Born: July 9, 1969 in Lincoln, Nebraska
Entry into the AT Field: 1991
How I got into the field
After I finished a degree in electrical engineering, I felt a bit adrift. I felt I needed to find an application for my degree that meant something to me. One of my professors sent me to talk to a young professor with some “interesting ideas.” This gentleman gave graciously of his time in speaking with me about his work in rehabilitation engineering. I immediately applied for graduate school in the biomedical engineering department, to learn more about rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology. The idea that I could apply my engineering background to further an engineering field with the predominant goal of helping people live their best life appealed tremendously to me. I knew I had found my life’s vocation.
My inspiration and mentor
Stephen Sprigle has served as a mentor to me. His tremendous vision for the future of rehabilitation engineering was apparent to me even during those first few hours when he introduced me to the field, and I have benefitted from that vision throughout my career. I have also owe a debt of gratitude to Steven Reger for guiding me through the early stages of my professional life, and Jean Minkel, who seems to have a knack for sensing when I’m at a cross-roads and jumps in to help push me through those times. My graduate school compatriot, Tricia Karg, remains the person that I want to be when I grow up.
Why the field is important to me and the central focus of my work
My work in the field has been varied, but always challenging and interesting. I have worked on both the research and service delivery sides of the profession, in the areas of seating and mobility, and vocational rehabilitation and workplace accommodations. As technology has become ubiquitous in all aspects of daily life, my focus has shifted to new and emerging technologies, working with manufacturers and through policy changes to ensure that these are developed with accessibility in mind.
My memorable successes and greatest contributions to the field
When thinking of my successes, the work that I’ve participated in with the RESNA family spring readily to mind. My formal introduction to RESNA came through the Assistive Technology Standards Board. This group tirelessly works to provide performance criteria for technology. I am most proud of my work in the area of transportation safety and wheelchair seating. I would also count any interaction with students as a success.
Significant changes and advances in the field since I first entered it
I entered the field on the heels of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the time, this piece of legislation seemed to hold promise for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. Twenty-five years later, it’s apparent that those changes were realized to a lesser extent that hoped for. However, advances in technology and how they have been developed continue to hold promise for removing barriers for people with disabilities.
My role within RESNA and what it gave back to me
RESNA always provided me with a network of people who were driven by the same ideals and hopes that I was. The energy imparted by the conference kept me focused on my clients and / or research for the remaining year. I count my RESNA family among my closest friends. As a result, I felt I needed to give to RESNA and began volunteering, first as SIG and PSG chairs, later in running the Student Design Competition, and finally in serving on the Board of Directors.
On the future of RESNA
RESNA is the acknowledged leader in the field of assistive technology. Our future lies in our ability to be flexible in the face of advancing technologies and ever-changing policies.
My suggestions for those just entering the field
Dive in and absorb as much as you can. Be prepared to continue learning and to have an amazing time.