Russell Cusack, director of the North Dakota Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, is named the inaugural recipient of the award for embodying Senator Harkin’s legendary work for Americans with disabilities.

Alliance Enterprises, Inc. (Alliance) announced today the first recipient of the Thomas Harkin Americans with Disabilities (T.H.A.D.) Excellence Award. The award recognizes a member of the rehabilitation services community who exemplifies outstanding service to people with disabilities, true to its namesake.

Alliance CEO Chris M. Pieper and The Harkin Institute executive director, Joseph Jones, revealed the inaugural award winner at the company’s getAwareLive! conference in Dallas: Russell Cusack, director of North Dakota’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The annual getAwareLive! event brings together vocational rehabilitation, workforce, accessibility, and technology professionals to share experiences, best practices and collaborate on improving opportunities for people with disabilities. Watch Senator Harkin’s welcome message to conference attendees.

“Russell Cusack has been a public servant for more than 35 years, in both Alaska and North Dakota, dedicating his career to improving the lives of thousands of people with disabilities. He’s richly deserving of this award,” Pieper said. “As we recognize the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we’re fortunate to share the stage with director Joseph Jones and The Harkin Institute, and to recognize Russell’s contribution and the commitment of our entire getAwareLive! audience who give their time, energy and passion to help people with disabilities.”

Alliance’s Aware software is the industry standard for vocational rehabilitation case management, data analytics and cloud services and is used by more than 12,000 rehabilitation service providers across 38 state agencies and 23 tribal nations.

Since taking the helm of The Harkin Institute in 2016, Jones has advanced the legacy of Senator Harkin, facilitating non-partisan policy research and analysis, and proposing solutions aimed to improve conditions for people with disabilities. Jones shared an inspirational and moving keynote presentation at the conference today.

“Since the passage of the ADA there have been many improvements to opportunities available for those with disabilities,” Jones said. “However, challenges remain, hindering the ability to truly provide equal opportunities for all. It’s our responsibility to help close the gap and provide the resources and support for these individuals to grow and prosper.”

Click here or for more information about getAwareLive!

Click here for more information about The Harkin Institute