Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Nell Carney and the Future of the RSA

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Nell Carney and the Future of the RSA

Article excerpt

Taking charge of a stagnant federal agency and attempting to change its direction is no easy task. But Nell Carney accepted that challenge and has taken the first steps toward what she considers "responsible administration" of the Rehabilitation Act. Appointed by President Bush last year as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Ms. Carney is the "point" person for rehabilitation and disability services at the federal level.

As RSA Deputy Commissioner Ralph Pacinelli points out, Ms. Carney's appointment is significant because of her blindness. "There will be a balance of service for all disability groups.... (Her appointment) is a statement by the Administration that disability is a central issue." He adds that Ms. Carney is a former state vocational rehabilitation director, a "product of the system."

And indeed she is. She is quick to add that her years in direct service were the most meaningful to her, and that she is "fully committed" to assisting those who offer direct service to clients. Her original interest in management, she said, was inspired by "bottlenecks" at the management level of the rehabilitation process. However, she notes realistically that although the bureaucracy can't always be changed, ways exist to work within it. She brings to the job specific skills acquired from her experiences as client, counselor and manager within the vocational rehabilitation system.

Prior to her federal appointment, Ms. Carney was Commissioner of the Division of Visually Impaired for the State of Virginia. She was raised and educated in Tennessee, and served as a counselor and administrator in the State of Washington. She attended George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, where she received a bachelor's and master's degree in special education and psychology.

She hails from a long line of teachers, a supportive family who believed in her and in her abilities. She describes her family and husband as "driving forces" in her life. She views herself as a role model, but more so for women than for people who are blind. Her life includes much more than work, and she describes herself as an "outdoors person" with an interest in swimming, jogging, skiing, and white water canoeing. She is also a reader of history, a lover of music, and a gourmet French chef. …

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