Introduction to Dr. David Gray by Dr. Glen White

Presented at NARRTC meeting, May 2010

Dr. David B. Gray is the recipient of the NARRTC Distinguished Service Life Time Award.  He true leader in our field.  His leadership is embodied in his many years of research, scholarship, teaching, and public service.  He is perhaps the eminent scholar in the development of objective measures of environmental barriers to the participation of people with disabilities.

Now for a little history:

  • In 1966, he earned his B.A. in Psychology from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
  • In 1970, he earned his M.A. in experimental psychology from Western Michigan University.
  • In 1974, he earned his Ph.D. in psychology and behavioral genetics from the University of Minnesota.
    • Admired Paul Mehl who developed the MMPI and wrote THE article in 1954 on the psychometric principles of validity, reliability, convergent and divergent validity. Mehl wrote the book title “Clinical vs. Statistical Prediction” which sparked Dr. Gray’s initial interest in measurement.
    • Studied with David Merrell who wrote an early book of ecological genetics. His interests in Darwin, population genetics and the ecology of humans led Dr. Gray to think about the influence of environmental features and human behavior including those with impairments and limitations.
    • Learned experimental design and the value in close observation of human behavior in context from Travis Thompson who has written 400+ articles and 40+ books on a variety of topics stretching from non-human primates through children and adults with intellectual impairments.


  •  In 1986-1987, he was the Director of NIHR and was responsible for renaming the organization to NIDRR.
    • Initiated the innovative grant award program which provided funds for
      • Through the Looking Glass
      • National Amputee Coalition
    • Required people with disabilities to be included on peer review panels
    • Changed peer review from 90% government to 90% non-government
    • Increased the NIDRR budget from 29.5 million to 52 million
    • Announced the TBI network
    • Co-authored Section 508 of Rehabilitation Act Amendments 1986 – electronic access


  • From 1981 to 1985 and from 1988 to 1990 Dr. Gray worked at NICHD in the area of learning and developmental disabilities
    • Co-authored 6 books
    • Wrote requests for applications that resulted in the award of six national research centers on learning disabilities.
    • Organized 10 national conferences on wide range of topics including
      • . "Treatment of Destructive Behaviors in Persons with Developmental Disabilities." NIH Consensus Development Conference September 11-13, 1989
  • Between 1990-1995, he was the Deputy Director of the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) at the NIH. 
    • Wrote the "Report and Plan for Medical Rehabilitation Research." National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. April, 1992.
    • Authored the "Research Supplements to Promote Recruitment of Individuals with Disabilities into Biomedical Research Careers."  NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts Vol. 21 (No. 1):  January 24, 1992.
    • Wrote requests for applications for
      • Training grants
      • Bowel and bladder management
      • Orthotics and Prosthetics Research
      • Reproductive Function in People with Physical Disabilities

More recently, Dr. Gray was

  • A member of the Executive Committee of the International Environmental Task Force for the revision of the International Classification of Diseases, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH), which lead to the development of the ICF.
  • Additionally, in 1997 he served on an Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee that published a report titled, “Enabling America: Assessing the Role of Rehabilitation Science and Engineering”
  • From 2002 to 2006 he served on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Advisory Council.

Currently, Dr. Gray is

  • Husband for 43 years, (Married to Dr. Margaret “Margie” Gray) father to one son (David, Jr.) and two daughters (Elizabeth and Polly) and grandfather to a grandson (Marley) and granddaughter (                      ).
  • Board Member, Paraquad, St. Louis, MO.
  • Professor of Neurology and Occupational Therapy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Investigator on several research projects on the participation of people with mobility impairment (PARTS/M) and on the environmental factors that influence participation (FABS/M).  These measures have been requested for review by 20 countries and many US universities. The PARTS/M has been translated into Norwegian and the FABS/M is being translated into Afrikaans and Xhosa. He has developed a participation measure, PART/G, that includes people with mobility and sensory impairments. He is developing a self report survey to assess the responses of people with mobility and sensory impairments to 17 different sites in their communities (SPARC).
  • He is and has worked with RRTC and DBTACs in recent years, developing objective measures to assess the barriers and facilitators to participation that are frequently found in the environment. 
  • Scholarly publications
    • 16 major invited addresses
    • 21 articles
    • 25 co-authored books, chapters and reviews
    • 56 peer reviewed presentation
    • 67 invited addresses
  • Over 15 million in grant funding

It is his dedication to public services and high quality and relevant that research makes David deserving of our admiration and congratulations for being the honored recipient the NARRTC Distinguished Service Life Time Award.