Interview with Norb Ryan, July 5, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
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00:00:00 - Introduction and background / Changing perceptions of people with disabilities

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Partial Transcript: Hello, my name is Mack Thompson and today--

Segment Synopsis: Norb Ryan says he has Cerebral Palsy. He describes his education at Eastern Kentucky University, his path to becoming the state Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, and then retiring. He says that a lot has changed for people with disabilities primarily as a result of the passage of the ADA. Ryan describes shifting perceptions of the disabled from pity to being seen as people.

Keywords: ADA; Americans with Disabilities Act; EKU; Eastern Kentucky University; Kentucky ADA Coordinator's Office; Cerebral Palsy

00:02:55 - Impacts of the ADA

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Partial Transcript: Thank you for sharing that--(clears throat)--um, so, just--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan says the ADA gave people with disabilities rights to access for the first time. He says this included physical access to buildings and access to employment, making it illegal to discriminate and not offer accommodations in the workplace. He voices concerns that because there is no longer an ADA Coordinator's office at the state level this will create space for people with disabilities to slip between the cracks. Ryan says he isn't sure how the ADA Coordinator's office should be re-established in Kentucky, emphasizing it will be a large task for advocates if it is ever reinstated.

Keywords: ADA; Accessibility; Accommodations; Cerebral Palsy; Disabilities; Discrimination; Kentucky ADA Coordinator's Office; Americans with Disabilities Act

00:08:12 - Education with a disability

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Partial Transcript: So, uh--I guess, I know this is more recent history--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan says he has always had problems with the educational system, starting in his childhood. He says he attended a special school for children with disabilities, but this changed when he went to high school. He describes some difficulties he faced as a result, saying if it wasn't for his father's advocacy he may not have been able to do the things he's done. Ryan says he received a good education which really helped him socially.

Keywords: Advocacy; Childhood; Disabled people; Education; High school; People with disabilities; Disabilities

00:10:53 - Employment with a disability

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Partial Transcript: How about, like, early years in the workforce--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan says it was tough for him to get jobs. He describes leaving a good job in Cleveland, Ohio to move to be with his wife here in Kentucky. He says that he couldn't find a good job after doing so, and took a custodial position out of necessity. He says the employer was initially hesitant to hire someone with a disability. After this he describes going to college and volunteering at Cardinal Hill hospital. He says he was hired there almost immediately after graduation, and describes moving around to different jobs for various reasons. He recalls being hired as the state ADA Coordinator, saying his work made a big difference for people with disabilities. Ryan describes working with his wife on various initiatives.

Keywords: ADA; Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital; Cerebral Palsy; Employers; Kentucky; Kentucky ADA Coordinator's Office; Cleveland (Ohio)

00:16:40 - Parenting with Cerebral Palsy

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Partial Transcript: I mean, you mentioned, um, having, like, a child--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan says that when his children were young, he wasn't as disabled as he is now. He says he was able to be involved with them as a result. He recalls some of his involvement, saying he was a score keeper at his son's baseball games and that he did what most parents would do for their children. He says that his son is very athletic, but his daughter was always very good at school. He describes her position at an international consulting firm, saying he's proud of his kids.

Keywords: Athletics; Baseball; Cerebral Palsy; Childhood; Consulting firms; Disabled parents; Parenting; Parents with disabilities; Disabilities

00:20:01 - Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Um, would you feel comfortable, I guess like this is more--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan says that the COVID-19 pandemic presented problems for him because he regularly goes to doctors and physical therapists. He says that he wears masks outside of the house, and that he doesn't know what the disease would do to him. He says in recent years, during the pandemic, his disability has presented more of a challenge. He describes his family working to make his house more accessible.

Keywords: Accessibility; COVID-19 (disease); Cerebral Palsy; Coronavirus; Doctors appointments; Pandemics; Physical therapy; SARS-CoV-2; Disabilities

00:25:11 - Accessibility of his home in Versailles, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, so I guess you were talking about like looking for--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan says that at the time he moved into his current home he had more mobility. He describes his current home as outstanding, and describes its layout. He says that he has been living there for twenty-five or thirty years and that Versailles, Kentucky has been, for the most part, accessible to him. He describes some of the places he frequents in town and their respective ease of accessibility.

Keywords: Accessibility; Accessible housing; Cerebral Palsy; Versailles (Ky.); Disabilities

00:30:08 - Involvement with government disability services

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Partial Transcript: Like, I guess, kind of, do you have any experience--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan describes working to improve accessibility as the State ADA Coordinator. He recalls creating a minimum number of accessible parking spots and describes conflict with Kentucky ADA Commissioners over such issues, but that his only preoccupation was to advocate for people with disabilities. Ryan expresses concern that with no ADA Coordinator, these changes may not have been maintained.

Keywords: ADA Commissioners; Accessible parking; Advocacy; Americans with Disabilities Act; Cerebral Palsy; Disabled people; Government disability services; Kentucky ADA Coordinator's Office; People with disabilities; Disabilities

00:34:43 - Common perception of disability

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Partial Transcript: I guess, um, I guess just this is kind of a vague question--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan thinks that perceptions of disability have been changing. He says now most individuals do not see disabled people with pity. He describes some of his physical limitations with Spastic Cerebral Palsy. Ryan says that people never react to his limitations with anger, but that they are typically very understanding and describes feeling the need to warn people about the effects of his disability.

Keywords: Physical limitations; Spastic Cerebral Palsy; Disabilities

00:38:04 - The importance of agency

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Partial Transcript: Um, I guess, what advice would you give someone that--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan says it's important that parents allow their children to figure out their own disabilities and what they can achieve. He emphasizes the necessity of challenging yourself and making mistakes. Ryan describes the importance of agency in a disabled person's life, saying that he has always decided what he can and cannot do. He says he won't give up, describing his continued involvement with disability advocacy organizations.

Keywords: Advocacy; Agency; Disability advocacy; Spastic Cerebral Palsy; Disabilities

00:42:29 - Dealing with a disability

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Partial Transcript: I guess moreover, like, is their anything that you--

Segment Synopsis: Ryan says that everyday activities like walking can be difficult for him. He emphasizes that the aging process has surprised him a lot because of how familiar it is. He says that he is grateful to have such an accessible home. Ryan says that he simply deals with his disability, and that he has an amazing wife and great friends, which have helped him a lot.

Keywords: Accessible housing; Aging; Spastic Cerebral Palsy; Support networks; Disabilities