Each month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Journeys of Innovation series tells the stories of inventors or entrepreneurs whose groundbreaking innovations have made a positive difference in the world.

Recently, their featured inventor was McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Rory Cooper, PhD, FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America Professor and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology, and professor of Bioengineering, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cooper is Founding Director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, a VA Rehabilitation R&D Center of Excellence in partnership with Pitt.  Dr. Cooper is an adjunct professor in the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, and PM&R of the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, and he was awarded Honorary Professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Xi’an Jiatong University where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate.

Dr. Cooper has always enjoyed tinkering and competition. As a kid growing up in Southern California, he ran track and cross country, and he often worked in his parents’ garage, making improvements to skateboards and bicycles. He brought these skills to his work in the U.S. Army, but then an accident changed his life forever and set him on a path to become an inventor, engineer, and bronze medalist.

Dr. Cooper was interviewed by USPTO’s Linda Hosler.  Ms. Hosler’s interview takes Dr. Cooper back to his childhood, to the accident, and to the results of his career path and research focus.  When asked about the importance of accessibility and the role it’s played in the focus of his work, he responded:

Accessibility helps drive social inclusion. If you think about it, the wheelchair I use, the adaptive vehicle I use, the home modifications I use, they all allow me to be productive and creative and contribute to society. What’s important is to create a world where everyone belongs and everyone can contribute. Accessibility is a tool to facilitate that.

Read and/or listen to the entire interview here.