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Q&A with Vincenzo Piscopo

Q&A with Vincenzo Piscopo 'Hopefully United Spinal won’t exist in 75 years'

NEW YORK – Seventy-five years ago, a small support group of paralyzed World War II veterans banded together to advocate for themselves and others in New York City. Today that small support group has 57,000 members and goes by the name of United Spinal Association. HME News spoke with Vincenzo Piscopo, president and CEO, about how the organization is celebrating its year-long anniversary campaign and where the next 75 years will take them.

HME News: Who are some of the advocates United Spinal plans to highlight?  

Vincenzo Piscopo: Pioneers like Denise McQuade, who is retiring from our board of directors and has spent many years advocating for a New York City accessible building code and greater access to mass transit across the country. We also have Paralympians, NASA scientists and many talented professionals who truly reflect our theme for our 75th Anniversary of “Building an Inclusive World.”

HME: There are many accomplishments but is there one that stands out?

Piscopo: It has to be the work of our former president James J. Peters. In 1970, Peters persuaded Life Magazine to publish a cover story revealing the appalling conditions that spinal cord injured Vietnam vets were enduring at the Bronx VA Medical Center. The article triggered a public outcry and the Bronx VA Medical Center was completely demolished and rebuilt per congressional order.

HME: What will the organization look like after 75 more years?

Piscopo: Hopefully, paralysis will no longer exist and therefore United Spinal Association would not need to exist. If that is too idealistic, hopefully our needs and rights will not be a second thought and we will not need to advocate for them as much. I hope it will be an organization focused on capitalizing opportunities that will elevate our quality of life to the same levels of the able-body community. Technology will be a big driver of what we do and focus on.


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