Marcia Joslyn Scherer, PhD, MPH, FACRM
Born: 9 June 1948, Buffalo, NY
Entry into the AT field: 1976
How I got into the field
I was working on my master's degree in rehabilitation counseling at the same time as my husband was working on his electrical engineering masters. He was reading about devices for people with disabilities. The engineering articles were more glowing than the real life experiences that he was hearing from me about technologies used by consumers. He said, "Maybe you can do something about that."
Important event(s) that influenced my early decision to get into the assistive technology field
Why I chose the AT field
I started out in the mental health field and was a psychotherapist. Talk about "living in the state of stuck"! It was very frustrating to see how the system resulted in a revolving-door situation for so many individuals. So I changed to working with people with physical disabilities and hoping to help them achieve their dreams and goals.
My inspiration and mentor
Other than my husband, no. As a female in a technical field, and a new field, there were, sadly, no mentors. I formed good, close friendships with fellow colleagues, however, and that was invaluable -- and is to this day. Thus, I thank my RESNA colleagues for being so key to my work!
Why the field is important to me and the central focus of my work
I came from a psychology and rehabilitation background where the emphasis was on helping consumers' articulate their goals and then helping them find ways to achieve them. My NSF-supported dissertation study was researching differences in consumer and therapist perspectives of quality of life, rehabilitation success, and assistive technology use. That became the foundation of the book Living in the State of Stuck and also the content for the Matching Person & Technology Model and accompanying measures.
My memorable successes and greatest contributions to the field
Having colleagues and their students adopt the MPT Model and measures. This meant they actually read my work and want to work with consumers in AT decision-making and appropriate AT selection. My greatest contributions to the field are the texts I've written or edited, the journal I edit, and the MPT process and measures. All were meant to encourage listening to the voice of the consumer, getting to know the person, and working with that person on goal achievement, inclusion/participation, and life quality.
My most memorable failures
There are several that come to mind. On occasion, I have taken on too much work for a period of time, resulting in missed deadlines, etc. I learned to spend more time planning, delegating, and getting better organized.
Significant changes and advances in the field since I first entered it
We have always embraced an interdisciplinary, international collaboration and I have seen this grow over the years. This collaboration has resulted in products and services that better meet the needs and preferences of consumers. Many rehabilitation disciplines are more focused and specialized than ours and this has, on occasion, reduced their effectiveness. Significant advances - the sheer variety of product choices, which makes the AT selection process complex. I am happy to continue to make my measures and writing more useful to professionals and consumers as this complexity increases.
On the future of rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology
High technology, complex systems, formal protocols, being evidence-based and results oriented, more use of measures, and so on. The future is especially bright because of the emphasis now on the community participation of people with disabilities.
My role within RESNA and what it gave back to me
RESNA was the organization that stood behind my work at the outset. Thus, I have always strived to enhance the organization. I am a past member of the Board of Directors and started a new SIG (22) to focus on consumer perspectives of AT and AT services. Without RESNA, my work would not be very well known or as highly regarded.
On the future of RESNA
RESNA is the go-to organization for anyone interested in AT. This needs to expand to more people and disciplines, and it will.
My suggestions for those just entering the field
I would recommend that in order to develop career skills and stay current, they should regularly attend relevant conventions and training opportunities. Be sure to spend time networking with others in the field, and keep informed by reading both the journals and books in the field. You will certainly meet many difficult challenges in your career. Work hard and persist, however, as it is so worth it!