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Richard Keller Makes a Difference to Students with Disabilities

Richard Keller, Director of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, says that "I love what I do. I feel fortunate because I do something that makes me feel good."

Richard has taken an unusual route to his current job at TC, which is "providing stable, reliable, and incredibly responsive support services for the 170 people with disabilities at TC."

He is also looking forward to the opening of the new TC Adaptive Technology Center, which should take place at the end of October in Room 318 Russell Hall.

The Center, according to Keller, will "provide options to solve functional limitations." For example, he says, "The average computer user clicks on a mouse for input and reads fonts and graphics on a monitor. A variety of functional limitations can interfere in one or more of these tasks. Some people can't input with a keyboard. So if we provide them with speech recognition software, they can input by talking to the computer."

For those individuals who are visually disabled, the new technology will enhance images on a screen through software that magnifies all or part of the screen. Another solution for people with print disabilities, and Keller uses his blindness as an example, "is to substitute voice output for printed images on the screen, like mine."

And still another piece of technology provides a solution for people who are blind and happen to be Braille users.

As a young boy, at age 11, Richard Keller was a professional jazz musician, who played piano and happened to meet the great jazz drummer Gene Krupa. According to Keller, Krupa took a liking to him and started to teach the young boy.

It wasn't until his junior year in high school that he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is a degenerative disease of the retina that led to blindness.

He admits to an objective reality about disabilities--that there are certain things that a person with disabilities cannot do. He remarks with candor that "I can't see my sixteen month-old son smile." Nevertheless, he adds, there are advantages for a person with disabilities. For example, he says, "I can't use the same criteria that everyone who is sighted can use. My disability allows me to have an innocent way of operating in the world of personal interactions."

Richard gave up his musical career at the age of 33 and began a doctoral program at TC in Counseling Psychology in 1994. He made this decision because, as he says, "Earlier in my life I didn't incorporate my disability into my identity, but now I have."

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