How I Got Here: Rory Cooper’s Career in Assistive Technology Led Him to the White House

Individuals requiring assistive technology tend to be an underserved group, but as a wheelchair user himself, University of Pittsburgh’s Rory Cooper wasn’t content to simply hope more options sprang into being. Instead, he became an inventor and mentored other disabled inventors who’d make their share of assistive tech contributions.

In late October, Cooper traveled to the White House to receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his work in the field. Receiving the award, which was launched in 1985, put Cooper and his fellow honorees in the company of Apple’s Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and other tech giants.

Cooper is Pitt’s assistant vice chancellor for research for STEM-health sciences collaborations, as well as the founding director and VA senior research career scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories. When he came to the Steel City from California after being recruited by Pitt in 1993, he and his wife felt like it’d be a good place for a fresh start. Looking back now, the 63-year-old, Gibsonia-based Cooper said he’s never regretted making the Pittsburgh area his new home.