As participants in the Cowell Project, we know its value and are deeply concerned with any plans being made for its present and future existence. We feel the project has demonstrated its success beyond the original expectations in exploring and overcoming problems faced by the severely disabled seeking a productive role in society. The Cowell Project has demonstrated its success in defining and overcoming the problems of severely disabled clients engaged in a vocational program. Because of this success, we feel the program must be expanded to make its benefits available to a greater number of quadriplegics in the State of California.

The purpose of the Cowell Project as stated in the Application for Innovation Grant under Section 3 of Vocational Rehabilitation Act of January 29, 1968:

"The purpose of the project is to make available to severely disabled clients attending the University of California at Berkeley a residential unit that will provide specialized services such as medical consultation, rehabilitative nursing, physical and occupational therapy, and other ancillary services necessary to maintain their health and strength at maximum levels. Experience has shown that such specialized services are often required to enhance the severely disabled student's capacity to engage in an academic program which is essential to vocational rehabilitation."

The rehabilitation team at Cowell, with cooperation from the Student Health Service, has been outstandingly successful in maintaining the health and strength of clients in the program. Interruptions in the academic program of students because of medical complications arising from disabilities have been minimal. Equipment for maintaining strength such as exercise pulleys, trapeze, standing table, etc. has been made available and used by the students.

"The number of recommendations for academic adjustment due to medical problems has been remarkably small in this group of quadriplegics." Henry Bruyn, M.D., Director, Student Health Services

Far beyond providing a facility to enable the quadriplegics to complete a vocational program for eventual employment with a job commanding a salary commensurate with their living expenses, the Cowell Program fulfills other important needs. These needs are as real and as vital as the vocational rehabilitation process itself.

The tremendous social adjustments so necessary for successful rehabilitation are greatly enhanced in a setting such as that provided by the Program. A situation involving many people with common problems promotes a feeling of security from a healthy group identification. Mutual learning occurs from the disparity of the length of time individuals have been injured, the variety of ages, and the co-educational nature of the living conditions. In addition, the social isolation so common to the severely disabled is broken down by the fact that this is an on-campus program.

By using electrically powered wheelchairs one gets a feeling of mobility and independence which can be obtained in no other manner. Because of teh openness of a student orientated social structure, one can find acceptance on a level unknown in the general populace. All these factors contribute greatly to the mental health of an individual facing an uncertain future.

The mutual learning situation is stimulated by this unique group living. The informal exchange of ideas and techniques among quadriplegics is the most important aspect of this learning process. The practical experiences quadriplegics acquire after the instructional learning offered by a rehabilitation center is transmitted through day to day interactions. Over the years people have modified and adapted various self care methods to suit their own needs. By observing the inventiveness of others within the groups one can gain an insight into solving his own problems and can achieve the maximum use of his physical abilities.

Along with the expansion of physical abilities, the social dynamics within the group generates a broader prospective on life. This new awareness enables one to reevaluate the future with greater self confidence. Independent living now becomes a realistic goal. The success of former members of the Project in achieving this goal inspires others to do likewise. The trend of newer members is towards a shortening of the time spent at Cowell. Because of this, the concept of Cowell has changed from a long term residence unit to a place of transition which prepares the client for the eventual return to the community. The economic repercussions of this trend toward shorter residency should be explored.


We feel that the success of the Project cannot be equitably measured at this time.

Duration of the Project:

"The project will extend from February 1, 1968 to January 31, 1973. A five year project is necessary in order to make it possible to explore fully the services needed to assist severely disabled clients to complete an academic program in a university setting." (Grant Application)

If judgement of success must be made at this time, the record of the Cowell Project at its present stage of development is outstanding. The academic and vocational achievement of clients in the project is well above the average university student and/or rehabilitated client in California.

Average Grade Point Average  University of California Statewide  Cowell Students 
2.8  3.3 

Vocational Rehabilitation Clients  California Statewide  Cowell 
Number of clients who do not complete the vocational rehabilitation process  66% approx.  10% approx. 
Of those who complete process, number employed  75%  100% 
Average annual earnings of rehabilitated clients  $5,415  $9,400 
Average projected earnings of clients in process  ($5,415)  $9,600[*] 

Need for Cowell Program and Its Expansion

Our group has been in contact with social welfare caseworkers, rehabilitation counselors and disabled individuals throughout the state. Response to questions from these groups indicates to us an obvious apprehension and lack of incentive on the part of quadriplegics to embark on a vocational rehabilitational program because of the following reasons: a) unaboidable medical complications brought about by lack of proper medical consultation, b) additional demands placed upon the individual's family, c) distance of the home from an educational institution offering a program at the graduate level, and d) an absence of information about a situation which affords an opportunity to explore and develop their full capabilities. These factors are common to all quadriplegics who might wish to seek a productive role in society.

There is an ever-increasing number of inquiries and applications from throughout the state from disabled individuals and person involved in rehabilitation to the Cowell Program. This indicates the motivation of the severely disabled to pursue a vocational goal when offered services which solve the problems inherent in such an undertaking.

Since participants and applicants are from numerous counties throughout the state it seems evident that funds for the Cowell Program should be allocated on a statewide basis.

We in the Cowell Program would like to participate in the decisions made concerning the Cowell Program. We solicit your help in implementing our recommendations for creating a more effective rehabilitation service for the severely disabled.

Our recommendations are as follows:

  1. The expansion of the program to a larger population of the quadriplegics in the state.
  2. The broader education of professional personnel - rehabilitation counselors, welfare workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologist - regarding this special program and the goals which it makes available for the severely disabled.
  3. The opening of University dormitory facilities to the severely disabled. (Use of these dormitory facilities, because of architectural barriers, is now denied to certain disabled clients but are available to qualified, able-bodied students. We consider this to be discrimination against the disabled student.)