The Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) at Michigan State University has come a long way since its start in the 1970s as the Office of Programs for Handicapper Students (OPHS). Although the office was significantly smaller back then and many of today's technologies were not yet invented, it was ahead of its time, focusing on maximizing ability and opportunity, and providing inspiration for students with disabilities.
For MSU alumnus, Brian Black, OPHS was the beginning of a 30+ year career in disability rights and the field of accessibility.
It all started when Black, a student at MSU majoring in Special Education, attended a panel discussion entitled, "The Poster Child Grows Up." The discussion consisted of college students with disabilities, leaving Black and other hopeful future teachers with one important message: these children with disabilities would grow up to live in a world ill-suited for their needs.
After recalling life on campus, the community, and most of the nation in the 1970's, Black was inspired to change the future. "I bought into the idea of disability rights that night, and somewhere along the line I abandoned the idea of continuing my work at the Michigan School for the Blind and the Michigan School for the Deaf to help redefine the environment the poster kids would face once they became adults," said Black.
From there, Black continued his education receiving a B.A. in Special Education for the Blind and later became the Director of Building Codes and Standards for the United Spinal Association, bringing over twenty-five years of work in barrier-free design regulation to his job. Black authored numerous articles on the ADA, Fair Housing, vertical accessibility, and life safety for persons with disabilities. His new book, 2006 I-Codes & Federal Disability Law: Through an Accessible Looking Glass, is dedicated to the 1970s antecedent of today's MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities.
Throughout his new book, Black reveals the reality of accessibility with many years of experience and an honest reflection of the past. "...my criticisms of the ADA and other federal disability laws are only offered in the hope that we can improve on what's out there today to the benefit of all persons with disabilities in the future," said Black.
Today RCPD continues to demonstrate international leadership in providing the latest disability technology, resources and services. Brian Black reinforces the foundation of resources and knowledge, extending a legacy of excellence at Michigan State University.