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Disability Rights Champion Joins UT Health Science Center Faculty
Lex Frieden, one of the architects of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a nationally-recognized independent living advocate, has joined the faculty of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Frieden’s primary appointment is as a professor of health informatics at The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston (SHIS), where he will direct the school’s new Laboratory for Adaptive Technologies. He also is a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
“Throughout his life, he has been a champion for people with disabilities,” said former President George H. W. Bush, who awarded Frieden a Presidential Citation for Distinguished Service to America in 1991. “Lex has dedicated his life to improving the lives of all people with disabilities.”
For four decades, Frieden has been crafting disability rights legislation, researching independent living strategies and identifying roadblocks to full community participation by disabled people. “We have years of data that indicates that 99 percent of people with disabilities would greatly prefer community living to institutional care,” he said.
“Lex is a national leader in the field of disabilities research and the rights of people with disabilities,” said Peter Davies, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for research at the UT Health Science Center and a faculty member of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS).
Frieden said he joined the faculty of the health science center to take advantage of the center’s “futuristic” health informatics programs and ongoing research in rehabilitation and physical medicine.
“There are many opportunities for collaboration which lead to the development of new ideas,” said Frieden, who also is an adjunct professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and a senior vice president at Memorial Hermann/TIRR.
“We are excited that he found our school a place to pursue new research and applications to help people with disabilities,” said SHIS Dean Jack W. Smith, M.D., Ph.D., who is also a faculty member at the GSBS, “Lex is working on adaptive technologies to help people who cannot use regular versions of products, the use of television cameras by caregivers to treat people with disabilities in their homes and robots that can assist people with disabilities with repetitive physical therapy where they live.”
Frieden also directs the 22-person Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program at Memorial Hermann/TIRR, which since 1977 has served as a national center for information, training, research and technical assistance in the area of independent living. “Our research is about affecting environmental, physical and attitudinal change, and changing public policy to assure that people with long-term care needs can function in the community as well as anyone else,” Frieden said.
Frieden has a spinal cord injury from a 1967 head-on traffic collision and uses a wheelchair.
He is the author or co-author of more than 60 articles on independent living, disability rights and rehabilitation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Tulsa and a master’s degree in social psychology from the University of Houston.
By Rob Cahill, Institutional Advancement