JR headshot september 2020

Dr. Harding is a recognized disability leader with over 37 years of personal and professional experiences within the disability community. He is a two-time US Presidential appointee, seven-time Florida gubernatorial appointee, and has made significant contributions to national, state and community public policy advancing the independence and self-sufficiency of persons with disabilities.

He is the author of 2 five-star books (Now What? and ADA Adventure). He is the 1st person with a significant disability to graduate from both Leadership Florida and Leadership Tallahassee. His commitment to community service is a constant and is currently serving on Evergreen Life Services (ELS), the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST), The Florida Network on Disabilities (FND), Blueprint 2000 Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC), and the Delta Airlines Disability Advisory Board.

He works full-time for Florida State University (FSU) as a faculty member for the College of Business within the Management Department. He and his lovely wife Erika live and work in Tallahassee, Florida.

As a recognized disability expert with a three-plus-decade track record of shaping public policy, serving as a subject matter expert for the ADA, and contributing his expertise—under Presidential and Gubernatorial appointments—to diverse community-based organizations, JR truly possesses a unique depth of experience in advocating for the disabled community.

With a mission to empower people with disabilities, seniors, and those with special needs, JR works passionately to improve their quality of life, access to services, and financial support. Through advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill, JR works collaboratively with federal and state agencies to ensure laws are implemented and enforced.

JR is a two-time U.S. Presidential and seven-time Florida Gubernatorial appointee, an author of two five-starrated books, a widely recognized disability expert, and an influencer of public policies and House Bills.

JR Harding is the ‘go-to’ expert on issues and challenges faced by persons with disabilities in today’s society.

JR offers content expertise and delivers engaging and insightful messages to diverse audiences. From employers to teachers, parents, children, and often, the Congressional and Legislative Floors, JR presents with an infectious, humorous, and honest narrative— a narrative stemming from his personal journey of challenges and triumph.

A two-time quadriplegic, JR survived a brutal attack as a teenager, and instead of changing his hopes and dreams, he found the courage and drive to overcome profound challenges. Earning Master and Doctorate degrees, graduating from Leadership Tallahassee and Leadership Florida, and co-founding the Florida Disability Mentoring Day—considered the best in the country—JR not only reached, but exceeded his dreams.

During his journey JR has helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars for transportation, job development, and recreational opportunities. In fact, JR secured almost $9 million in appropriations to fund and develop Billy Joe Rish Park, a 98-acre accessible park and event space in Port St. Joe, Florida.

An accomplished speaker, JR is an on-call media expert, providing his insight and thought leadership to FOX News, USA Today, Florida News Capital, and other well-regarded news outlets.


Delta Airlines Accessibility Advisory Board
Family Network on Diabilities
Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology
Evergreen Life Services
Florida State University
Culver Military Academy
National Eagle Scout Association
City of Tallahassee/Leon County's Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency 2000
  • Florida Alliance for Assistive Service and Technology (FAAST): 2015 – 2020
  • The Able Trust: 2009 – 2015
  • Florida State University Alumni Board: 1999–2005
  • Florida Board of Regents: Twice appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles, 1996–1998
  • Tallahassee Citizen’s Advisory Committee (TCAC): Appointed by Chairman of County Commissioners, 2003
  • Tallahassee Transportation Community Advisory Committee: Appointed by Chairman of County Commissioners, 2003
  • The Governor’s ADA Working Group: Appointed by Governor Jeb Bush, 1999–2006
  • Florida Building Commission: Appointed Vice-Chairman of Waiver Council by Secretary of Community Affairs, 2000; Reappointed, December 2005–2009
  • The U.S. Access Board: Elected to the position of Vice-Chairman, 2006–07; Appointed by President George Bush to Chairman of Executive Committee, Subcommittee Chairman of Public Rights of Way (PROW), 2002–2011
  • The US Election Assistance Commission: Appointed by Chairman of US access Board to Advisory Committee and Technical Guidelines Committee, 2003
  • The Transportation Disadvantaged Commission: Appointed by Secretary of Education in 2001 and appointed by Governor Bush in 2006; Rate Review Committee Chair, 2005-2006.
  • The Governor’s Commission on Disabilities: Appointed by Governor Crist, 2007–2009

2022 – AACSB Innovations That Inspire

2021 – Michael Phillips AT Award (FAAST)

2020 – Blueprint 2000 CAC Service Award

2020 – UWF Impact Story

2020 – Henry Viscardi Achievement Award

2019 – FSU ALL-Access Champion of the Year

2018 – Florida State University Phi Beta Kappa Teacher of the Year

2017 – Leadership Tallahassee Servant Leadership Award

2016 – Florida Network on Disability (FND) Service Award

2016 – Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) 15 Year Service Award.

