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Rehabilitation Engineering Is Focus Of Clarkson University Access-ability Day

Clarkson University Physical Therapy Professor Leslie N. Russek will be the featured speaker at Clarkson’s “Access-Ability Day” on Wednesday, November 7. There is no admission charge for this event, which will feature Guide Dogs for the Blind, disability awareness skits by "Kids on the Block,” blood pressure screening, and many presentations and exhibits from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Cheel Campus Center.

Russek will speak on "The Challenge of Disability: Meeting the Challenge of Disability Through Rehabilitation Engineering” in the Cheel Campus Center Barben Room B at 5 p.m.

Rehabilitation Engineering is the application of science and technology to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities. Clarkson is building strength in rehabilitation engineering by integrating its expertise in traditional engineering, business and science with its newly accredited Physical Therapy program. Russek’s presentation will focus on some of the current activities and opportunities in rehabilitation engineering at Clarkson.

“Estimates of disability in the U.S. are as high as 14 percent of the population; costs of disability are above $350 billion each year and continuing to skyrocket,” says Russek. “Rehabilitation engineering can decrease disability rates by enhancing ability. It can decrease costs due to lost work by providing the technology or modifications that allow people to work despite their impairments.”

While our society has more sophisticated technology than ever before, Russek says that persons with disabling conditions often go without assistive improvements because either no one is knowledgeable about what is available, or no one is able to make small modifications to make existing technology accessible.

She says that this is especially true in rural communities – like New York’s North Country – where ingenuity must often substitute for expensive equipment. The need, in the United States, for people trained to provide rehabilitation engineering services is equaled by the need for educational programs to train such people.  

Russek is a practicing physical therapist with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. She has been working with faculty in a variety of disciplines to apply Clarkson’s existing expertise to the areas of rehabilitation and biomedical engineering.

Clarkson’s Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The program emphasizes problem-based learning, a collaborative and self-directed method of learning that involves student teams using patient case studies to explore and learn about critical health issues. Students in the MPT program continuously participate in clinical experiences during their two years of education, where they learn first-hand the role of a physical therapist.

A distinctive advantage of the MPT program is its location in the Center for Health Sciences in Potsdam. The MPT program works in close collaboration with Canton-Potsdam Hospital’s Physical Rehabilitation Services and several health-related businesses, all of which are located in the Center. Students benefit from these partnerships and from the close involvement in the health care community of northern New York.

For more information on Access-Ability Day, please contact Helen McLean, director of Accommodative Services at 315-268-7643.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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