Entry into the AT field:
How I got into the field and my
I hold an MS in
Engineering Mechanics. After working for 20 years in mechanical and structural
test engineering at the Boeing Co. in Wichita I had the opportunity to apply
for a research position at Wichita State University. The university, in
cooperation with the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation, had received a federal
grant naming them a Rehabilitation Engineering Center. The research involved
seeking ways to provide employment opportunities for persons with severe
physical limitations utilizing engineering. Having been a "gadgeteer" and
"tinkerer" the work seemed suited to my skills.
Important event(s) that influenced
my early decision to get into the assistive technology field
Dr. Glen Zumwalt had been my advisor through my
graduate studies. Being a professor at WSU he knew of the pending grant and
thought of me when considering someone to fill one of two non-teaching
positions on the grant. The work potential interested me as I have always had
an interest in helping people.
My inspiration and
Two persons come to mind. Dr.
John Leslie, who is a RESNA Fellow, was a Co-Director of the grant project, and
Dr. Roy Norris, who was Chairman of the Electrical Engineering Dept at WSU and
was a Project Director on the grant. Both of these gentlemen had worked with
persons with disabilities and were able to indoctrinate me. I needed a great
deal of tutoring having not worked in the field before.
Why the field is important to me
and the central focus of my work
field is important to me because it offers the only opportunity for persons
with severe physical limitations to be more independent in the workplace and at
home. The central focus for me began in vocational rehabilitation and has
expanded into independent living situations as well. My approach to setting up
workstations was to apply specialized tooling helps to assist in the material
handling necessary on the job. The knowledge I had developed in methods of
construction helped as I had the opportunity to find ways to modify homes when
needed for accessibility.
My memorable successes and
greatest contributions to the field
There have been many memorable successes. We were
able to see many persons with cerebral palsy, having severe limitations in the
use of their hands, working in non-sheltered industrial settings. Most of these
folks had not ever had jobs before. Later, as the research progressed we were
able to find ways to assist persons with mental disabilities to be productive
on the job. It has been most gratifying to be able to see these successes.
I was privileged to work full-time for 22
years in the field before I retired. I now do some consulting when asked to do
so. Results of our research efforts were able to show that applications of
rehabilitation engineering are essential in providing for independence for
persons with disabilities. As our research progressed it was necessary to "get
the word out" by writing annual reports and issuing Technical Briefs depicting
individual successes. In this process I was author/co-author of more than 75
publications. I was also privileged to make more than 200 (I stopped counting)
presentations in 45 states, Canada, Australia, and Egypt.
My most memorable
I do not want to seem
braggadocios, but the only failures we experienced in placing person on the job
resulted from attitudinal problems on the behalf of the clients with whom we
worked. Psychological aspects of the job were beyond the purview of us
engineers. The specialized tooling that we developed was successful in
placements where the workers were eager and willing to work.
Significant changes in the field
since I first entered it
significant change I see is that industry has recognized the need to provide
assistive devices of a generic nature to assist persons with disabilities to be
more independent. In doing so, the general public has become more aware of the
need. I must say, however, that individuals often present unique problems that
can only be addressed on an individual basis via applications of rehabilitation
It is awesome how advances
in the fields of science, technology, and medicine have influence solutions to
the needs of persons with disabilities. In my career I was advanced to the
position of Vice President of Technical Services for the Cerebral Palsy
Research Foundation and supervised many staff persons involved in several
different disciplines of rehabilitation. Developments in electronic control
systems and in the area of wheelchair design and posture control seating
systems have been extremely impressive.
On the future of rehabilitation
engineering and assistive technology
I see the future as being very bright indeed.
There are many very bright and innovative people involved in all aspects of the
field. The need for research and applications has no end. Advances in medical
treatments will continue to influence further research in the applications of
assistive technology and adaptations of the environment.
My role within RESNA and what it
gave back to me
I am a founding
member of RESNA. I have published and presented many papers at annual
conferences. I have been part of faculty for many pre-conference courses. I was
privileged to be the first Chair of SIG 14 (Job Accommodations) and then to
establish the "Show 'n Tell" sessions at the annual conferences. I was on
committees that developed the questions to be incorporated into the exams for
accreditation. I was privileged to have been a member of the Board of
Directors. I was named a RESNA Fellow which is certainly the highlight of my
experience as a member. Belonging to RESNA and opportunity to join and share
with colleagues has been an unparalleled opportunity. Friendships that have
been developed will never be forgotten.
On the future of RESNA
WHOA! Are you serious? Advances in the field of
rehabilitation and engineering are ongoing. One of the most important roles of
RESNA is to bring new talent into its membership and to help develop them in
the field as well as learn from them. The opportunities for cooperative sharing
My suggestions for those just
entering the field
First, you will
never have an opportunity to work in any field that has fulfilling rewards
equal to those found in working in the field of rehabilitation technology.
Finally, JOIN RESNA, and get involved.