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Human Development Institute

University Center for
Excellence in Disabilities

Norb Ryan, white older man wearing a knit vest, at a computer smiling at the camera

HDI Spotlight on Norb Ryan

Published: March 28, 2019

Being a part of HDI not only helped me grow professionally but allowed me to meet a remarkable group of people. Those people and the HDI projects will continue today and, in the future, to have a positive impact in the state as well as nationally. —Norb Ryan, HDI Staff and Advisory Council Member

How did you come to know HDI? 

I became aware of HDI while I was employed at Cardinal Hill in the early 70s.         

How long have you been involved with HDI and in what role? 

I was involved with HDI for eight years as an employee, and for 13 years representing the Office of the State ADA Coordinator. I was on the staff from the fall of 1992 through January 2001. I was a member of the Kentucky Employment Initiative as the ADA Specialist. The ADA had recently been passed and someone was needed to understand the ADA and conduct trainings for UK students. After that grant was completed, I was the Director of the Kentucky Mentor initiative (KMI). The KMI found successful people with disabilities. These people would then present in the classrooms to show high school students, their parents, and teachers that people with disabilities can and do succeed. My last project was the ADA Initiative which trained parents, teachers, and students about the rights people with disabilities have under the ADA and how to properly access those rights. I was also part of the HDI team that created the Kentucky Business Leadership Network. I also represented HDI as a member of the National Board of Directors of AAUCP FOR 7 years, as well as co-chair of the national Consumer Advocacy Council. After I left HDI, I served as a member of the HDI Advisory Council for 13 years. 

During your involvement with HDI, of which accomplishments are you most proud? 

I served as an employment specialist and administrator on a number of grants regarding the ADA, and consultant and speaker to a number of grants including the Kentucky Business Leadership Network. Although I am proud of all the programs I was involved, the Kentucky Mentor Initiative allowed me to bring together successful people with disabilities with students, parents, and teachers. I thought for the longest time that we do not show the positive outcomes of education. KMI actually did that. 

Looking back, can you please share with us a fun or fond moment you had with HDI? 

I remember the time when Ron Harrison was conducting a Saturday workshop in Louisville for parents of children with disabilities. Ron called me at home and we engaged in a friendly conversation, when out of nowhere he asked if I believed in free speech. I answered in the affirmative and he responded with, “Great I need one at 12:00 today in Louisville.” It turned out that the scheduled speaker became ill and wasn’t able to present. Needless to say, I found myself in Louisville speaking at the luncheon.  

I remember one Saturday morning as I was just getting up, Ron Harrison called. Ron was on staff at HDI and was conducting a workshop for parents in Louisville. During the conversation he asked if I believed in free speech. I of course said yes, and Ron’s response was “Great. I need a speaker in Louisville at 12:00.” It seems the speaker who was to present at the luncheon became ill and was unable to speak. I was more than happy to help out. 

Do you have any advice you would like to share with current and future staff and students at HDI? 

To staff and students, you are now part of an institute that is not only recognized as a leader in Kentucky, but also nationally. Enjoy your time at HDI. You are truly making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities, their parents, and their supports.  

What do you think the future holds for HDI? 

HDI’s future is bright, the goal will continue to be to initiate innovative programs and share these state-of-the-art programs in Kentucky and throughout the United States.