Where It All Started – Director Mark Odum Looks Back at NARIC and NIDILRR

As NIDILRR approaches its 40th year, it seems like an excellent opportunity to look back on how NARIC has been intertwined with NIDILRR’s growth and accomplishments while supporting its overall purpose to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. Over the next few weeks I will write about NARIC’s place in NIDILRR’s history as seen from my perspective from being associated with the NARIC project since 1979.

NARIC was born from a feasibility study initiated  by a Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) grant in June 1975. The study explored the possibility for and initial design of a library and information center to act as the central repository and dissemination center for RSA-funded research results. As the project took shape, it fell under the auspices of the newly created National Institute on Handicapped Research (NIHR) under then Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). NIHR would eventually become the NIDILRR we know today. Much of the original structure built from the feasibility study is still part of the NARIC project today, including the focus on institute-funded research and the digital bibliographic card catalogue of 18 data elements, all of which are still a part of the current REHABDATA database.

Mark Odum, sitting in a scooter next to a woman who is gesturing to a computer on a desk. The desk is covered in papers and a white push-button telephone.

NARIC in 1986: Mark gets a demonstration of NARIC’s innovative dial-up database interface.

In upcoming blogs, I will write about the evolution of NARIC’s written and online publications and the contributions they made, and continue to make, to researchers and the general public. I’ll discuss how NARIC’s online databases have grown both in size and impact to create avenues for individuals to conduct their own research, from early dial-in services to today’s online presence, and the key role our information specialists have played in bridging the gap between research and community.  I’ll talk about our relationship with the community of NIDILRR-funded knowledge translation projects like AbleData and the KT Centers. You’ll learn what the NARIC project has done to stay in the forefront of the information explosion by expanding services through the electronic medium and the internet and NARIC’s place as a leader in disability and rehabilitation knowledge transfer and dissemination efforts, bringing together major national rehabilitation and disability information organizations.

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