Barry A. Romich, BS, PE
Born: December 13, 1945 - Northeast Ohio
Entry into the AT field: Fall 1965
How I got into the field
As a student in engineering school I had a part time job in the medical engineering research program under the direction of James Reswick. The program was exploring the control of powered upper extremity orthoses for individuals with high-level spinal cord injury.
Important event(s) that influenced my early decision to get into the assistive technology field
Jim Reswick was a Renaissance man who had created a world class research program that was inspiring.
Why I chose the AT field
The needs of people with disabilities were a good match for my skills. I experienced an intuitive sense of connection to the young male spinal cord injured patients at the hospital. I was blessed early on with the notion of a mission-driven life.
My inspiration and mentor
I met Edwin Prentke following his first unsuccessful attempt to retire. He was also an engineer by training and had already experienced a full and productive life, but realized that he needed to continue to contribute. He exhibited an intoxicating zest for life. We were different in many ways. He grew up in the city. I grew up on a farm. He was Jewish. I was Presbyterian. While I was 20, he was over three times my age. (Ed just turned 102 years old (2006)). Yet we connected in a meaningful way and soon formed Prentke Romich Company.
Why the field is important to me and the central focus of my work
The assistive technology field is a noble calling. Our work can have a stunning impact on the lives of those we touch. The original work of Prentke Romich Company was in the area of environmental control systems for people with high-level spinal cord injury. We soon had the opportunity to create a communication system for a person who couldn't speak and that area of need developed into the essence of PRC today.
My memorable successes and greatest contributions to the field
The introduction of the semantic compaction (Minspeak) language representation method was a milepost in the quest for more effective AAC (augmentative and alternative communication). The development of methods and tools for measuring AAC performance facilitated evidence-based practice. These initiatives produced a feeling of mission effectiveness.
My greatest contribution has been the establishment of Prentke Romich Company, including the values of mission, integrity, respect, and a positive work environment.
My most memorable failures
I forgot all about my failures, which must be how I dealt with them. But I haven't made a habit of repeating them.
Significant changes and advances in the field since I first entered it
The transition from art to science (evidence-based practice) in the delivery of services has produced significantly better results. The addition of semantic compaction as the third language representation method produced more effective communication. The development of the microprocessor allowed new ideas to bloom and other technology advances have been dramatic, consistent and with much greater impact.
On the future of rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology
Much remains to be done. So long as our mission is driven by the vision of improved quality of life for people with disabilities, we will find ways to contribute.
My role within RESNA and what it gave back to me
Early on, RESNA was and continues to be my mission-based community of like-minded people. My roles within RESNA have been many, ranging from active member (author and presenter, and committee, board, and executive committee participation) to a link between the academic/researcher and business interests.
On the future of RESNA
RESNA will continue to provide leadership to the fields of rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology by acknowledging and capitalizing on the multi-disciplinary nature of these fields. RESNA will continue the role of bringing and keeping our community together.
My suggestions for those just entering the field
You have chosen well. This can be a most satisfying and meaningful investment of the life experience. Define your mission well. Keep your vision clear. Behave with integrity. Treat people with respect. Have fun!