John K. Williams, Jr. International Adapted Aquatics Award
Honoring An Individual Serving Persons With Disabilities

SR Smith

Established in 1994 by the Adaptive Aquatics Committee of the International Swimming Hall of Fame this award honors an individual who has made significant and substantial contributions to the field of adaptive aquatics (aquatics for persons with disabilities) as a participant, athlete, teacher, instructor, coach, organizer, administrator or media representative.  


José Luis Vaquero Benito

José Luis Vaquero Benito

José Luis Vaquero has been teaching swimming for over thirty years, twenty-five of which have been dedicated to training and working with people with disabilities, particularly those who are blind or visually impaired.

Mr. Vaquero began his career in aquatics as a swimming instructor in schools and swim clubs in Madrid. In 1987, he began to specialize as a swimming coach for the blind at the National Organization of Spanish Blind (ONCE), becoming first the Madrid Swimming Coach and ultimately the National Coach a few years later.

In 1994, Mr. Vaquero was appointed Head Swimming Coach in the Spanish Sports Federation for the Blind (FEDC), and continues to hold this position. For nearly 20 years, he has been the Director of the Spanish Swimming Team participating in all international competitions.

While his main focus has been on education and rehabilitation, much of his work has been dedicated to preparing multiple generations of swimmers for the National and World Championships and the Paralympic Games. He is responsible for the administration and organization of all National Championships and the National Teams’ pre-competition meets, as well as for the recruitment, training and preparation of young swimmers for competition. In addition he has worked in the field of early intervention and access in the aquatic environment for babies born with blindness and visual impairments.

With his professional training as a National Swimming and Water Polo Coach and his High Performance Master status imparted by the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE), Mr. Vaquero has been responsible for 25 swimmers who have earned a total of 83 medals, 21 of them being gold, since the ’88 Games in Seoul.

Mr. Vaquero was appointed as Technical Adviser of the International Paralympic Swimming Committee by Anne Green (Chairman of the IPC Swimming) from 2000 to 2006. During this time, he leant his technical expertise and collaborated in the development of Rules & Regulations for Disabled Swimming and other technical aspects of sport and competition.

Mr. Vaquero has presented as a speaker and instructor at several swimming and educational technical conferences for people with disabilities held in Spain and other countries. He is currently a faculty instructor in the Master’s Degree of Sports Physical Activity for People with Disabilities and Social Integration program at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

Mr. Vaquero has published several articles on the subject of swimming and has co-authored books about swimming and blindness. He authored the script for the video “Aquatic Activity for the Blind and Visually Impaired,” and is currently writing a book on the same subject which covers a range of skills and techniques from beginning to high-performance aquatics for people who are blind and visually impaired.

José Luis Vaquero has dedicated his professional career to teaching, coaching, and cultivating aquatic opportunities for children and adults with disabilities particularly those with blindness and visual impairments. In doing so, he has opened the doors for all of us to be a more inclusive community and has grown and strengthened the field of adapted aquatics.

Previous Award Recipients...
Peter Aufsesser, Ph.D.

Bruce E. Becker, M.D., M.S.

Ruth Ann Hood Wieser, Ph.D.

Sue Grosse

Dr. Christine Stopka

Mary O. Wykle, Ph.D

Phillip Conatser

John Spannuth

Dori Maxon

Elizabeth "Libby" Andersen

Anne Green

Dr. Monica Lepore

Uri Bergman


Dr. Julian Stein 

Mary Essert (El Cerrito, CA)
Mary Essert is the founder of Mary Essert and Associates, maker of many videos and tapes on water fitness, founder of "Move It or Lose It" and active with Grace Reynolds at the YMCA.

Ruth Sova (Port Washington, WI)
Ruth Sova is founder of the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) and the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab. Institution.  She is a well-known entrepreneur and speaker around the world.

Louise Priest (Indianapolis, IN)
Louise Priest is the mother of adaptive aquatics.  She wrote the Red Cross aquatic materials and is now Director of Communications with the Jeff Ellis Organization.

Grace Reynolds (Longview, WA)
Grace Reynolds was head of "Swimming for Special Populations" for the national YMCA for years and head of "Project Aquatics" and "Project Aquatics Mainstreaming".  She is founder/president of Disability International Foundation (DIF).

John K. Williams, Jr. (San Diego, CA)
John K. Williams, Jr. graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. degree in Therapeutic Recreation and is now an aquatic consultant.  Speaker at numerous workshops on Adaptive Aquatics, he spends his summers working at Camp Able.


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