Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services gathers for fall meeting

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The September meeting of the Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services marked the end of an era for one board member and two representatives of the Executive Leadership Team and the beginning of an exciting journey for another.

District 1 Board Member Dr. Stephen Kayes, ADRS Chief Financial Officer Suzette Taylor, and Assistant Commissioner James Myrick all attended their final board meeting, and new District 1 representative Michelle Glaze was officially sworn in to her new position.

Shortly after the meeting began, Kayes was presented with certificates from ADRS and Gov. Kay Ivey.

ADRS Commissioner Jane Elizabeth Burdeshaw said Kayes has been a tremendous asset to the department as both a board member and advocate in his everyday life.

“Thank you from all of ELT and from the department,” she said. “You are the kind of board member that I like to have because you have been so engaged for 14 years with the department. You have not only served the department with your duties that are required for the board. You have gone above and beyond, and you have worked with us on a lot of initiatives.”

Burdeshaw cited a recent effort by Kayes to recruit members of his Mobile-area Lions Club to construct ramps for people with disabilities to provide better access to their homes.

Burdeshaw later thanked Kayes for his work with children’s programs and his tenacity in maintaining neurology clinics at the University of South Alabama.

Kayes returned praise to Burdeshaw, the ELT, and the board.

“It has been a privilege to serve with all of you,” he said.

Kayes, who was paralyzed in car-bicycle accident as a young man, is a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile. He holds a joint secondary appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and he is a member of the Center for Lung Biology. His teaching and research experience includes positions at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, The University of Iowa College of Medicine, and Vanderbilt University College of Medicine. Dr. Kayes is the author of numerous scientific articles, book chapters and theses. He has given many seminars, talks, and lectures in his areas of expertise while participating in educational symposia around the nation, including talks at Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He is currently the president-elect of the American Society of Parasitologists, the nation’s oldest scientific society dedicated to the study of animal parasites.

He was recruited for the board by former District 1 representative and University of South Alabama colleague Dr. John Shackleford. Kayes said he did not know much about the board, but after a meeting with then-Commissioner Steve Shivers he was excited to come on board.

Kayes said his mission in life and as a board member has been to not only open doors to accessibility, but also to keep them open.

“I have always had the attitude that every person who has a disability fights for their own access to the world. When you get curb cuts put in, or you get buttons on doors that open up, or you get secondary audio programs for your lectures, you don’t want somebody to say, ‘Well, there’s not very many people using it, and we have to cut the budget so we’re not going to keep this,’ ” he said. “I always felt the trick is to make sure we don’t have to take this go-round a second time if we have access to programs.”

Glaze’s first official meeting as a voting member will be Friday, Dec. 6. The Daphne resident was diagnosed with cone rod dystrophy in 2011. She joined the Foundation Fighting Blindness in a full-time role as director of professional outreach in February after assisting with fund-raisers for a few years to help the organization accomplish its mission of driving the research that will provide preventions, treatments, and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases. Her role with FFB is to increase awareness and referrals.

Glaze, who grew up in California before moving to Alabama in 2003, said she was shocked and flattered when she was asked to become a member of the ADRS board.

Her journey with ADRS actually began as a consumer. When she was diagnosed and knew that she would need assistance, Glaze reached out to the Vocational Rehabilitation Service office in Mobile. ADRS referred her to an eye specialist and assigned VR Counselor Blair Cowan to her case. It was Cowan (who shares a similar form of vision loss) who eventually recommended Glaze as a board member.

After doing some research, Glaze said she gladly accepted the nomination because it allows her to further promote the needs of people with disabilities.

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