2009 - Tobin Siebers
Tobin Siebers is the V. L. Parrington Collegiate Professor in the U-M Department of English Language and Literature. He became an advocate of people with disabilities 10 years ago, when he wrote about his personal experience with polio. Entitled “My Withered Limb,” his essay circulated among academics and the disabled community. It lead to speaking engagements and launched Siebers 's involvement in the emerging academic field of disability studies – a field in which he is now considered a renowned pioneer.
At U-M, he teaches a course on disability studies and is the chair of the steering committee for the U-M Initiative on Disability Studies (UMInDS). The goal of UMInDS is to establish a degree-granting program that will advance knowledge about, by, and for people with disabilities and to promote their full and equal participation in society.
Siebers individually advances knowledge about disability through his many published articles and through his latest book, Disability Theory. The book was released in the summer of 2008 and is a field-defining venture. Siebers’s academic research focuses on the way disabled people have been represented historically and culturally. He looks at what it means to be disabled, for both the individual and society. Part of what Siebers seeks to do in his research is to remove the stigmas surrounding people with disabilities. He uses positive language and wants to remove labels that would make anyone with any type of disability feel inferior.
Siebers knows they can and do make a full contribution to society.
What it means to be disabled has changed for Siebers personally. For example, he refuses to be called a “polio survivor” because that would imply that a disability is something that can be overcome if a person is strong enough or receives the right care. Instead, Siebers sees his disabled leg as part of his identity. As he wrote a decade ago, he is his withered limb.
Not only has Tobin’s research helped promote acceptance and awareness of people with disabilities, he has helped form a group dedicated to advocacy.
The community of academics who are committed to studying disability are also passionate about changing society and working with members of the disabled community to do so. Tobin himself is committed to fighting for equal access and equal rights so that, as he says, we can make this world a better place.
Through Tobin¹s connections, personal experience, talent for writing, and academic expertise, he is in a great position to advocate for the civic equality of the disabled, and he continues to do so.
Thanks to Dean Derek Collins for the above information.
2008 Gary L. Talbot
Gary Talbot’s story is one that could only happen in America. He dropped out of high school before graduating and became a gifted auto mechanic working for Honda for several years. After being in an accident, Gary became a wheelchair user. He established an auto repair shop in Ann Arbor, which was the first time that he felt the sting of discrimination so common to people with physical restrictions.
Gary returned to Washtenaw Community College with the plan of qualifying for the University of Michigan. Although he had to begin at the lowest level, he qualified for Mechanical Engineering in only two years. After graduation from U-M, Gary went to work at General Motors in Willow Run, working on transmissions, which led to his heading up the GM Mobility Engineering, where a main concern was transportation for those in wheelchairs. After GM, Gary was employed by the Disney Corporation, where he worked on access to all rides in Disney facilities worldwide.
At this time, he was named to the U.S. Access Board by the President. Gary was then recruited to the Boston (MBTA) Transportation System to help achieve MBTA’s goal of providing a disability accessible transportation model for other large cities to follow.
Gary Talbot has devoted his career to making certain that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as people without disabilities, an effort that has improved the lives of countless individuals.
Credit for the above information goes to Professor Bruce Karnopp, Arthur Thurnau Professor of Engineering, who nominated Gary for this award.
View the 2008 Neubacher Award Ceremony video.
2007 - Sarah "Sadie" Miro Wilcox
Sadie is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in the UM School of Art and Design. Her research and artwork take many different forms from painting and drawing and video, to developing a computer interface for disabled artists, to participating in disability studies and conferences. Severely injured in a house fire in 2002, Sadie herself is a tireless advocate for the disabled community, particularly burn survivors, and she herself is an inspirational model for others.
Her long list of community service over the years is evidence of her commitment to helping others, but it is her ability to transform her experience and that of others that make her stand out. She uses video to create visual and physical illusions of impossible movement; for instance, in one piece she appears to traverse a cage‑like room by walking on both her hands and feet simultaneously in a very slow and labored performance. Her pieces explore alternative types of motion. This semester she videotaped some spectacular footage of herself crawling, rolling, and running through a large, black gravity‑free space‑‑using this footage to great effect in several video installations to describe her own hospitalizations and dreams of mobility. She has received a number of grants to develop adapted technologies to enable people with spinal cord injuries to create art on a computer. Sadie has volunteered at
The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, established by Paul Neuman. She worked as an art instructor at a children's home in Capetown South Africa. She regularly attends burn survivor conferences and is invited to speak at both national and international disability conferences. Sadie by any measure is an outstanding artist, student, and citizen who works wholeheartedly and tirelessly on behalf of the disabled.
