- The former professor and elite wheelchair racer will serve as director of National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.
President Joe Biden named Anjali J. Forber-Pratt to a top position at the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Forber-Pratt will serve as the director of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).
Prior to joining ACL, she served as an at Peabody College in the Department of Human & Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to teaching courses and serving as a mentor to undergraduate students and thesis advisor for candidates for master’s and doctoral degrees, she served as principal investigator for research projects covering a range of disability issues, including training of special education teachers, experiences of students with disabilities at every education level, and identity development.
Her research is focused on disability identity, inclusion, disability sport, and work related to disability activism. She has authored 33 peer-reviewed journal articles and is the author or co-author of a number of textbook chapters.
An elite wheelchair racer, she won two bronze medals at the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games in Beijing, China. She also represented Team USA in London at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
“I am extremely honored and humbled by this appointment as well as the opportunity to serve our country,” Forber-Pratt said in a press release on the Illinois College of education website. “From my U of I days, I distinctly remember being explicitly taught that we had an obligation as alums to make the world a better place and to be ambassadors, especially for the broader disability community.”
Forber-Pratt was born in Calcutta and lived in an orphanage for two and a half months before being adopted by her loving family from Natick, Massachusetts, as per her website.Two months after arriving in the U.S. , she contracted an illness resulting in the diagnosis of transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord. She survived, but transverse myelitis left her paralyzed from the waist down.
She was introduced to the world of disabled sports at the young age of 5, her website says. She attended a sports clinic for children with disabilities at the Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton, where she was exposed to a variety of sports. She took a strong liking to track. She quickly excelled and by the age of 9 she was competing at the national level in track and field.
Forber-Pratt also had to fight to get an education, her website says. “She was challenged and many doubted that she had what it takes to make it,” but her determination and grit led her to excel not only in primary school, but also in her secondary education and all through college. She holds a B.S. in Speech and Hearing Sciences, an M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology, and a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development, all from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Globally, she is involved with disability advocacy efforts related to access to employment, education and sports. She was honored with the inaugural American Psychological Association Citizen Psychologist Award for Advancing Disability as a Human Rights and Social Justice Issue Award in 2020 and was recognized by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as a 2018 Emerging Scholar. In 2013, she was awarded the American Association of People with Disabilities’ prestigious Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award, given to emerging leaders within the national disability community. Also in 2013, she was named a Champion of Change by the White House and had an opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Obama about disability policy issues.
Top photo, Anjali J. Forber-Pratt and her service dog, Kolton. (Courtesy: ACL)