Michael Ashley Stein ’88, executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability (HPOD) and Harvard Law visiting professor, received the prestigious Dole-Harkin award from the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD). He was honored as a leader of the disability rights movement whose impact has been felt on the international stage.

Stein was presented with the award at this year’s USICD’s annual gala in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 4, a day after the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Many notable contributors to the disability rights movements are former award winners, including Senators Tom Harkin, John McCain, and Tammy Duckworth; Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jim Langevin, and Dina Titus; as well as disability rights champions Judith Heumann, Victor Pineda, and John Wodatch.

Stein’s many remarkable contributions to the evolution of disability rights protections throughout the world were noted as part of the award presentation. As HPOD’s executive director, he participated in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and his voluminous scholarship has helped to amplify its pathbreaking provisions, including the Oxford University Press’ authoritative commentary on the CRPD.

He has edited volumes that have explained the CRPD’s implications for employers, mental health systems, private corporations, and accessible technology, while also authoring articles that push the boundaries of bioethics, voting rights, research ethics, access to health care, criminal responsibility, intersections of indigeneity and disability, and the decision-making rights of persons with intellectual disabilities.

Stein’s scholarship and advocacy address many of the most pressing disability rights issues of our times. He has been instrumental in leveraging his scholarly activities to support impactful strategic litigation, including through amicus briefs before the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and beyond.

He recently positioned HPOD to make unique contributions to advance greater recognition of and protection for disability rights in situations of armed conflict and amidst the global climate crisis, illuminating accountability gaps for disability-related violations of international criminal and humanitarian law, along with HPOD Senior Associate Janet Lord and HPOD fellow William Pons. He has urged the United Nations to ensure that persons with disabilities are expressly included in an anticipated new international treaty to prevent and punish crimes against humanity.

With HPOD Senior Associate Penelope J.S. Stein, he has brought together colleagues to join a call for disability inclusion in the global climate agenda and more robust research on the disproportionate effects of climate change on persons with disabilities. In the face of the demographic challenges presented by rapidly aging populations, Stein has supported ongoing efforts to develop an international treaty on the human rights of older persons, together with HPOD Senior Advisor Luis Gallegos.

Stein joined the Harvard Law faculty in 2005. He was previously a professor at William & Mary Law School, and he taught at New York University School of Law and Stanford Law School.

In 1988, he earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he became the first known person with a disability to be a member of the Harvard Law Review. He also has a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.

USICD is a federation of US-based non-governmental organizations, federal agencies and individuals committed to advocacy and action on behalf of the global disability rights agenda. Through its network of disability organizations and other NGO stakeholders, government members and individual advocates, USICD undertakes advocacy efforts aimed at influencing critical emerging issues both in the United States and internationally.

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