2006 - Dennis Borel
Since his appointment as executive director of the non-profit Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) in 2000, Dennis Borel (BBA '74, UM Council for Disability Concerns Certificate of Appreciation 2004)) has implemented a variety of innovative strategies that has resulted in not only removing legal and regulatory barriers to full participation in all aspects of the community but also shattered harmful stereotypes held by the general public. Founded in 1978, CTD is a statewide cross-disability advocacy organization controlled by people with disabilities. Despite the limitations of a small non-profit and operating in a very large state, CTD is a focal point for positive change under Dennis' direction. Several areas of progress have had national impact.
Successfully convened an innovative round table seminar on personal attendant services. Building on the relationships from the round table, the State of Texas appropriated $150 million to increase wages for community attendants.
Using finance skills learned at the UM School of Business, Dennis teamed with an economist to create an alternative analysis of a Texas bill granting a tax credit for hiring people with disabilities, one that showed that revenues resulting from the new employees more than offset the tax credits. The bill was passed and created this employer incentive to hiring people with disabilities.
Dennis and other advocates promoted a plan for state funding to follow the person moving from an institution to the community. In 2005, Money Follows the Person was codified into state law. Over 10,000 people have used this mechanism to move to the community. The Texas plan has since become a model replicated in other states.
Dennis teamed with several users of power wheelchairs to remove the chairs from the motor vehicle code. Police had been using the code to issue tickets to people driving their chairs in the streets.
To improve accessibility of public transportation, Dennis created a legislative internship for a college student. The student, a person with a mobility impairment, succeeded in advocating for new legislation and now Texans with disabilities sit at the board table when decisions are made.
Dennis was the project director of the historic Team Everest 2003 expedition of people with disabilities. Over 250 media reports covered the expedition*s remarkable achievements. ABC World News Tonight called Team Everest the most inspirational of all. The Dallas Morning News wrote about Team Everest that it was the best thing any Texas group in any field had done that year. See a full report on Team Everest 2003. Dennis is also the producer of the recently completed documentary "Shattering Stereotypes on Mt. Everest."
Dennis saved a program to help kids with disabilities live in families. The Texas Legislature cancelled funding for Family Based Alternatives, a small program that matched kids with disabilities in institutions with foster families. On Dennis' request, Governor Rick Perry restored full funding for Family Based Alternatives.
Dennis is a leader in advocacy efforts regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); developing bill language, finding bi-partisan sponsors to carry legislation to better protect Texans with disabilities. Filed amici briefs in several critical ADA cases.
Dennis is founder and project director of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival. Now in its third year, the Film Festival uses the media of motion pictures to improve perceptions and dispel common misperceptions that many people hold about disability. It is the first known disability film festival in Texas. More information is at www.ctdfilmfest.org.
In the 2004 interim, successfully worked with policymakers to restore over $175 million in scheduled community attendant care cuts, positively impacting 100,000 Texans with disabilities
One of the lead advocates in 2005, securing $300 M in new funds to reduce community service wait lists, the first funding in State history to address waiting lists.
Initiated and passed HB2819 in 2005, a state bill improving accessibility of state websites, telecommunications and information technology.
Promoting Help America Vote Act (HAVA); new federal law that makes it easier, faster, more secure for voters with disabilities to participate in this basic right privately. Monitoring and opposing voting legislation harmful to people with disabilities.
Created a breakthrough partnership with AARP on Livable Communities, a collaboration between advocates for people with disabilities and older Americans. Livable Communities combines local community organizing and technical assistance with state-level systems change advocacy. The goal is to influence community planning to allow people with disabilities of all ages to be mobile and actively engaged in all aspects of community life.
Dennis Borel has a strong track record of non-traditional partnerships and innovative problem-solving strategies that demonstrate that people with disabilities may be involved in all of society's endeavors. He has proven that a small disability organization can accomplish great achievements.
Learn more about Dennis Borel and the CTD.