Entry into the AT field:
How I got into the
I have a background in
occupational therapy and physical medicine and rehabilitation. My degrees are
in the areas of social sciences, health sciences, and engineering.
Important event(s) that influenced
my early decision to get into the assistive technology field
Several events, experiences and people played an
important role leading to my involvement in the assistive technology field.
These included my dad who was a rehabilitation engineer working at Hines
Veteran's Administration Hospital in Maywood, Illinois. I was a subject in a
1960's electrical stimulation study. It probably explains any irritability
Why I chose the AT
Technology has always been
intriguing to me from when I was very young. Tools, techniques, and
technologies. Motivation? Inventions make the world easier. I routed some kite
string over my dresser so I could turn on/off my room light without getting out
My inspiration and
A number of people have
provided critical inspiration and mentorship. I'd name a key mentor in the area
of engineering and scholarship as Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden, Director, Trace
R&D Center - facilitator, encourager, developer, principle investigator,
and visionary. Oh yes
.. and boss!
Why the field is important to me
and the central focus of my work
Assistive technology devices, when working
appropriately and provided through excellent services, equalize the function
between people who have impairments and those who do not. The focus of my
current work relates to the measurement of assistive technology and universal
design outcomes. Obtaining good, reliable and valid outcome data to measure the
effects of assistive technology and universal design have proved to be a
significant challenge. It is also essential that we successfully find a method
to measure the impact of our interventions.
My memorable successes and
greatest contributions to the field
recall a number of memorable successes in the field. The most significant
include discovering new insights that could have a substantial effect on
improving effects of assistive technology interventions. Also, the development
of a prototype measurement instrument that shows promise to inform consumers,
practitioners, and policymakers about the impact of assistive technology.
Probably the greatest contributions I have
made in the field relate to the successes of publishing discoveries or creating
instruments or protocols for more successful and accurate assessment of
assistive technology outcomes.
My most memorable
The most memorable failures
include the frustration of observing key AT groups losing funding; including
research funding and third party reimbursement for consumers who require
assistive technology devices and services. The only mechanism I have found to
deal with these types of failures is to become more energized on the policy
Significant changes and advances
in the field since I first entered it
Numerous major changes in the field have occurred
since the 1970s and 1980s. Of these, one might list the sheer increase in the
numbers of available assistive technology devices and interventions. The field
has exploded from being a field where one person could be expert in knowing
alot about assistive technology to a field that is so broad and deep that we
require specialties to be competent.
most important advances in the field include improvements in the sophistication
of technology and wider awareness of the value of assistive technology. For
example, portability and wireless capabilities have launched a new era in
assistive technology applications and the "Tech Act" work has thrust the nation
into a high level of awareness about how assistive technology can help improve
the quality of life of people with disabilities.
On the future of rehabilitation
engineering and assistive technology
The future of rehabilitation engineering and
assistive technology remains cautiously optimistic. Obviously this revolves
around the dependency of funding around research and development in
rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology services. The future will
bring enthusiasm, excitement and fresh opportunities created through
advancements in technology. How well these opportunities transfer to
individuals who need the devices and services will be fundamentally dependent
on how well we can financially support the required resources.
My role within RESNA and what it
gave back to me
I have been an active
member in RESNA since the mid 1980s and have revolved in and out of committee
membership and committee chair roles related to measurement, outcomes, and
quality assurance of assistive technology devices and services and the PSGs.
Colleague networking and conference opportunities have been a fundamental
contributor to my career path.
On the future of RESNA
The future of RESNA shouts extraordinary
My suggestions for those just
entering the field
Comments to those who are entering the field:
- Enter the field!
- Attend every RESNA conference you
- Participate in meetings and
committees on the local, regional, and national levels whenever the
- Enjoy your colleagues and the
consumers for whom you serve.
- Keep swimming and keep