The University of Michigan's Council for Disability Concerns established the James T. Neubacher Award in October 1990 as a memorial to Jim Neubacher, an alumnus of the university who was a columnist for The Detroit Free Press and an advocate for equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities. Through his advocacy, he sought to “raise a little consciousness” and “raise a little hell!” The award is presented annually in October during Disability Community Month, a series of programs and activities focused on disability inclusion, disability awareness, and disability-related issues.
Citation from the Award Committee:
It is an honor to give this year’s James T. Neubacher Award to Vincent Pinti. Vincent is an undergraduate student on Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus studying political science and Spanish. Throughout his time here, Vincent has raised the profile of disability advocacy among student government, and he has made significant progress in working against ableism and towards a more equitable campus.
Vincent is a member of the Central Student Government (CSG), where he consistently champions resolutions that make the University more accessible and inclusive for disabled students. Most recently, Vincent sponsored and successfully passed a resolution creating an internal scholarship for students working as personal care assistants (also known as personal assistants or PAs). This program addresses a labor shortage of PAs for disabled people who rely on them and offers valuable experience to students going into healthcare and related professions. As the next phase of this work, Vincent has called on University administrators to create a database of PA jobs at U-M, to ease the labor of recruiting individual PAs (labor often done by disabled individuals). Pinti is additionally coordinating with SSD to establish a set of publically accessible guidelines for how to navigate state PA funding systems and Medicaid to ease the process of affording PAs.
Vincent’s push for accessibility on CSG is not limited to resolutions focused on disability; he brings an anti-ableist agenda and accessibility lens to every issue CSG considers. For example, when CSG was pushing for a plastic straw ban, Vincent made sure that disabled voices were included in the conversation. In addition, Vincent has successfully pushed for the establishment of a student disability coordinator position within CSG that regularly advises the President and the Assembly on disability issues while staking out a supportive agenda for the disability community. His valuable perspective has improved resolutions that cover topics from environmental sustainability to campus health and safety. His work has forged new connections between CSG and disability groups on campus, creating new community connections and more disability consciousness on the CSG Assembly.
Vincent is praised by peers and teachers for his initiative and activism. He has worked with staff and students to ensure that student organizations and events are more accessible, providing suggestions to ensure that every student is able to attend the programming they are interested in. Vincent has pressed for better emergency response preparations for disabled individuals living in campus dorms, and he has also advocated broadly for a more nuanced approach to ensuring accessibility for all students during the Covid-19 Pandemic and the particular stress it has placed on all students, but especially those with certain disabilities and chronic illness. Vincent is a visible and dynamic leader, a dedicated student, and a proud representative of the disabled community at U-M. His work is changing the University for the better.