Cornelius Butler Wins Conant Award

Georgia Independent Living Network
CONTACT: Colleen Caffrey (770) 270-6860
November 4, 2005

Disability Advocates Recognize Young Leader



A Celebration of Advocacy, Unity, and Self-Empowerment was the theme at a November 4th gathering of nearly 300 disability advocates and supporters at the Hilton Atlanta Hotel.  The annual event was hosted by the Georgia Independent Living Network, an association of non-profit organizations (the Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia and eight Centers for Independent Living) each lead by people with all types of disabilities, working together to assist others with disabilities to set and achieve personal goals toward independence and to promote policies and practices that enable Independent Living for all Georgians with disabilities.

As part of the celebration, the Georgia Independent Living Network presented the 2005 John A. Conant Leadership Award to Cornelius Butler of Bainbridge, Georgia.   The award honors the memory of John Ackerman Conant (1924 – 2005), a successful business person who understood what it was like to face challenges and barriers because of his own disability, a result of polio. For more than 20 years, Mr. Conant was the guiding light of the John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Charitable Foundation which has given generously to the disability community by providing grant funds to non-profit organizations dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of people with disabilities.  The annual $1,000 award recognizes a young person with a disability for his or her outstanding leadership on disability issues.

Mr. Butler, who is legally blind, has been involved in advocacy around disability issues since his teens.  A former participant in Georgia’s High School/High Tech Program and Georgia’s Youth Leadership Forum, he recently graduated with honors from Bainbridge College where he served on the Student Technology Committee and was influential in bringing about the campus’ purchase of its first Closed Circuit TV (CCTV), scan to read software, and other assistive technologies.

In 2001-2002 Mr. Butler served on the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities Youth Advisory Committee, a group of 14 young people whose mission was to make recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Labor and President Bush on ways to increase the employment rate of youth with disabilities nationwide.  In 2003 he was selected by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao to be keynote speaker for the official launch of, an online portal for people with disabilities.

In discussing his plans to keep employment concerns at the heart of his advocacy efforts, Mr. Butler explained, “I believe that employment leads to economic self-sufficiency which leads to independence.”