Photo credit: Peggy Peterson

Germán Parodi

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“We all have a voice. If we put them together, we can make change. We can create any future we desire.”

Germán Parodi, this year’s winner of the Speak Up for Better Health award, had his life changed irrevocably at 17. The victim of a carjacking in his homeland of Puerto Rico, he was shot in the neck and survived a spinal cord injury that left him with badly damaged vocal chords and bedridden. 

Germán and his grandmother, who was his primary caretaker, moved to Philadelphia in 2004, seeking better health care and more accessible housing. But this was only the beginning of his journey.

During the last 15 years, Germán, a quadriplegic, not only quickly recovered the ability to talk, but has developed a powerful voice, speaking out on behalf of people with disabilities locally, nationally and internationally. 


This has meant leading efforts in Pennsylvania to increase accessible and affordable housing opportunities for people with disabilities, preserve pre-existing coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and protect civil rights under the American with Disabilities Act. 

It has also meant becoming one of the nation’s leading advocates around inclusive disaster preparedness and relief. In the immediate aftermath of devastating hurricanes, he boldly traveled to his native Puerto Rico in 2017, and more recently to the Bahamas, working to ensure people with disabilities and older adults have equal access to emergency and disaster resources before, during, and after disasters.

Germán’s passion and commitment is unyielding.  “We all have a voice,” he says.  “If we put them together, we can make change.  We can create any future we desire.”