Born: July 28, 1938 -
Entry into the AT field:
How I got into the
I was requested to write a
proposal to the Kansas Department of Vocational Education to develop technology
to employ persons with severe disabilities in "mainstream" business and
industry. At this point in time a special education mandate was just being
implemented in the state of Kansas. My professional background is in the area
of industrial engineering and management, with special emphasis in
production/manufacturing, human factors, and project management. I have a
secondary background in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in
Important event(s) that influenced
my early decision to get into the assistive technology field
Joseph Traub, the former supervisor of NIDRR's
rehabilitation engineering program, primarily influenced my early decisions.
The primary events that encouraged me to go into the field were numerous visits
with children with cerebral palsy who, after their formative years, were unable
to secure meaningful, productive employment.
Why I chose the AT
While it may seem "corney," I
was motivated by a desire to improve the human condition through the
application of fundamental industrial engineering principles to ensure persons
with disabilities "got a piece of the action". My early engineering experience
was in the defense industry, I felt a need to improve life not destroy
My inspiration and
Jack Jonas, former CEO of the
Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas, was a great influence on my
professional life. He had a dream about the promising potential futures of
persons with SEVERE disabilities. He and I were able to give quite a few people
the tools to achieve these dreams, through employment, independent living, and
educational opportunities brought about by assistive technology.
Why the field is important to me
and the central focus of my work
Assistive technology is vitally important to
persons with SEVERE physical and/or cognitive disabilities. Realistically, AT
is the only means they have to secure a productive, meaningful lifestyle in
American society. It is especially important for infants and children with
disabilities. They and their parents must be infused with the hope that AT is
THE MEANS to an end of lifelong fulfillment. My major contribution to the field
was to inculcate into the minds of professionals and laymen alike the fact that
vocational rehabilitation engineering was a legitimate application of
technology which could modify work environments to enable persons with
disabilities to "carry their own weight." Unfortunately, many of the hardware,
worksite accommodation applications have been pushed aside in favor of "policy
studies." While systems studies are beneficial, "hammer and nail" technology
puts people to work.
My memorable successes and
greatest contributions to the field
The establishment of vocational rehabilitation
engineering as a legitimate element of the profession, the introduction of
vocational assistive technology to the countries of Egypt and India, assisting
in the creation of Center Industries Corporation, a model for the productive
employment of persons with severe disabilities and with the assistance of close
friends and colleagues, developing the first definition of the field of
rehabilitation engineering in the language of the Reauthorization of the
Rehabilitation Act. Finally, serving as a charter member on the RESNA
Professional Standards Board which developed the initial certification testing
process. Important to my contributions has been my active political advocacy in
the field through a long-term association with Senator Robert Dole and Senator
Nancy Kasselbaum. On many occasions, there was much "behind the scene"
maneuvering to ensure that rehabilitation engineering, especially NIDRR,
received its rightful share of political and financial support during times
when many political elements were pushing for its demise.
My most memorable
My greatest failure was the
inability to secure NIDRR funding for the continuation of the Wichita RERC. In
my humble opinion, this was the end of an era in which "nuts and bolts"
rehabilitation engineering research/service delivery concepts were being
applied to the solution of meaningful vocational problems in white and blue
collar work environments. An additional disappointment has been the inability
to reestablish this concept through cooperative NIDRR proposals involving
colleagues who have a similar dedication.
Significant changes and advances
in the field since I first entered it
The primary change lies in the RESNA
certification process. It has given a legitimacy to the field which has been
recognized by governmental agencies and third party payers. The second change
is the SLOW recognition that persons with SEVERE disabilities can be productive
members of society. The great improvement in mobility devices (wheelchairs and
scooters), both in price and function, is a source of amazement to me. The
final thing that impresses me is the large fraternity of diverse persons in the
field. During my "infant" years in the profession, we could barely fill one
room with friends and colleagues who "had the faith."
On the future of rehabilitation
engineering and assistive technology
Leaders in the profession MUST, utilizing
quantitative parameters, proclaim, in clear and unmistakable terms the layman
can understand, the cost-effectiveness of what we do. AT is generally still TOO
expensive and the technology is POORLY transferred to consumers who, for the
most part, cannot afford it. If this task is not effectively carried out we
shall still struggle for adequate funding and public recognition.
My role within RESNA and what it
gave back to me
I was a charter
member of RESNA. I was a "behind the scenes" contributor to its establishment.
I served on the Board and on several committees in the areas of public policy,
service delivery, and professional standards development. I co-chaired the
national conference held in Kansas City, MO in 1991. I chaired a major
conference on service delivery conducted in Arkansas in the late 80's. I was
the "loyal opposition" on matters on which I had strong beliefs, but when the
decision was made, I was always a "team player."
On the future of RESNA
RESNA's future lies in its ability to ALWAYS
focus on its PRIMARY reason for existence, "to enable ALL persons with
disabilities to attain a level of achievement consistent with their greatest
aspirations through the intervention of assistive technology in any and all its
forms." If RESNA can keep this element of faith with the persons it is
dedicated to serve, it will "do good."
My suggestions for those just
entering the field
To those entering
the field I would submit, NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF THE FACT THAT THE PERSON YOU ARE
SERVING IS A HUMAN BEING, NOT A GADGET, AN EQUATION OR A PAGE FROM A TEXTBOOK.
THEY ARE A PERSON LOOKING TO YOU FOR A SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM WHICH IS LIMITING
SOME CRITICAL ELEMENT OF THEIR LIFE. YOU HAVE A DUTY AND AN OBLIGATION TO GIVE
THEM YOUR "BEST SHOT."