Visiting Professor Michael Ashley Stein ’88,  executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, and Professor William P. Alford ’77, who cofounded the project, known as HPOD, were awarded the National Order of Merit by the president of Ecuador on March 8, in recognition of their work on disability.

An expert on Chinese law and legal history as well as international law, among other topics, Alford is director of East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law and served for 18 years as vice dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies. He is a longtime member of the board of directors of Special Olympics and has for years been involved through that organization with training, health, and other disability issues in China and elsewhere.

One of the world’s leading experts on disability law and policy, Stein participated in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, works with disabled peoples’ organizations and non-governmental organizations around the world, consults with governments on their disability laws and policies, and advises a number of UN bodies and national human rights institutions; and has brought landmark disability rights litigation globally.

“Bill and I co-founded HPOD in 2004, driven by our shared desire to conduct research and advocacy that would empower the over one billion disabled persons across the globe, with a special emphasis on individuals with intellectual disabilities,” wrote Stein in a recent tribute to Alford in the Harvard International Law Journal: “[W]e have worked in some forty-four countries, including increasingly at home in the United States, and always pro bono, on a range of projects ranging from law and policy reform to fomenting support groups for parents to advocate with and for their children with various disabilities. Our projects always involve local disabled persons and their representative organizations (“DPOs”) on the notions that everyone knows her own needs and priorities best, and that stakeholders must take pride and ownership in any activity. In doing so, HPOD adheres to the international disability rights mantra of “nothing about us without us.”