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An interview with NIDRR's William Graves.

An Interview with NIDRR's William Graves

It was noticeable as soon as we sat down to talk that Bill Graves has a commitment to people with disabilities, as well as a passion for his role. Six months into his tenture as the Bush administration's director of the nation's research related to disability and rehabilitation, Bill Graves talked about why he decided to move to Washington to become the Director of the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). "I have no tolerance for people who discriminate. I need to knock down the barriers. The bottom line is... I don't like patronizing attitudes. What drives me is NIDRR's mission, which is to empower people with disabilities through research, research products and information."

His belief that research is crucial to the lives of people with disabilities is reflected in the fact that one of his first efforts was to "develop a dissemination policy for NIDRR through an initiative to guide activities to ensure that information is available to those who need it, whether they be people with disabilities or professionals, and in such a form that it can be used." Graves believes that NIDRR's greatest fault is that it has not been "as responsive as it could be and that the rehabilitation community has not used or taken advantage of NIDRR because of the perception that it is not practice-related." He wants to change that perception.

To begin changing NIDRR, he has borrowed from several models. The first is from the National Institute of Health and involves the use of consensus panels. Consensus panels will bring together service providers, people with disabilities and experts to look publicly at topics or issues with the objective of developing a consensus of the "state of the art." The purpose of consensus panels is to sum up the scientific evidence on a particular topic. Panels generally meet for several days, have public hearings, and then issue reports. Bill anticipates that these reports will be released in two forms--one quite technical and the other specifically written for the consumer. The second model is borrowed from the Gerontological Society of America involving an attempt to bring researchers into "real life." He has increased funding for a fellows program so that individuals who are researchers can go into the community and other rehabilitation environments and identify research problems and their solutions. This program is a short-term program allowing for increased interaction of researcher and programs for people with disabilities.

At the same time, Dr. Graves has not forgotten his roots. He very much wants to make NIDRR responsive to the core of the public rehabilitation service delivery program--the rehabilitation counselor. He sees a need for rehabilitation counselors to have information from ongoing research. Bill entered rehabilitation as a psychology major at Wake Forest University when he spent two summers with the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation program at South Carolina State Hospital. Interestingly, another student employee during one of these summers was the current Executive Director of NRA, Robert Brabham. "An excellent way for rehabilitation to recruit new employees," Graves said. "I liked it enough to look around for a graduate education program and decided that palm trees were better than ice and snow." He obtained a master's degree and doctorate from the University of Florida. Following some years as a rehabilitation counselor, Graves went on to head up the rehabilitation counselor education program at Mississippi State University and since 1981 has been director of the Research and Training Center on Blindness/Low Vision.

Bill Graves is married to Elizabeth Nybakken, a professor of Colonial History at Mississippi State. They have one daughter, eleven years of age. Bill obviously loves what he does--he often remains in his office until 7:30 p.m.--although he does have other interests. Perhaps more than anything else, he misses the South Carolina beaches. An avid reader, Bill collects first editions of Mississippi writers. And, for this particular interest, Washington is not a bad place to be. Bill was able to pick up a first edition Faulkner for a friction of what it would have cost in the better Faulkner-acquainted environs of the South. Even with limited free time, he would not pick a different career. "I have work that allows me to be with people, to be in a position to help others grow and be independent. Nothing is more rewarding than to find better ways to help people become self-reliant."

There is much more yet to be done within NIDRR. "Applicant for research grants have a right or expectation for a quality scientific review of their applications." To ensure this quality, he has spent much energy in putting peer review policies into place. He has chosen a new Deputy, Willim McLaughlin, who was with the Department of Education's office of the Inspector General. He will be in charge of Internal department affairs, etc. Bill's goal is for the Institute to increase monitoring activities and have much more frequent contact with grantees. His vision is that given a stable economy, the budget and NIDRR will grow. "The Bush administration has been very straightforward in its commitment to people with disabilities, and to research related to people with disabilities. I have the support of Secretary Cavazos. The team is working well together. Nell Carney and I can talk about issues related to research and to the delivery of services."

PAUL LEUNG is the Editor of the Journal of Rehabilitation.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Rehabilitation Association
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Title Annotation:National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research
Author:Leung, Paul
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Article Type:interview
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:Career maturity and academic achievement in college students with disabilities.
Next Article:Program Issues in Developmental Disabilities: A Guide to Effective Habilitation and Active Treatment, 2nd ed.

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