Two Australian leaders who are blind recognised with international award


Vision Australia congratulates Deputy Chair Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum and General Manager Advocacy and Engagement Maryanne Diamond on being announced as recipients of the international 2014 Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards.

The Awards pay tribute to exemplary leaders in the disability community who have had a profound impact on shaping attitudes, raising awareness and improving the quality of life of people with disabilities.

With nominations received from 11 countries, this year’s 12 recipients come from the United States, Australia and Kazakhstan and include:

  • Jim Abbott – Former MLB Pitcher & Gold Medal Olympian
  • Marca Bristo – President & CEO of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago
  • Rory Cooper, Ph.D. – Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Maryanne Diamond – General Manager Advocacy and Engagement at Vision Australia
  • Neil Jacobson – Founder & CEO of Abilicorp
  • Arlene Mayerson – Attorney at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
  • Marlee Matlin – Academy Award & Golden Globe Award-winning Actress
  • Ron McCallum – Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney
  • Thomas Porter – Volunteer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
  • Susan Sygall – Co-founder & CEO of Mobility International USA (MIUSA)
  • Yevgeniy Tetyukhin – Professor at the Petropavlovsk North Kazakhstan State University
  • Mary Verdi-Fletcher – President & Founding Artistic Director of Dancing Wheels

“We’re truly honoured to bestow upon such a dedicated, diverse and trend-setting group of leaders this year’s Award,” said John D. Kemp, President and CEO of The Viscardi Center. “Every day people with disabilities are leaving their footprint in communities all over the world, and their work often transcends the geographical boundaries where they live. The Award recipients challenge us, reminding us all that our work does make a meaningful difference.”

The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards were developed to honour the extraordinary societal contributions of the Awardees in the spirit of the legacy and vision of the Center’s founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who himself wore prosthetic legs. As one of the world’s leading advocates for people with disabilities, he served as a disability advisor to eight presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter. 

Individuals of any age, with any type of disability, are eligible. The Awards recognise individual, academia, athletic, community, government, nonprofit, military, corporate, and business leaders who are working to improve the lives of people with disabilities. 

“It is often said that we, as a society, are at our best when ordinary people do extraordinary things—especially when it comes to making an impact on the world around us,” said former U.S. Senator Robert Dole, who co-chaired the Award Selection Committee. “These twelve individuals have demonstrated creativity, determination, ingenuity, leadership, success and tenacity. They embody what people with disabilities can accomplish.


About Ron McCallum

Ron McCallum is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney. McCallum has been blind almost from birth. In 1993, McCallum was appointed foundation Blake Dawson Waldron Professor of Industrial Law at Sydney University, thus becoming the first completely blind person to be appointed by any university in Australasia to a full professorship in any field. Nine years later, he was appointed to a five-year term as Dean of Law. Later, he became the inaugural President of the Australian Labour Law Association, and Asian regional vice-president of the International Society for Labour and Social Security Law. He has also done significant work for the blind as the Chair of Radio for the Print Handicapped of New South Wales Co-operative Ltd, operator of 2RPH Radio. Since 2006, McCallum has been a member of the Board of Vision Australia. In 2011, he was named Senior Australian of the Year for his untiring pursuit of equal rights for people with disabilities all over the world. Since 2008, McCallum has been actively involved with the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

About Maryanne Diamond

Maryanne Diamond has been blind since birth and is currently Immediate Past President of the World Blind Union, having served as president from 2008-20012, Chair Elect of the International Disability Alliance, and General Manager Advocacy and Engagement at Vision Australia. Previously she was the Inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations and Executive Officer of Blind Citizens Australia. Since 2009, Diamond has been the head of the World Blind Union’s delegation at WIPO advocating the WBU's Right to Read campaign to make books more accessible for all print-disabled people around the world.  Less than 95 per cent of all published materials (books, magazines, journals etc.) ever get converted into accessible formats (such as large print, braille, or audio files) for blind, low vision and print disabled people to be able to read so they can enjoy the same knowledge, literature and culture as their sighted fellow citizens. In June 2013, as a direct result of World Blind Union’s work to unify international copyright laws, over 50 countries signed the Marrakesh Treaty. Diamond’s tireless work, along with that of her colleagues at the WBU, ensures that more blind youth will be able to read and enjoy the same books as their sighted peers, helping them connect with literature and the knowledge economy.