May 10, 2007
(Editor's note: This article was adapted from the winter 2007 issue of Breakthrough, the Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) Foundation newsletter.)
On May 12, the Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) Foundation presented the Unbreakable Spirit Award to Greg Fehribach for his outstanding achievement and constant contribution to improving the lives of people with disabilities. Greg is a man who knows no limits.
As a person with OI, Greg has been the lead consultant on a number of successful accessibility design projects implemented nationwide. He also has been a primary educator to individuals and industry regarding compliance awareness issues and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Greg refuses to accept limitations in his life's mission to aid all people and families in removing barriers from their lives, not only physical but also social and emotional barriers. His tangible efforts in accomplishing this goal speak directly to the unbreakable spirit encompassed by the award.
"No longer should we be tied to the traditional mores of the American Dream … the dream is the same, the road to get there is different," Greg says. His words speak to a brighter future when Americans alter their thought processes to form a society that, instead of discounting those with disabilities, embraces, encourages and advances them to overcome their obstacles through the accomplishment of set goals. Through his personal battles with OI, he realizes the overwhelming necessity for a society that recognizes these needs.
Simply viewing the matter from an economic standpoint casts such needs in a reasonable light for all Americans. Greg says, "If we know that one in four American families has a member with a disability, why would we not want to accommodate that?" He adds, "We in America think of providing for the Americans with Disabilities Act as a drain rather than a boost to the economy."
Exhibiting, as always, his unbreakable purpose in this regard, Greg would like to change that perception. People with disabilities can attend movies, enjoy sporting venues, parks and restaurants, and go to courthouses and private businesses.
Greg stresses that businesses, government entities, churches and private organizations need to evaluate space and make it more accessible for people with disabilities. His goal is to advocate that people with OI become more actively involved in making their own lives more integrated throughout all of society.
"Ten years from now it is my wish that members of the OI Community are economically prominent in America," he says. "I encourage the OI community to set the standard for others with disabilities by becoming leaders in business and politics. We need to encourage those people with OI and their families to become gainfully employed, be entrepreneurial and have a spirit that cannot be diminished by a disability, whether OI or something else."