Hall of Fellows

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Fellow Jan Little

Jan Little, MS

Born: 1939

On October 16, 2003 our colleague, Jan Little passed quietly away. A memorial service was held in her home town of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Jan was one of the pioneers of the disability movement. She was part of the many success stories that came out of Tim Nugent's programs for students with disability at the University of Illinois. Jan participated in the early Paralympic Games and was among RESNA's founders. She was highly successful in business and was an accomplished writer and artist. In recent years, Jan assisted our Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Children with Orthopedic Disabilities at Northwestern University by preparing and publishing the RERC's newsletter, Capabilities. Jan's multi-faceted involvement with our laboratory when she was living in Chicago dates back almost 30 years. She was a strong person and will be greatly missed.

Below are some excerpts from RESNA past president Dr. Dudly S. Childress's presentation of the RESNA Fellow Award to Jan Little in 1994.

"After a brief journalism career that included the National Sporting Goods Association, Jan became CEO of Medical Equipment Distributers (MED), a Chicago-based association of national companies that fitted, delivered, and provided services in assistive technology products for persons with disability. This put her in position to be one of the pioneers in the rehabilitation engineering / technology field, which was in its infancy in 1971. As CEO of MED, she opened US markets to inderused and innovative technology imports from Europe. For example, she imported one of the first sip-and-puff powered wheelchairs to the USA from England and this import marked a new era in the mobility of persons with profound quadriplegia. Jan Little also pioneered eraly tech transfer from research labs to the rehabilitation industry, particularly from the new Rehabilitation Engineering Program that had just been established in 1972 at the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. This included new wheelchair controls, environmental control systems, and computer interfaces."
"In 1981, I was the Chairman of the 4th annual meeting, which was held in Washington, DC. It was the first year that RESNA was 'on its own' to sponsor the annual conference and prepare the proceedings without administrative assistance and on a showstring budget. Jan was one of my chief assistants in organizing and managing the meeting. In fact, Jan herself, at no cost to the Society, did the artwork and illustrations for the cover of the Proceedings. It was a do-it-yourself event. We were scared that we might not break even because we had no money as back up and didn't know what would happen if the event lost money. I can still remember Jan wheeling up to me on the last day of the meeting, and asking if I wanted to know how we had done financially. She said, 'Well Dudley', and there was a long pause, 'we made $40,000'! RESNA's first fling with independence had been successful with Jan as a big contributor. Apparently, that was the International Year of Disabled Persons. Sometimes, if you're lucky, there are greatjoys and memories associated with being a pioneer in a fledgling organization."
"Jan Little was truly one of the great pionners of the rehabilitation field. It is a pround day for RESNA to recognize her as a Fellow at the Society. Congratulations, Jan, and Godspeed."