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Perspectives from the President.

The diversity of our Association has always made it difficult to explain to perspective members as well as to current members what the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA) is all about. I welcome this opportunity to share with you my thoughts as President of this Great Association.

The operative word of the future is Change. The National Rehabilitation Association and the professions within the organization are faced with the challenge of keeping up with the changes of the world today. This means opportunities for all of us. Of even greater importance it means that energetic, motivated and creative members capture the moment and create opportunities for our collective future.

The National Rehabilitation Association has defined its mission as follows:

The National Rehabilitation Association is a

member organization providing opportunities,

through knowledge and diversity, for professionals

in the fields of rehabilitation.

The fact that this statement is now in print is a big hurrah for NRA. You may ask yourself why? It is clear for those of us who have stayed close to the heart beat of NRA. The mission states that we are no longer afraid of identifying ourselves as Professional and also reflects a response to General Membership who have asked for greater clarification of mission.

The opportunities within this statement are too numerous to mention. Thus I will focus on only a few that seem important as I write this article.

The first of these opportunities is the fact that we will move forward in a uniform manner and develop all activities around the mission. We will come out of our shy state and we will aggressively work together to insure that individuals with disabilities are assured qualified services provided by qualified rehabilitation professionals. You might say, "Well what is different in this statement than what we have done in the past?" There are several major differences. We have many professionals who have worked in this profession for years and received their reward through the satisfaction they have seen in the successes of the people they work with each day. Although this is noble and a reward that has sustained me for many a day. That was yesterday and this is today.

We must aggressively share with the power brokers the success stories we have only taken home with us in the past. We must talk with local state legislators, state wide office holders and our elected national congresspersons. We can no longer wait for others who might be interested to do this for us. We must use our knowledge to develop other markets where we know our skills will provide added value to the marketplace we work in each day. In order to achieve this we must market our successes. Our skills do add value. The marketplace is changing and if we do not change we might be left in an obsolete market.

How can we do this? In my opinion, we develop these new markets through the development of partnerships with our colleagues within the field. We must support each other regardless of the place of our employment. As the National Rehabilitation Association we must take great care in not taking sides in the discussion of public vs. private, but understand that our mission takes precedence over all, and there is room for both sectors within our organization. The mission is to provide opportunities. We must not worry if one profession seems moving ahead in legislative recognition. We should celebrate its success and ask that profession to help us to reach our goals. Once we have recognized that we are in this together we can then take our skills outside the traditional settings of rehabilitation and move to partnerships with Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Groups, Curriculum Development Groups and Businesses, large and small. We can take our rehabilitation skills, which are transferable, and assist business in meeting its needs. Their needs may be in the area of injured workers, displaced factory workers, and the chronically unemployed.

Inclusion in the world of work often has been the cornerstone of our society. The centrality of work is perhaps most noticeable when we reflect on a conversation we may have had with a total stranger. How far into the conversation do we get before we find one of the parties asking "Where do we work?" or "What do you do?" Rehabilitation professionals are well trained and well versed in how to remove barriers to employment, find a job, interview for the job, land the job, do the job and keep the job. If you think of work as the cornerstone of our society it is immensely exciting to think how your skills and knowledge in the fields of rehabilitation become an invaluable resource to the future. You are literally a pillar needed for success. What an invaluable tool to have in one's personal tool chest!You say, "Well we know this, but if this is true why do we seem to see our membership numbers in the association dwindle?" I wonder if the numbers of rehabilitation professionals have dwindled or if we just do not look for our rehabilitation colleagues in the non-traditional settings in which they work. In reality our numbers do grow, but in non-traditional work environments. We need to look for each other and to market the National Rehabilitation Association to our colleagues within these non-traditional settings. We need to work together for the future of all rehabilitation services for individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment.

By working together in this world of total quality management we can assure that we add value to our work settings. This means we need to add more than we cost. Price Pritchett in a handbook entitled "The Employee Handbook for New Work Habits for a Radically Changing World" tells us that many employees "...assume that they should get to keep their jobs if they're responsible and do good work. Some of them even have the idea that sticking around for a long time make them worth more to the organization." Although experience is important, we must never, never make the assumption that history justifies our continued employment. It is our responsibility to constantly add value to the process and the system in which we work and add value, in the eyes of the customers, that will assure each of our contributions counts. Pritchett further states, "prove your worth to the organization and make a difference. Add enough value so everyone can see that something very important would be missing if you left."

Each of us must capture opportunities which are presented to us each day. Our future depends on us to do so. Our future also depends on how valuable we are to our customers. The better we serve them, the better we assure our job future.

According to Fortune Magazine, in its 1956 publication of the 500 biggest American Companies, out of the top 100 firms listed in 1956 only 29 were found in the 1992 Fortune Magazine publication of identical data. In the 1980s, a total of 230 companies, 46%, disappeared from the "Fortune 500". Size and reputation did and does not guarantee success. (Pritchett, 1994)

We cannot afford to have the profession of rehabilitation suffer the same fate as these Fortune 500 companies. We can work together, develop partnerships, and assure the future for quality services provided by qualified professionals. If we work together.

Partnerships--Creating opportunities are both a key to our future and our challenge. Larry Breck of the New York Rangers was asked who started a brawl during the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs. His response: "We have only one person to blame, that's each other." Price Pritchett tells us in his handbook one way to assure our future is if we are willing to become a "fixer, not a finger pointer." (1994, pg.46)

Join NRA as a partner, stay in NRA and be a fixer, not a finger pointer. Our future is indeed in our hands.


Pritchett, 1994. The Employee Handbook of New Work Habits for a Radically Changing World, Dallas, Pritchett & Associates, Inc.

Douglas V. Seiler, B.S., M.S., is the Regional Director of the Southeast Human Service Center of Fargo, North Dakota and the President of the National Rehabilitation Association. He began his Rehabilitation Career as a client of Vocational Rehabilitation and has worked as a Counselor for the North Dakota Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Over the last 19 years he has served as Executive Director of two different not-for-profit corporations providing services to an array of individuals with disabilities with varied barriers to employment. He has held numerous leadership positions within the State, Regional and Divisional organizations within NRA and is past National President of the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association. He has held positions on a city planning commission, and on a township board as well as on the Board of various other non-profit organizations. He currently serves on the Board of the National Rehabilitation Association.
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Title Annotation:Special Anniversary Issue 1925-1995: National Rehabilitation Association
Author:Seiler, Douglas V.
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Jul 1, 1995
Previous Article:Leadership role of NRA.
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