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CIDP Student Educates American Youths on Disability Issues

CIDP student AJ NanayakkaraCIDP Master's program student Mr. Ajantha "AJ" Nanayakkara recently gave a disability-awareness speech to the senior class of William Tennent High School in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Over 400 students and faculty were present as Mr. Nanayakkara told his story and shared life lessons about how focusing on one’s abilities helps to become more engaged in the community.

As the Executive Director of the Global Abilities Foundation (GAF), Mr. Nanayakkara routinely travels around the United States and the world educating students, healthcare professionals, and government officials about the needs and capabilities of persons with disabilities.

The core theme of his discussions center on developing sustainable community reintegration programs in developing countries. By educating audiences to appreciate everyone’s unique abilities, and by empowering individuals with and without disabilities to recognize the value of civic engagement, Mr. Nanayakkara raises awareness of accessibility and disability policy issues to create a more inclusive world.

GAF is a nonprofit organization that works to help persons with disabilities reintegrate into their communities. The organization is currently developing a comprehensive community-based reintegration program for individuals with spinal cord injuries in Sri Lanka that includes accessible transportation, vocational skills, life skills, and mentoring. Mr. Nanayakkara has a decade of experience developing inclusive recreation programs, mentoring persons with disabilities, and teaching courses in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and therapeutic recreation.

After his speech at William Tennent High School, Mr. Nanayakkara organized a wheelchair rugby demonstration to highlight the capabilities of persons with disabilities. He won a Gold Medal as Team USA Wheelchair Rugby at the 2005 World Wheelchair and Amputee Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An avid wheelchair athlete, Mr. Nanayakkara enjoys sports such as Scuba diving, wheelchair racing, and others.

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