United Cerebral Palsy Annual Conference
Minneapolis, MN
April 26, 2002

I am very honored to be here accepting such a prestigious award. To receive an award sponsored by a respected company such as Prentke-Romich is a great source of pride. I would like to thank Prentke-Romich for providing communication devices for people who cannot communicate. Not only do they provide many different types of devices to suit the needs of many types of disabilities, but also they continue to bring forth new technologies to help others gain their freedom.

By attending the Pittsburgh Employment Conference, which is a conference for augmentative communicators to talk about different issues of employment, I know there are many unemployed and underemployed augmentative communication device users. It has been said that there are only 25 people who use an augmentative communication device, who have competitive employment. To be in this category, I feel fortunate. As you have heard, this award recognizes individuals who have achieved success in employment by using augmentative communication devices. My success in employment is having competitive employment as an Information Technology consultant for Bender Consulting Services, Inc. on assignment at Highmark, one of Pittsburgh's most prominent companies. At Highmark, I do analysis and computer programming on one of Highmark's most visible and important projects.

I have been an augmentative communicator for many years. I have tried many of the various methods and devices available. For me, the best success is achieved by using direct selection, as I am doing here today on my Liberator.

I found using a communication device was very useful in school. I found it quicker to take tests and complete assignments. This allowed me to keep pace and perform the course requirements in a timely manner. I was able to earn a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Edinboro University and a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Science and Technology from the University of Pittsburgh. Without my communication device, I do not know if I would have been able to have the success in school that I had.

This communication device has continued to help me beyond school. The ability to communicate made it possible to earn competitive employment. Competitive employment means earning a competitive salary that allows me to live on my own. Now I have the potential to earn levels of compensation that are bounded only by my efforts. The more successful I am on my job, the more money I can earn. My salary allows me to live on my own which means independence. Independence is very important to me. It feels good not having to depend on people both physically and financially. The money I earn makes it possible for me to rent my own apartment, buy my own groceries, pay for attendant care, take vacations, and afford other necessities and even some luxuries of life.

I would like to thank the many people who helped in my success. First of all to my family, who has always supported, believed in and helped me achieve my goals. I would like to thank the United Cerebral Palsy Association for paying for my trip here. I would like to thank Lucy Spruil of UCP of Pittsburgh for nominating me. UCP helps in providing me with attendant care that allows me to do many things that people without disabilities do, such as go to work and enjoy social events. I would like to thank the OVR for getting me the equipment I need. To Edinboro University and the University of Pittsburgh thanks for educating me and getting me prepared for my job.

To the people at Highmark, thanks for being a company that gives people with disabilities the opportunity to show his or her ability. It is an extreme honor being on assignment at one of Pittsburgh's leading companies. It is apparent that the commitment comes from the top and is something Highmark truly believes in.

I would like to thank Joyce Bender and the Bender Consulting Services family. Without them, many people with disabilities who have the skills necessary to gain employment would not be able to get jobs. I spoke today of having a successful job and having freedom. At BCS our motto is "Competitive jobs mean freedom." Finally I would like to thank all of you for being here today to share in this special honor.

Thank you.

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