2014 – Mary Kane Leadership and Advocacy Award, Ability 1st (local Center for Independent Living)

2012 – Civil Rights Warrior Award, City of Tallahassee

2011 – ADA Access Award, Orange County

2011 – Service Award, 2007-2011, U.S. Access Board

2011 – Leadership and Service Award, the Transportation for the Disadvantaged Commission

2011 – Ten Year Service Award, Agency for Persons with Disabilities

2011 – You Make the Difference Recognition, University of South Florida

2009 – Disability Leadership Award, Able Trust

2009 – DMD Appreciation, Governor Crist

2009 – Leadership Florida Class XXVII Graduation

2008 – Service Award, Florida Building Commission, Accessibility Counsel

2008 – Disability Mentoring Day Recognition Award, Ability 1st

2008 – Outstanding Alumni Award, University of West Florida

2008 – VR Excellent Customer Service Award, Florida Vocational Rehabilitation

2008 – VR Excellent Customer Service Award, Florida Vocational Rehabilitation

2007 – Appreciation Award, International Association of Rehab Professionals

2007 – Meritorious Performance Award, Florida Department of Education

2006 – Service Award, U.S. Access Board

2006 – VR Excellent Customer Service Award, Florida Vocational Rehabilitation

2006 – VR Sapphire Award for Exemplary Customer Service, Florida Vocational Rehabilitation

2006 – Exemplary Service Award, FSU Alumni Association

2006 – Recognition of Achievement Award, Transportation Disadvantaged

2006 – Performance bonus for work with Vocational Rehabilitation

2004 – da Vinci Lifetime Achievement Award, Engineering Society of Detroit and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Michigan Chapter

2004 – Federal United We Ride Award, Governor Jeb Bush and the State of Florida’s Transportation Disadvantaged

2004 – Certificate of Appreciation for advocacy and commitment to alcohol and drug prevention, treatment, and recovery services for persons with disabilities, National Association of Alcohol, Drugs, and Disability

2003 – Certificate of Appreciation from for leadership with the Disability Mentoring Day 2003, Governor Jeb Bush

2002 – FSU Created Annual “Student, JR Harding Award”

2002 – Appreciation Award for Community Service (CHP), United Way

2001 – Leadership Tallahassee Class XIX

2001 – Highest Individual Fundraiser for 2001 Award, Relay for Life

2001 – Certificate of Recognition for Relay for Life contribution, Florida Vocational Rehabilitation

2000 – ADA Torch Spirit Appreciation Award

2000 – Advocacy Award, Brooks Health System in accordance with their Celebration of Independence

2000 – Selected to run the 23rd stage of the 10th anniversary ADA Torch Run in Tallahassee, Florida

1999 – Distinguished Service Award, Florida Student Association

1999 – Distinguished Service Award, Republican Party, Florida

1998 – Service award, Florida Board of Regents, State University System

1998 – Service award, Florida Student Association, 1996-1998

1997 – Service award, Florida Board of Regents, State University System

1997 – Service award, Florida Atlantic University, Student Government

1997 – Graduate Student Citizenship Award, Florida State University

1997 – Dissertation Research Grant Award, Florida State University

1995 – Community Service Medal, State of Rhode Island, Town of Johnston

1993 – Outstanding University Service Award, University of West Florida

1981 – Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of America

  • Received two Presidential appointments to the United States Access Board
  • Appointed for Gubernatorial service seven times by three governors of the state of Florida
  • Served as Disabled Community Representative to the Blueprint 2000 Citizens Advisory Committee
  • Honored with Gubernatorial appointment as the Chair of the Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged
  • Author of two five-star-rated books: “Now What?” and “ADA Adventure”
  • Negotiated a $420 million, 6-year contract with the state of Florida’s Agency for Healthcare
  • Led the charge to pass House Bills 1175 and 4871 providing $360 million for critical transportation needs
  • Secured appropriations totaling $8.8 million to fund and develop Billy Joe Rish Park, a 98-acre accessible park and event space
  • Member of Governor Elect Crist’s Education and Disability Transition Team
  • Recognized as the first disabled graduate of Leadership Tallahassee and Leadership Florida
  • Served as a member of the Quality of Life Grant Review Team with the Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation

Active Living Photos

Active Living Videos


“As Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, there was no greater advocate for persons with disabilities than JR. He was my leader of choice for dependable, reliable and current information affecting persons with disabilities. Together we did good things for the state of Florida.”

Will WeatherfordFormer Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, 2012-2014

“[Now What? is] a great read and story about a determined young man. An inspiration to us all. A MUST READ when you’re feeling sorry for yourself.”

Lee CorsoESPN Broadcaster and Football Analyst

“JR is a friend and a tenacious advocate for opportunities for people with disabilities.”

Jeb BushFormer Governor of Florida

“I recently had the pleasure of working with Dr. Harding, and he may be the finest disability advocate I have ever met. Dr. Harding’s entertaining and inspiring speeches highlight the importance of tenacity in the face of disaster, a crucial lesson for people with and without disabilities. Hopefully I will get to work with him again in the near future.”

Ian BrownAttorney at Carlson Lynch Ltd.

“I have known JR for nearly 20 years and he is not only a friend, but a leader within the disability community. My general managers and I frequently count on him for expert advice on accessibility standards, equipment and related sensitivity issues for persons with disabilities. I would recommend JR to any business regarding their ADA needs.”

Harris RosenCEO and Founder of Rosen Hotels and Resorts

“I’ve called upon JR Harding to assist in the presentation of leadership development information on several occasions. His extensive background in public policy development – combined with his personal experience and advocacy – proved to be right on target for those of us who share his commitment to accessibility. He’s a proven resource!”

Dr. Bill LawPresident, St. Petersburg College

Dr. Harding’s expertise has been an invaluable tool in training our team members in ADA standards. His personal insights and stories from his own life have given our Associates a deeper understanding of the daily challenges one faces when traveling with a disability. In doing so, he has not only taught our Associates to have a greater awareness of ADA requirements but to have a greater sensitivity to the needs of the community.


Donna M. Golden, CHE, SHRM-SCP℠, SPHRDirector of Human Resources, Peabody Memphis