How everyday technology can be adapted to make independent living possible – the life and times of Richard Devylder

This month the community of people with disabilities lost a valued member and friend to many. Called “a long time disability advocate and former appointee at the U.S. Department of Transportation,” by the National Council on Disability, Richard Devylder devoted his life to the disability rights movement.

Placed into foster care at a young age by his birth parents, Devylder’s foster parents proved to be a positive influence on him. According to the NCD, his foster parents “chose to remove him from a segregated education for an inclusive setting; to throw out ill-fitting prosthetic arms rather than simply ‘make do’ with them; and to encourage development of a positive and confident self-image.” Devylder went on to graduate from the California State University and to serve the Southern California Rehabilitation Services and Independent Living.

Throughout his career, Devylder had a passion for emergency preparedness and transportation for people with disabilities. In 2010, Devylder became the Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation for the U.S. Department of Transportation, and since then has operated as the Chief of the Office for Access in the California Governor’s Office for Emergency Services; as well as the Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation. The National Council on Disability recalled that, “Richard never forgot about what it was like to be a young person with a disability trying to figure out the complex web of supports, services, and accommodations he needed to be successful and always believed in the importance of mentoring disability leaders new to the movement.” The article also included a statement from NCD Executive Director Rebecca Cokley, who said, “When I think of Richard Devylder, my friend, and my colleague, I think about what Congressman Lewis says about the ‘time to get in the way’ or finding yourself ‘getting into right kind of trouble. It always seemed like Richard was in the right kind of trouble or getting in the way of issues that would have had a negative impact on the disability community. His presence at so many of those tables will be missed.”

The video below offers a glimpse into Richard Devylder’s daily life, and his passion around making assistive technology widely available. As Devylder states at the beginning of the short film, “What we want this video to show is to how assistive technology is critical for a person with a severe disability to live independently.” In the video, Devylder elaborates on his personal history, as well as explaining how he specifically utilizes assistive technology in regular daily activities, including work and medical appointments.

Richard Devylder passed away August 8th, 2015. His work will be remembered by many in the disability rights community.

This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of Rooted in Rights.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.