Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Amazing Jack Kishpaugh

It was a call I'll never forget.

It was in the first year that StarText launched. When I answered, the enthusiastic voice on the other end of the line said, "Thank God for StarText!"

Momentarily taken aback, I said thank you. Then added quickly, "Why do you say that?"

The caller didn't hestitate.

"Ten years ago I dove into a pool and hit my neck on the bottom. I haven't moved since. Thanks to StarText I can read a newspaper again without spreading it out across the floor."

The caller's name was Jack Kispaugh.

That tragic accident left Jack a quadripelgic, confined to a wheelchair and unable to move. Through computer-assisted technology Jack helped to pioneer, he was able to not only read news from the computer screen but also lead a semi-normal life.

StarText as a aide for the physically challenged -- it was something Joe or myself never considered or imagined. But what a wonderful side benefit for an online newspaper. We would later discover StarText also was making a difference in the lives of the blind.

Over the years Jack became a regular at StarText subscriber meetings. In turn, we did all we could to support the organization he founded, The Center for Computer Assistance to the Disbaled (CCAD), in Dallas. Despite challenges most of us will never know, Jack was forever cheerful and smiling, doing ever-more amazing things with the technology.

Jack passed away in 1999, But he left a legacy that will reach far into the future.

This is Jack's obiturary, reprinted here with the kind permission of the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News:

November 11, 1999

Carrollton, Texas - John "Jack" Kishpaugh, 69, of Carrollton, a pioneer in the field of assistive technology for disabled people, died Oct. 29 in Dallas Veterans Hospital.

Kishpaugh, formerly of Hershey, Pa., was the founder and director emeritus of the Center for Computer Assistance to the Disabled and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.

He became a quadriplegic in 1971 when his spinal cord was severed in a swimming-pool diving accident.

"He was told by physicians that he would only live a few years after his accident," said his brother, the Rev. Howard Kispaugh of Hershey, a retired Episcopal priest and former rector of All Saints Church, Hershey.

"He painstakingly learned to operate a typewriter and calculator [with an oral device]. His foundation teaches people to be independent."

The Rev. Kispaugh said his brother, "did a lot in getting the American Disabilities Act started."

"It was quite a tragic thing that happened to him, but he made a very good adaptation to his paralysis," said his sister, Dr. Marjorie Pool of Mechanicsburg, a retired pediatrician. "It did not affect his mind."

A native of Pittsburgh, he graduated from Greenbrier Military Academy, Lewisburg, W. Va., in 1948 and attended Babson Institute of Business, Boston, Mass.

He was a Pennsylvania Army National Guard veteran of the Korean War and an Army Reserve veteran of the Vietnam War. In Vietnam, he was a Ranger and intelligence officer with the 101st Airborne Division.

He earned a bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration at California Western University.

In 1967, he joined Allis-Chalmers Corp. as western regional manager in its Mining and Construction Equipment Group. While with Allis-Chalmers, he suffered the catastrophic injury that changed the direction of his life.

He became an executive search specialist for a national recruiting firm. In 1977, he recognized the potential of the personal computer and attended night courses, during which he became aware of computer applications for handicapped people.

In 1980, he designed and built the first Mobile Computer Skills Evaluation Unit. The unit is used to identify and evaluate aptitude for learning marketable computer skills and to provide computer training for severely handicapped, homebound individuals.

In 1981, he received national recognition in Johns Hopkins' first national search for personal computer application to aid the handicapped people. His entry was a regional first-place winner and national award winner.

Kishpaugh founded and chartered the Center for Computer Assistance to the Disabled in 1982. The nonprofit organization's mission is to enhance the quality of life and employment options of disabled people through modified personal computers, adaptive devices and custom software.

Until his retirement in January 1997, he administered the program from a customized wheelchair and from his bed, operating an elaborate environmental control center that allowed him to write, communicate and monitor home activities.

His entry in the Smithsonian Institution's Computer World Competition received national recognition. That entry, titled "Innovative Applications for Computer Technology," is part of the Smithsonian's American History Section.

He was the only quadriplegic certified as a personnel consultant by the National Association of Personnel Consultants, for his role in influencing employment possibilities for disabled people with large and small employers. He wrote more than 100 published articles on disability issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment