Looking back while looking ahead
The RTC/IL was conceived as a center without walls that would do what was necessary to enhance the IL field and the lives of individuals with disabilities. In this synergistic environment where consumers, researchers, trainers, and policy makers have worked to produce much more than they could have as individuals or groups. One of our greatest resources has been our department affiliations and talented staff.
It should also be noted that our support systems have had the mission to support research, training, and dissemination so that the center goals were achieved effectively and efficiently. Leadership in these systems was also key. Pam Willits is but one example. She has not only provided exemplary grants management, but created an effective, functional system to produce grants in a timely manner for over 20 years. Pam and I have often reflected that we are like a couple of old farmers working together to get the job done right the first time: You need a strong work ethic, you need to work with others, and you need to be just a tad bit stubborn about doing it right. Everyone is a link in the chain and as important as any other on the RTC/IL team
Some former RTC/IL staff have launched research in other fields at The University of Kansas such as Steve Fawcett, founder and director the nationally-recognized Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development; Jennifer Lattimore, research assistant professor; Jean Ann Summers, associate research professor; Ann Turnbull, co-director of the Beach Center on Families and Disability; and Mark Mathews, professor of applied behavioral science and associate director of the Gerontology Center. Other valued colleagues include:
- Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar, associate professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Fabricio Balcazar, associate professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the College of Associated Health Professions and an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago
- Michael Jones, vice president for research and technology at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA, and co-director of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Mobile Wireless Technologies Design
- Barbara Bradford Knowlen, founder of Barriers Breakers, which provides benefits counseling, assistance, training, in Oriskany Falls , New York , and author of How To Kick Ass and Win manual
- Howard Moses, who served in key IL leadership positions within the Rehabilitation Services Administration and NIDRR
- Ray Petty, a disability consultant who has been involved in disability rights through research, the Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns, executive director of two ILCs; the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; and Kansas' Special Education Advisory Committee
- Todd Risley, professor of psychology at University of Alaska and author of more than 100 professional articles and book chapters and five books and monographs
- Tom Seekins, director of Rural Institute on Disabilities at the University of Montana since 1993
- Gary Ulicny, president and chief executive office of Shepherd Center
In 1980 when we first implemented the RTC/IL, there really wasn’t any IL knowledge base. The progress of the RTC/IL over the past 25 years has contributed greatly to the IL knowledge base and is due to all of the fine people who have worked so hard at all levels of the RTC/IL. Our grants have totaled over $16,945,000 and we have disseminated close to two million intervention products. We are proud to have contributed to the success of the more than 300 ILCS in the United States and countless international organizations and also to have furthered IL for the millions of people with disabilities. While I knew intuitively in 1979, that the ILC model would make a major impact in the world, I had no idea of the tremendous impact that it would make in both the disability and other fields as well.
We look ahead to an even brighter tomorrow, where individuals with disabilities fully participate and contribute to their communities. We welcome new and exciting challenges where we will use innovative ideas and quality research to develop and test interventions where new knowledge will be disseminated broadly through new modes of information technology. We look forward to new colleagues who will do the work.