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Student's involvement leads to tangible solution for Disability Network

Posted on July 20, 2015

The process of installing a permanent residential wheelchair ramp is not simple and usually begins with obtaining blueprints and a building permit.

Through a class project, a student in Grand Valley's liberal studies leadership cohort connected his engineering firm with Disability Network-Lakeshore (DNL) to develop a product that streamlines that process.

Richard Campbell is in the second semester of the 19-month accelerated degree completion program at Grand Valley's Meijer Holland Campus. He works as a team lead and product development engineer for Disher Design and Development, an engineering firm in Zeeland.

Campbell and the rest of his leadership cohort were asked to connect with local nonprofits, learn about them and offer problem-solving skills. Campbell chose Disability Network-Lakeshore, a center that works to connect people with disabilities to resources and opportunities.

Through meetings and conversations with DNL staff members, Campbell learned about the red tape involved with residential wheelchair ramps. He took that problem to Disher Design and worked with team members to create a 3D Computer-Aided Design and blueprint of a wheelchair ramp that meets all Americans with Disabilities Act and Michigan residential building codes. Disher also reconditioned several old wheelchairs for DNL.

"The CAD model allows us to easily lay out a wheelchair ramp assisting someone with limited mobility and simplifies the process for them to acquire a building permit before installation," Campbell said.

Todd Whiteman, executive director of DNL, said Campbell's efforts led to a tangible solution to a real problem. Because of his involvement with DNL, Campbell was nominated for an Ability Scholarship, offered jointly by DNL and the West Coast Chamber of Commerce. The scholarship pays Campbell's tuition to attend this fall's West Coast Leadership program.

"None of this would be possible if I hadn't been in Grand Valley's leadership program," Campbell said.

Campbell said the skills and knowledge he has gained through the program have transferred well to his workplace.

"I'm getting the knowledge to help colleagues at Disher reach their fullest potential," he said.

The 19-month accelerated degree completion program is offered in Grand Rapids and Holland; it is geared toward students who are at least 24 years old and who have work experience and college credits. Classes are offered in Holland and Grand Rapids; learn more at

Learn more about Disher Design; and the Disability Network Lakeshore.