Smithfield’s Gaynor honored by Peace Abbey Foundation

Smithfield’s Gaynor honored by Peace Abbey Foundation

SMITHFIELD – Maureen Gaynor, of Smithfield, received the 2015 International Courage of Conscience Award in the field of disability rights at a ceremony Nov. 30, following a reading from her autobiography “What If Nobody Finds Out Who I Am.”

The award, which is presented annually by the Peace Abbey Foundation of Sherborn, Mass., has been presented in the past to public figures such as Mother Teresa, Joan Baez, Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, the Dalai Lama, and Maya Angelou, according to a release.

Gaynor is the first recipient of the award living with cerebral palsy.

Using a motorized wheelchair and communicating through her computer using a head pointer, Gaynor types out what she wants to say, which is translated into a digital voice.

In her acceptance speech, she said, “My aspiration is to make society realize that people with disabilities are just as equal as people without disabilities. I am a firm believer that we are all here for a purpose. My purpose is to shine a light on the pure fact that our disabilities don’t define us, but our hearts and minds define who we are.”

Her autobiography is available online, and Gaynor said she looks forward to future book signings at libraries and bookstores throughout New England.