What is your job and how long have you been with the UI?
I'm interim director for the Division of Rehabilitation-Education Services and head coach of the men's and women's wheelchair basketball teams. Since 1990, I also have served as a guest lecturer and worked with a considerable number of students on independent studies and research projects. I came to the UI in 1977 as a student, earning my Ph.D in 1984. I have been on the faculty/staff since 1981.
What does the division do at the UI?
The Division of Rehabilitation-Education Services (DRES) handles disability documentation verifying the disabilities of UI students, and identifies the impediments associated with their disabilities. We then work with the students and their professors to coordinate academic accommodations, such as priority registration, note takers, extended time, modified testing, sign-language interpreters, and the conversion of print material to other formats. The purpose of this process is to reduce how much a disability inhibits the student's participation in, or access to UI facilities, programs and services without substantially altering those programs and services.
DRES also manages Beckwith Hall, a residence hall for students with disabilities who require personal attendants to assist them with activities of daily living. We offer physical therapy and functional training for students with severe, permanent physical disabilities. We have specialized services for students with learning disabilities and students with sensory impairments. We maintain an assistive technology laboratory that has a range of assistive technologies, including hardware and software to accommodate alternative computer input and output. DRES provides an internationally renowned recreation and athletics program, and an adapted driver's training program. DRES also operates a shop for the repair and maintenance wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment.
You have coached the UI wheelchair basketball teams, but weren't you also involved with the U.S. wheelchair basketball team at the Paralympics?
I've coached international wheelchair basketball teams since 1982. In 1988, I was the head coach of the first U.S. women's wheelchair basketball team to win a Paralympic championship. In 1993, I assumed the head-coaching position for the U.S. men's basketball team, and subsequently coached teams that competed in the 1993 World Wheelchair Championships and the 1994 Tournament of the Americas Qualifying Tournament. In July 1994, I coached the men's Gold Cup Team, which won the World Championship of Wheelchair Basketball. Finally, in 1996 I assumed the role of head coach for the U.S. men's Paralympic wheelchair basketball team. We finished an unexpected third; a testimony to the fact that you're never guaranteed you'll play as well as you could and should. It was, nonetheless, an amazing experience in Atlanta. I think the Paralympics had a great impact on Georgia in general and Atlanta in particular. While walking the streets or riding the subway I would often ask people what they thought [of the Paralympics and the athletes] and it was eerie how many times the same four words came out -- "I had no idea." That's a very powerful accomplishment by those athletes, a number of whom were current and former UI student athletes with disabilities.
With your kind of experience and expertise, what keeps you coming back to work with athletes at the UI?
The sense of accomplishment and reward that I experience in working with UI students far exceeds the satisfaction derived from Paralympic coaching. At the university, I'm not just polishing the skills of elite performers, I am helping to instill the fundamental knowledge, aptitude and skills necessary to promote the lifelong pursuit of physical activity among a population that is overwhelmingly likely to be inactive, unfit and quite unhealthy. At UI, my role as coach goes beyond the pursuit of championships, by giving me the opportunity to significantly and positively alter the long-term health, wellness and quality of life of persons with severe disabilities.