighting to ensure that New Yorkers with disabilities are able to receive the services required to live independently, at home and in their communities.
Surpin founded ICS in 2000 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting low-income adults with physical disabilities to live independently, in the best possible health, rather than be forced to live in institutions. ICS, which serves adults with disabilities living in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens, is the only care management organization of its kind designated by the New York State Department of Health as having expertise in supporting people with physical disabilities. Surpin is also the founder of two related nonprofit organizations, PHI and Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), the largest worker-owned cooperative in the United States.
At the Sapolin Accessibility Awards on July 25—an event that celebrated the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Disability Pride Month—Commissioner Calise presented Surpin with the Advocacy Award named in honor of deceased New York disability rights advocate Frieda Zames in front of a roaring crowd of 800 guests, including ICS staff and members.
Commissioner Calise lauded Surpin for his continued commitment to the disability community and his unwavering advocacy to ensure people with disabilities receive the quality care that allows them to live fulfilling lives. He also commended Surpin for developing an influential blueprint for reform of New York State’s Medicaid-funded home- and community-based managed care system prior to the State’s commitment to Medicaid Redesign.
“Rick set a model that was really what care should be—he was relentless in his pursuit,” Commissioner Calise said. “We are glad that Rick is here. He is highly deserving of the award.”
Increasing inclusion and accessibility
Commissioner Calise noted that New York City has made strides to promote inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities across the five boroughs, whether through increased employment opportunities or the improvement of mass and paratransit. He also cited the release of MOPD’s 2019 edition of AccessibleNYC, an annual report that highlights the measures being taken to support people with disabilities.
“We still have a long way to go until people with disabilities are fully included in everything the city has to offer. But I am incredibly proud of all the progress we’ve made,” Commissioner Calise said. “As we work to make New York the most accessible city in the world, we must remember that the ADA is a floor, not a ceiling and that we recognize disability as a universal, civil and human rights issue.”
Mayor de Blasio echoed those sentiments, and also commended the night’s honorees for their steadfastness and support for inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities.
“We’re all trying together to change things and prove that change can happen,” he said. “Thank you all for all you do, especially these amazing award receipts who all are doing so much all the time.”
Surpin thanked Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Calise for the award, and emphasized the significance of the quality care for people with disabilities provided by ICS.
“I would like to thank Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Calise for this honor. Frieda Zames was a great disability advocate and I am proud to accept an award named after her,” Surpin said. “I would also like to say that all of my work as an advocate has been done as the leader and representative of our organization, Independence Care System. ICS is a unique organization and community of staff and adults with physical disabilities who care deeply about protecting and fostering the ability of adults with physical disabilities to live independently in the community. I am proud to be one of its leaders.”
The ceremony also recognized other honorees from public and private organizations who have worked tirelessly to promote the rights of the disability community. They included:
- Carol Bentinck, Member, Fountain House—Employment Award
- Eric Peterson, Director of Ticket Services and Accessibility Coordinator, New York Mets—Public Accommodations Award
- Jill Rothstein, Interim Chief, New York Public Library, Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library—Communication and Technology Award
- Adam Weinberg, Director, Whitney Museum of American Art—Public Service Award
To view the full awards ceremony, visit bit.ly/2yoQGNG