Kessler Foundation Marks UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities

man working with a wrestler

West Orange, NJ. December 3, 2014. In 1992, the United Nations designated December 3 as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, to promote understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities everywhere. On this day, it is fitting to reflect on the legacy of Henry H. Kessler MD, PhD (1896-1978), the rehabilitation pioneer who founded Kessler Institute in 1948. Dr. Kessler extended his early rehabilitation experience in workmen’s compensation in Newark, New Jersey, to caring for those injured during World War II, and then to the international arena, spreading the message of the importance of comprehensive rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. Dr. Kessler, an orthopedic surgeon, advocated preparing people for full community participation through “… the development of a complete program of rehabilitation services: vocational guidance, counseling and training…”

In his extensive travels, he represented the United States through the Congress of Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases, the International College of Surgeons, the International Society for Crippled Children, the World Veterans Federation, and the International Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (now Rehabilitation International), among others. In 1950, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration launched a worldwide effort to offer advice and technical assistance to member nations who needed to establish rehabilitation services in the aftermath of the War. Dr. Kessler was appointed to implement this effort. “And so began a new facet of my career,” he said, “as I became rehabilitation expert and traveling physician for the United Nations.” In this capacity, he advised numerous nations, including Yugoslavia, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, and Greece. Dr. Kessler viewed victory over disability as a way to foster international cooperation, human development and world peace. “Rehabilitation was the great bridge between past enmities and future opportunities,” he remarked.      

“Kessler Foundation continues this legacy through international collaborations with rehabilitation researchers and technology companies in Europe, Canada, Asia, the Middle East, and South America,” said Rodger DeRose, the Foundation’s president and CEO.  “Through our research training programs, young scientists from around the world gain the skills needed to advance rehabilitation science here and abroad. By building on Dr. Kessler’s legacy, the advances we make through international collaborations are changing the lives of people with cognitive and motor disabilities caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and injuries to the brain and spinal cord.”

Kessler Foundation joins the world community in commemorating the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities and its goal of integrating persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.  This year’s timely theme of ‘Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology’ reinforces the Foundation’s work to promote inclusion through rehabilitation research incorporating the latest in neuroimaging and robotics technology, and the implementation of innovative employment initiatives. 

About International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons (December 3) was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

Carolann Murphy, PA; 973.324.8382; cmurphy@KesslerFoundation.org

Lauren Scrivo, 973.324.8384/973.768.6583 (cell); LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org

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On Twitter: @KesslerFdn