Jeff weighed 2 lbs 12 oz when he was born. When Jeff was six months old, the doctor told Jeff’s parents that Jeff would never talk, walk, or go to “normal” school. The doctor told Jeff’s parents to put him in an institution. Fortunately, they did not. With therapy, determination and perseverance, Jeff has overcome many obstacles. Jeff spoke in complete sentences at the age of 2. When Jeff graduated from New Haven High School he walked across the stage using his gait trainer to accept his Core 40 Diploma. Jeff went on to college and received an associate degree in Business Management from Ivy Tech. While at Ivy Tech he was chosen for the All State Academic Award, held many offices as a student including vice president and then president of PTK National Honor Society. He was also vice president of the student government at one point. While in these offices, Jeff attended many local, state and national conferences advocating for himself and others with disabilities.
In September of 2008, Jeff became a member of Changemakers and in November of 2008 he was elected as the political awareness chairman. His duties included giving a report to members at every meeting and advocating for members with local and state political leaders in order to educate leaders about issues that impacted persons with disabilities. In 2009, Jeff held a legislative night open to local, city, and state officials in order to educate and increase awareness between persons with disabilities and local, city, and state officials. In September 2009, Jeff was recognized by a local city councilman for his advocacy work. In October 2009, Jeff initiated and coordinated an educational summit, and invited members of the education system to attend and learn about the concerns of persons with disabilities. In 2011, Jeff was a leader in starting the first Aktion Club in Allen County. Jeff invited numerous political, social service and business members to attend the initial ceremony and dinner. As part of the Johnny Appleseed Aktion Club, Jeff held a political forum so persons with disabilities could ask questions of political candidates and decide who to vote for, and invited local media to cover the event. Jeff applied for a grant so the Johnny Appleseed Aktion Club could attend the 2012 Indiana Governor’s Council Conference.
Jeff serves as a board member of Scherer Resources Inc, based out of Fort Wayne, a non-profit company formed to improve residential living for adults with disabilities. Since April of 2013, Jeff has been working on a project called Enhanced Residential Living. Jeff has been meeting with state officials and residential providers through the state to talk about ongoing consumer issues and concerns. If the project is implemented, it would improve direct care staff turnover, consumer choice, and improve the quality of life for persons receiving residential services. Jeff is also enrolled in a management training program that promotes positive leadership supported by team work. Jeff is a member of the IPMG Stakeholder Committee and a member of the ResCare Human Rights Committee. In October of 2013, Jeff won the Darcus Nims Self-Advocate Award.
Jeff is a positive and optimistic person who strives to advocate for persons with disabilities and improve their quality of life on a daily basis.
In April of this year, Jeff obtained a TOBII I-12 with eye tracker. This device tracks eye movement, and enables an individual to communicate, turn on the TV, open doors, send emails and text messages, post on Facebook, and even Skype. It allows an individual the freedom and ability to independently say what he or she wants without the assistance of anyone. To use the TOBII, one gazes at the letter or button one wants to select. A red circle will appear and confirm the selection.
Jeff worked with Vocational Rehabilitation to find out about the TOBII, and after 6 months of working out the details, Vocational Rehabilitation paid for most of the device, as it is still newer technology. Jeff's advice to others is, "There could be some technology grants available to people as well. I recommend people just do a little research and you'll be surprised what is out there."
Jeff states, "I really enjoy [my TOBII] because it will open doors for me and give me new opportunities that I've never had before. The message that I have for everyone out there is persistence pays off. It's taken me almost six months to get this computer and then learn to use it well. My future plans are to work in government in some capacity so the TOBII will allow me to do that. I also need to give a big thank you to everyone who made this possible. Especially my parents."