Julie Pfeiffer staff photo. She has long, brown hair and is wearing a black shirt.

Dr. Julie Pfeiffer receives prestigious Burberry Award

This year’s winner of the Kevin Burberry award is Julie Pfeiffer in honor of her work with airline accessibility. 

The yearly Kevin Burberry Award honors students who work with HDI and demonstrate commitment to the cause of accessibility, leadership qualities, and academic excellence. Pfeiffer’s work focused heavily on accessibility aboard airplanes, the experiences of travelers with disabilities, and how the many problems they face can be solved. 

“It’s often overlooked. I think it’s well acknowledged within the disability community that it is a major impediment to transportation, but often we’re met with not a lot of help,” said Dr. Tony Lobianco, who was on the award’s selection committee. “It’s clear that she’s really listened to people with disabilities.”

Pfeiffer found her way to this research through her work in physical therapy, when she noticed that her clients faced massive obstacles when attempting to travel. 

“I worked specifically with people who had spinal cord injuries, and I had several clients who had issues flying as wheelchair users,” she said. “Some of them even had their wheelchair either damaged or lost…Because they didn’t have their wheelchair, they had to stay in bed for several weeks at a time until their wheelchair was returned to them.”

Though Pfeiffer’s work began with a focus on the treatment of travelers who use wheelchairs, she discovered that it’s just one of the ways people with disabilities can face disproportionate challenges while trying to travel by air. For example, she mentioned that it can be difficult to travel with a service animal. 

“People who use service animals file a lot of complaints against the airlines related to how they’ve been treated,” she said. 

Though the researchers have yet to dig deep into the specific reasons for these complaints, Pfeiffer said there are a lot of common themes in the stories people with service animals tell, and that she expects to see similar stories here. 

Even though there’s more work to be done, Pfeiffer is proud of what has been accomplished so far through her research, with substantial efforts going towards education, which Pfeiffer indicated was one of the biggest areas of continued need. Through this project, HDI produced publications, held seminars, and educated relevant people about what air travel problems exist and how they can be solved. In addition, they’ve started a project that involves combing through multiple complaints filed by passengers with disabilities about the treatment they have received in the past. 

During the process, Pfeiffer said that she also learned a lot about the subject of disability – particularly, she learned for the first time about the Social Model of Disability, which positions disability as a natural part of the world and argues that many of the obstacles people with disabilities face are not inherently a product of disability, but a result of a world that refuses to accommodate it. 

For Lobianco’s part, he feels that Pfeiffer’s research touches on one of the last frontiers for accessible transportation. 

“We, as a disability community, fought so hard for other forms of accessible transportation – most notably public ground transportation,” he said. “The airlines seem to be the one that is often left out of that equation.”

Pfeiffer said she was humbled to receive the award, especially after seeing what some other students were doing in their research. 

“It kind of puts the significance of this research into perspective,” she said. “A lot of students at HDI are doing a lot of great things.”

LEND Trainee Photo of Nick Hoffman

Hoffman receives prestigious Kevin Burberry Award

Kevin Burberry was a trailblazer. A tireless self-advocate, a gifted academic, and a dedicated leader.

Every year, HDI recognizes someone who demonstrates these qualities with the Kevin Burberry Award. This year, HDI is pleased to present it to Nick Hoffmann, who worked with the LEND program.

“The biggest thing that impressed me about him was his self-awareness about how he came into the LEND program thinking that he knew a lot about disability and realized that a lot of what he thought he knew wasn’t the best way to approach it and was willing to change the way he viewed disability,” said Dr. Tony Lobianco, chair of the Burberry Award Selection Committee. “The work that he’s doing providing supports for people who are on waiting lists is pretty awesome too.”

Hoffmann became involved with HDI’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program during his practicum work. He saw the opportunity to work with LEND and took an interest since focused on a multi-disciplinary treatment approach, something in which he had a significant interest.

“Learning about all the different ways that all these different fields can come together and provide supports…It was, I guess, a little humbling,” Hoffmann said. “I had to sit back and think about how I could be just a piece of this person’s support.”

He came away with a whole new perspective.

“I learned about the value and validity of self-advocate perspectives,” Hoffmann said. “In all of my training, in all of my schooling, we never at any point talked about self-advocates and their very valid argument of nothing about us without us, that if you want to be a member of a support team, you really do need to take our perspectives into account and you need to hear what we have to say about them…Neurodivergence is something to be celebrated, not something to be changed.”

It opened Hoffmann’s eyes to how even well-intentioned practices can be harmful.

“It was a little shocking, but it also taught me how to be humble. It taught me how to sit and listen and truly take those perspectives and learn from them rather than become defensive,” he said.

But he did listen, and since then, he’s updated his approach to reflect his new learning.

“In my training, there’s a lot of emphasis on parent perspectives within the family. And I think parent perspectives are valid and I think they’re important,” he said. “But most of the treatment approaches I was taught saw parent perspectives as the one perspective to follow in your treatment. Treatment targets didn’t necessarily reflect self-determination. A focus of mine this year…has been trying to check in with the client and make sure their voices are heard. Trying to make sure that if we’re looking at something as a target for change, that it’s a goal that the client has, it’s not something being forced on them.”

When asked about receiving the award, Hoffmann expressed that he learned a lot from and greatly enjoyed working with HDI and said that receiving the award left him feeling “humbled.”

“I just feel like I’m doing what somebody in my position should be doing. I’m really excited and have a lot of gratitude towards HDI for recognizing me,” he said. “I wish that there were other people focused on humanistic approaches so that it wouldn’t be award-worthy to have this kind of focus, but it feels good to be recognized.”

Bethaney Curry staff photo

Bethaney Curry receives 2022 Burberry Award

The University of Kentucky (UK) Human Development Institute (HDI) has awarded the prestigious Paul Kevin Burberry Award to Bethaney Curry. Bethaney is a Senior Return-to-work Specialist for the RETAIN project and is enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work.

Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Executive Director of HDI explained that “We offer the Burberry Award to highlight the achievements of students at the University of Kentucky who exemplify the achievements and life of Paul Kevin Burberry, himself a UK student. As both a UK student and staff at the HDI, Bethaney carries on the strong tradition of awardees. We are proud of her accomplishments and cannot wait to see what the future has in store for her”.

The award was presented by Dr. Tony Lobianco at the HDI All-Staff Meeting who said that “Bethaney writes eloquently about how support systems vary from person to person, and how a change in perception can make all the difference in a young person’s life trajectory”.

Dr. Natalie Pope, Associate Professor and PhD Program Director was excited to hear about Bethaney receiving the 2022 Burberry Award. “As a social work PhD student, Bethaney exemplifies the interdisciplinary nature of the profession. She brings with her a background in occupational therapy, public administration, and therapeutic sciences. Bethaney is a student who truly seeks to advance social justice through an interdisciplinary lens”.

The annual Paul Kevin Burberry Award honor is given to a student who has demonstrated a strong commitment to people with disabilities, academic excellence, and the leadership qualities exemplified by Burberry’s own life. It is named in memory of the Berea native who was the first student with significant physical disabilities to graduate from Berea Community High School. He went to Berea College and UK, as a philosophy major. While a student at UK, Burberry worked with HDI to create training modules to train medical and allied health students on developmental disabilities. Though his life was cut short before graduation, he was posthumously awarded his UK degree with highest honors in 2004.

Congratulations, Bethaney Curry!