|Disabled students still find ‘barriers’ on campus despite a law assuring
unrestricted use of facilities
... Disabled University student, radio, television, and film major Tom Willis, does clerical work at the Help
Center. Where most people have a couple of arms, Willis has a couple of finger-like projections.
Additionally, he was confined to body casts and braces for several years to correct a serious curvature of the
Willis can write, open drawers, drive a car, and tie knots with his feet. The car is specially equipped with a
rotating foot disc that chain drives the steering wheel. When he gets to a class, he throws his notebook on
the floor, sticks a pen between his toes, and writes more legibly than most full-fingered humans.
“There are many things I cannot do,” he said, “like playing baseball. But I don’t consider it suffering. In my
younger life (the braces) were a setback and a nuisance, but I figure that when you’re young, there’s nothing
that you really have to do. It’s all behind me now.”
Willis originally struggled with hooks and artificial limbs. He was one of the first people in the United States to
test the “electric elbow,” a device that provides movement through electronics rather than mechanics. Willis
mostly leaves the apparatus at home, however.
“It’s like depending too heavily on a car,” he said. “Prosthetic devices break down all the time.”
Currently Willis is working at WMUC (UMD FM radio station) and exploring a recently acquired interest –
One of his ambitions is to drive a specially equipped Porsche…