Paralyzed Veterans of America member Dr. Rory Cooper on May 5, 2014, was recognized for his extraordinary contributions to the disability community as a recipient of the prestigious Henry Viscardi Achievement Award.
Dr. Cooper, an Army veteran who founded and serves as a senior researcher at the Human Engineering Research Labs (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh, was one of 12 recipients of the 2014 Viscardi Awards, which recognize exemplary leaders in the disability community who have made a significant impact on shaping attitudes, raising awareness and improving quality of life for people with disabilities.
The Viscardi Awards were developed to recognize the contributions of individuals to the disability community in much the same way as Viscardi Center founder Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who wore prosthetic legs. Viscardi was a leading advocate for individuals with disabilities and served as a disability advisor to eight presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter.
“Rory Cooper is lifetime member of Paralyzed Veterans of America. He serves on the board of directors of the PVA Research Foundation,” said Lana McKenzie, associate executive director of medical services for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Rory continues to actively engage in the engineering research and education role, and his work continues to benefit Paralyzed Veterans' members and many others living with disability.”
Dr. Cooper founded HERL in 1994, and has since conducted numerous clinical studies in eight customized labs, all with the goal of improving the mobility and function of disabled patients through advanced engineering in clinical research and medical rehabilitation.
Dr. Cooper’s devices, including the Natural Fit Handrim and GameCycle, are used by more than one-quarter million people with disabilities, and his research equipment is being used in nearly 100 laboratories and training facilities around the world.
Dr. Cooper also serves as a senior research career scientist and director at the Department of Veterans Affairs Department’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, and is a fellow of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.
Dr. Cooper’s life is a success story even beyond the laboratory: he won a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics in the 4x400-meter wheelchair relay and 4th place in the 10,000-meter wheelchair race. He also has accumulated more than 150 medals at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Learn more about Dr. Rory Cooper
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.