Pfrommer, Margaret, 1937-1998
- Existence: 1937 - 1998
Margaret Carole Pfrommer was born on August 14, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Fenger Highschool in 1955 and attended the evening division at DePaul University. When she was just before entering college in 1956 she contracted bulbar spinal-paralytic polio, which left her with quadriplegia and severe respiratory problems. Since she was only able to move her head her parents assisted her in their home. When they died, Margaret went to a nursing home.
After two years she reentered the rehabilitation process. Through her frequent visits at Northwestern's hospital Margaret became a well-known and well-liked patient. Soon she was asked to volunteer as a research assistant in the hospital, and she joined staff in 1973. At the Prosthetics Research Laboratory and the Rehabilitation Engineering Program she served as official receptionist, answering telephones for both programs by using specially designed telephone equipment, and later she was responsible for working with engineers and technicians, giving them feedback on their designs and development of assistive devices for handicapped people. During the following years, with progress in bioengineering, her duties were constantly expanded. With the sipping and puffing on a straw method she was now able to operate a computer-typewriter. At that time she also focused on consumer advocacy. She highlighted the importance of individually customized care plans, improved community support, transportation, insurance imbursements, personal care assistants and home health care professionals.
From 1975 to 1976 Margaret attended Northwestern’s evening division. In 1977 Governor James Thompson appointed Margaret co-director of the Illinois Delegation to the White House Conference. She also served as president of the Illinois Congress of Organizations of the Physically Handicapped (COPH), chair of the Citizen’s Council, chair of the State Consumer Advisory Council to the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services, chair of the board of directors of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, and was a member of the board of directors and chair of the consumer involvement committee of the Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America (RESNA).
In 1984 Margaret earned a certificate as paralegal/legal aid from the American Institute of Paralegal Studies. She became a member of the faculty of Northwestern’s orthotics courses, and the Continuing Education Program of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she was responsible for conference and program planning, writing papers and reviews for newly developed devices and technical aids. Her study on the accessibility of the Museum of Science and Industry was presented to the United Nations.
The Distinguished Service Award, District Award for Handicapped Professional Women of the Year, Everest and Jennings Lectureship Award, and the Award for Personal and Professional Rehabilitation Accomplishments are only a few of many awards and certificates, which Margaret received during her professional career. With the Certificate of Recognition for “Dedicated service to bring independence, dignity, and full participation to the disabled citizens of this nation”, which was signed by President Jimmy Carter she gained national attention for her work.
As a consumer advocate, she served on various boards and committees, instructed professional persons, public forums, and in classrooms, offered Congressional testimony and consultation to federal agencies. Margaret’s main goal was to provide disabled persons with access to technology and technical aids, to enhance their status in society, and to create opportunities to reach their utmost potential.
On Wednesday, October 14, 1998 Margaret died of heart failure at Oak Park Hospital.