Henry Enns graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Winnipeg in 1966 and received his Bachelor of Social Work from The University of Manitoba twelve years later, in 1978. At the age of fifteen, he contracted rheumatoid arthritis and at nineteen became a wheelchair user. For the ten year span following his first graduation with his B.A., his arthritis was so severe that he was confined to either home or hospital. It was at this time that Henry Enns was first confronted with the issues surrounding the rights of the disabled.
In 1976 Henry Enns became involved in the Manitoba League of the Physically Handicapped (MLPH). He founded and chaired the Steinbach chapter of MLPH. He went on to become the Provincial Chairperson of MLPH for two years, 1977-79. During this time the MLPH began a rural transportation project for disabled persons, initiated a rural transportation policy, started a business for/with disabled people and organized an employment training program. Also during this time he became one of the founders of a national self-help organization of disabled persons--the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped (COPOH).
Since 1982 Henry Enns has and continues to play a catalytic role in the independent living movement of disabled people in Canada. He initiated the first Independent Living Centre in Canada in Kitchener in 1982. Dr. Enns was also a founding member of the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres (CAILC) in 1985 and is currently its Chairperson.
In 1980, Dr. Enns was elected by disabled people from 40 countries as Chair of the Steering Committee to establish an international organization composed entirely of people with various disabilities--physical, mental and sensory. Disabled Peoples' International (DPI) was formally founded at its first World Congress in Singapore, in 1981. Dr. Enns served as Deputy Chairperson of DPI from 1982-85 and as Chairperson from 1985-89. Currently, he is DPI's Executive Director.
In these capacities, Dr. Enns has played a leading role in founding the DPI Development Program. Since 1982, the Program has provided Leadership Training for disabled persons in the developing regions of the World--Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dr. Enns has been the recipient of many honours and awards. In 1988 Henry Enns received the Secretary of State of Canada Citation for Citizenship for having been the motivating force at the local, national and international level for many pioneering movements dedicated to ensuring equality for the disabled.
In 1989 the United Nations Secretary General, Perez De Cuellar, presented Dr. Enns with a United Nations Testimonial Award "in grateful recognition of the dedicated service in support of the United Nations Programme Concerning Disabled Persons."
Dr. Enns was awarded the Manitoba Community Legal Education Association Human Rights Award for his work in promoting human rights issues at the local, national and international level in 1990.
At DPI's third World Congress, held in conjunction with Independence 92 in April of 1992, Henry Enns received the United States President's Medal. The medal recognizes the exceptional humanitarian work of Dr. Enns on behalf of disabled people everywhere. This was the first time that the award has ever been presented to a non-American and outside of the United States.
In May of 1992, Queen's University of Kingston, Ontario, elected to bestow an Honorary Doctor of Laws upon Henry Enns for his significant contribution to the global disability movement.
Henry Enns' activities have resulted in the creation of new movements and organizations, the results of which have made it possible for disabled people around the world to claim their rights to equality, to live and participate in their communities, and to speak for themselves.
His work with disabled persons in self-help organizations has had an impact on the policies of the United Nations, the International Labour Organizations, the Commonwealth Health Ministers, the UN Human Rights Commission and some governments of the world. One of the most valuable contributions was Henry Enns' involvement in drafting the UN World Program of Action concerning the Disabled Persons which has become the UN Policy recommendation on Disabled Persons.
Henry Enns is recognized not only as one of the most unassuming and ultimately one of the most effective Canadians involved in human rights advocacy on the world scene today, but also as a global leader within the disability community.