Our Awards

Recognition of excellence in direct support and the human services field

John F. Kennedy Jr. Award

In 1996, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals’ (NADSP) ideological founder, John F. Kennedy Jr. wrote “Quality is defined at the point of interaction between the staff member and the individual with a disability.” John’s contribution to the rich Kennedy family legacy of supporting disability issues was that of “developing a comprehensive agenda, informed public policies and effective strategies to strengthen and redefine the emerging role of direct support workers.”

With great thanks to John F. Kennedy Jr. and his colleagues of twenty years ago, on whose shoulders we stand, the NADSP has never been more influential on the national scene of supporting people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. So we name this prestigious award after our founder, John F. Kennedy Jr. and bestow it upon those who have dedicated their careers to upholding this noble vision.

This award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated a distinguished career of excellence and leadership in support of NADSP’s mission to enhance the quality of support provided to people with disabilities through the provision of products, services, and certifications which elevate the status of direct support workers, improve practice standards, promote systems reform and, most importantly, advance the knowledge, skills & values of our dedicated workforce. The John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Direct Support Workforce Advocacy & Leadership is presented to an individuals in recognition of improving quality at the point of interaction.


Key Areas

  • Exhibited leadership and commitment to advancing programs and practices aimed toward increasing the knowledge, skills & values of the direct support workforce (in curriculum, services, policy, research, and/or recruitment), and
  • Exemplary programs and practices addressing the knowledge, skills & values of the direct support workforce (in curriculum, services, policy, research, and /or recruitment) at an organizational, state, or national level, and
  • Significant advocacy contributions in furthering the cause of the direct support workforce to access career paths and professional development opportunities and/or for advancing the voice of people with disabilities seeking high quality community-based disability supports.

Hingsburger Humanitarian Award

The life and work of Dave Hingsburger is difficult to summarize and his contributions to the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities were profound. Dave was completely immersed in his life’s mission as an ally, advocate and voice with and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  He wrote, he lectured, he provided clinical and administrative services within human service organizations, and he held a torch for the celebration, support and protection of those with disabilities.  Ultimately, Dave Hingsburger was a passionate humanitarian and envisioned a world where everyone was included.

In Dave’s honor, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals created the Hingsburger Humanitarian Award. The recipients of this prestigious award will be those who are champions and allies with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and has demonstrated excellence in their advocacy with people with disabilities and direct support professionals.  Dave was not only concerned about the well-being and quality of life for people with disabilities but was a fierce advocate for inclusion, fairness and equality.


Moving Mountains Award

In partnership, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), the Research and Training Center (RTC) at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) recognize best practices in direct support workforce development by awarding the annual Moving Mountains Award.

The purpose of this award is to recognize organizations using leading practices in direct support workforce development that result in improved outcomes for people with disabilities. Organizations applying are required to illustrate how their direct support workforce practices and philosophy align with the principles of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals.


Key Principles

  • All direct support professionals benefit from access to well-constructed educational experiences (e.g., competency-based trainings, continuing and higher education) and lifelong learning;
  • Certifying highly qualified workers incentivizes continuing education, increased compensation, and access to career pathways for direct support professionals thereby improving retention;
  • Values-based and ethical decision making can be learned and infused into daily practice; and
  • Strengthening relationships and partnerships between direct support professionals, self-advocates, and other advocacy groups and families improves the quality of support.

Moving Mountain Awards Nominations

Nominated programs/initiatives can be small (a single program) or large (statewide) in scope and can involve just a few or many DSPs. The RTC, ANCOR and NADSP look for unique and creative initiatives that contribute to improving workforce outcomes for direct support professionals and their employers.

 The call for nominations are announced each year and we welcome applications from statewide/regional initiatives, local organizations, and individuals. Up to two awards will be given each year and are presented at national conferences, alternately at Reinventing Quality Conference on even years and the ANCOR Conference on odd years.