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KU News Release

October 21, 2005
Contact: Karen Henry, Schiefelbusch Life Span Institute, (785) 864-0756.

KU's Research and Training Center on Independent Living celebrates 25 years

A University of Kansas research group that was just tapped by the federal government to investigate how people with disabilities fared during and after Hurricane Katrina celebrates its 25th anniversary Saturday, Oct. 22, with a free public panel discussion at the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

The Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL), directed by Glen W. White since 2002 and for the previous 22 years by James F. Budde, has built an international reputation as one of the few academic research groups on the independence of people with disabilities. Since its inception, the center has received grants and contracts totaling more than $10 million.

Budde first became a convert to what is called IL, or independent living, in 1978 when a state legislator asked him to find a home and other services for a young woman with quadriplegia so she could live independently.
At that time, people with disabilities often had two choices: being dependent on family members or living in a nursing home.

But Budde had heard of a group of people with severe disabilities who were making their own choices and demanding access to classes, employment, housing, transportation and stores at the first Independent Living Center in Berkeley, Calif.

Budde came back to Lawrence with a mission. That same year, he helped establish Independence, Inc., a Lawrence-based service coordination and referral center for people with disabilities.

Fresh from that success, Budde and others in the KU and disability communities applied for and won a competitive grant to establish the RTC/IL in 1980, funded by what is now called National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

The Independent Living epiphany that was exploding beliefs about disability all over the country had come to Kansas.

"Consumer control -- that individuals with disabilities are to be treated as consumers of services and control their own lives -- was and is the cornerstone of our mission," said Budde.

Two notable RTC/IL contributions to this are the No Know Way Guide that explains how to understand and use research and the Get RIIL (Research Information for Independent Living) Web site at that has more than 800 reviews of disability research articles written for the layperson on topics such as legal rights, housing, transportation and transitioning from schools and nursing homes.

The RTC/IL has influenced public policy through developing national standards for independent living centers and influenced public perception of people with disabilities through its million-seller, Guidelines for Reporting and Writing about People with Disabilities, parts of which have been incorporated in standard references for journalists.
The RTC/IL has trained disability researchers, teachers and policymakers from across the United States and around the globe through its junior colleague model in which graduate students from diverse disciplines work on research teams.

Some stay, as did Glen White, the first scholarship recipient of the Independent Leadership Training Program, now the director of the RTC/IL and professor of applied behavioral science.

White, a behavioral scientist, uses a wheelchair and knows firsthand that even with the sweeping mandate of Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, researchers have had to show, through research as well as advocacy, exactly what it takes for people with disabilities to live independently.

In fact, if you use a wheelchair, you can thank White for being able to attend a Kansas City Royals baseball games, have accessible bathrooms at Kansas City International Airport or simply get to your office or classroom in KU's Dole Human Development Center, where the RTC/IL is located.

While many people with physical disabilities have realized independence in the last decade since ADA, much more needs to be known about how to serve people in developing countries, as well as minority and rural communities in this country, and, according to White, the RTC/IL is well prepared.

"Our research group is as diverse as any anywhere," he said. "We live it."

One of White's recent master's degree graduates, Hoang-Yen Thi Vo, one of the first three Ford Fellows from Vietnam who was barred from employment in her country, is living it: She is developing the first Independent Living Center in Vietnam.


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