Hope Lewis, a legally blind law pro­fessor at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, has been named Employee of the Year by the Car­roll Center for the Blind and the Mass­a­chu­setts Com­mis­sion for the Blind for her work as an inter­na­tional law and human rights teacher and scholar.

The Car­roll Center, a non-​​profit agency based in Newton, Mass., teaches legally blind people how to adapt to living with their dis­ability. The center is named after Rev­erend Thomas J. Car­roll, who pio­neered new con­cepts in reha­bil­i­ta­tion training and voca­tional devel­op­ment for the visu­ally impaired.

I hope this award raises aware­ness about dis­abil­i­ties and employ­ment rights,” said Lewis, who co-​​founded the law school’s Pro­gram on Human Rights and the Global Economy.

In 1995, Lewis was diag­nosed with dia­betic retinopathy. She reads standard-​​sized text with cor­rec­tive mag­ni­fying lenses, employs speech soft­ware for volu­mi­nous journal arti­cles and refers to a super-​​sized seating chart for class­room teaching.

Her dis­ability, she said, helps shape her push for social and eco­nomic justice.

She is cur­rently writing a book on the human rights of immi­grants from the English-​​speaking Caribbean. Labor laws, she said, often do not ade­quately pro­tect women who are forced to pro­vide for their fam­i­lies by becoming domestic or health care employees in the United States.

A recently enacted domestic workers’ bill of rights in New York allows employees to take one day off per week, estab­lishes wage pro­tec­tions and addresses other work­place abuses,” Lewis said. “It seems like those are intu­itive stip­u­la­tions, but women in par­tic­u­larly low-​​wage jobs fall through the cracks and their human rights are violated.”

Her text­book, “Human Rights and the Global Mar­ket­place: Eco­nomic, Social, and Cul­tural Dimen­sions,” received the 2008 U.S Human Rights Net­work Notable Con­tri­bu­tion to Human Rights Schol­ar­ship Award.

The book, she said, is the first of its kind in the United States to focus on food, housing and health care as basic human rights. As Lewis put it, “These issues tend to get second-​​class treatment.”

Lewis has also blogged about the human rights impact of vio­lence, poverty and nat­ural dis­as­ters for Int­Law­Grrls: Voices on Inter­na­tional Law, Policy and Prac­tice. She blamed gov­ern­ment offi­cials for mis­han­dling the needs of dis­abled men, women and chil­dren who were vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina and the mag­ni­tude 7.0 earth­quake in Haiti.

Many dis­abled people suf­fered dis­pro­por­tion­ately or became dis­abled as a result of these dis­as­ters,” Lewis said. “Thinking this was a minor issue, gov­ern­ment offi­cials missed the boat on rein­te­grating them into rebuilding efforts and main­stream society.”