2013 IL Awards

Liz Casey
Bill Henning

Liz Casey- IL Lifetime Achievement Award

In recognition of her dedication to the development of the MA Personal Care Attendant Program, a cornerstone of independence for persons with disabilities

Liz Casey taught school for several years. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she had several years with mild symptoms. During this time, her daughter Emily was born. By the time Emily was 5, Liz needed PCA help.

Liz with her family and friends
Liz with her family and friends

Being a mother, an advocate, and a contributor to the community has been possible for Liz because of the MA PCA program. In return, she has spent many, many hours advocating for the PCA program, as well as helping to craft successful solutions to some of the challenging details of this undertaking. She practices the win-win approach to negotiations, and manages to address everyone’s agenda. The PCA program in MA is highly regarded, and Liz Casey has played a key role in its evolution.

What is also remarkable about Liz is her thoughtfulness, understanding and compassion for PCAs. She works very hard to balance the personal relationship with the working relationship, and is successful. As a member of the PCA Workforce Council, she brings a more respectful and personal tone to the discussion. Liz doesn’t let anyone forget that PCAs and employers are people!

Her advocacy work is extensive:

  • Initiated and ran support groups for the MS society entitled “A Healthy Approach to MS”
  • active member of the MS Society Governance Board
  • worked with the Tufts Medical School program as a “standardized patient”, increasing awareness and sensitivity regarding people with disabilities
  • acted as a consultant for the “Understanding Disabilities” program in the Brookline and Needham public schools
  • organized with the Boston Center for Independent Living around issues of access and the PCA program
  • a founding member of the Personal Care Attendant Quality Homecare Workforce Council, which included being on the collective bargaining team for the 1st contract, serving as co-chair on Labor Management Committee, and supporting the Rewarding Work Referral Directory
  • member of Advisory Group for Personal and Home Care Aide State Training Review-federal grant
  • Board Member of Commonwealth Community Care, a unique health practice for elders and people with disabilities

Bill Henning – IL Advocacy Award

In recognition of his career of leadership and commitment to advancing the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.

Although his demeanor can be understated, Bill Henning is not in the background with effective advocacy ideas and actions. He is frequently found at forums and advocacy actions, urging everyone to get the job done right. His tireless work at BCIL has turned it into a real force in Boston. Because of Bill’s advocacy, many positive changes to services and the environment in Boston and Massachusetts have occurred.

Bill and his family
Bill and his family

Bill Henning has been a disability rights activist since 1984, when he helped found the Cape Organization for Rights of the Disabled after previously doing community organizing with Mexican farmworkers, mothers on welfare, and Vietnam veterans. Since 2002 he has been director of the Boston Center for Independent Living.

Among advocacy successes Bill has helped spearhead are creation of the CommonHealth insurance program, settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the MBTA for violating the ADA, and development of the state’s Community Based Housing and Home Modifications programs. He is equally comfortable working the hallways of the State House or leading chants at a Washington civil-disobedience protest with the national disability rights group ADAPT. Always pivotal to his work are an empowered grassroots disability community and the dynamic staff at BCIL. Current efforts he’s working on with other advocates include ensuring stability for the PCA program; promoting consumer protections within the state’s health reform initiative for people on both Medicaid and Medicare; supporting efforts for affordable housing and employment for people with disabilities; and seeking compliance by hospitals with the ADA.

Bill’s greatest enjoyment is traveling with his wife Marie and two kids, Cate, age 12, and Meg, age 10. He also fills up his spare time volunteering at his kids’ school in Hyde Park, shuttling the girls to dance and basketball, reading history books, and training for a few triathlons a year.