our founder & timeline
Founder & History
John F. “Jack” Jonas Jr., CPRF Founder, was a lifelong advocate of the disability rights movement in Kansas.
When Jack started working with children with disabilities as a speech pathologist and audiologist at the Institute of Logopedics in the 1950s and 60s, having a disability generally meant that you were destined to either live in a nursing home or with your parents. Employment, inclusion, and independence were not options for many people.
Jack moved on from his field of study to become Executive Director for United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas in the early 1960s, during which time he learned that his former speech pathology and audiology students from the Institute were unable to get jobs, and since wheelchair-accessible, independent living wasn’t available, they were either sent back home to their parents or went to nursing homes. In addition, children who didn’t have a chance to attend the Institute of Logopedics had no access to proper educational funding. So with the help of lifelong friend and classmate, Daniel M. Carney, Chairman of the Board, Jack started the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas in 1972 with a mission to help people with disabilities get the education to which they have a right, a job to pay the bills, and a home to call their own.
The fight for educational inclusion wasn’t easy, with dissent coming from legislators and school administrators alike; however, with the help and strong words of Richard C. Loux, then Minority Leader of the Kansas House of Representatives, Jack was able to get the Kansas Special Education Mandate approved three years before the federal version.
In order to accomplish the employment aspect of the CPRF mission, Jack opened Center Industries Corporation, a manufacturing company that hires people of all abilities at competitive market wages, in 1975 with a contract from the State of Kansas to create license plates.
Four years later in 1979, construction was completed on The Timbers – a 100-unit apartment community built to suit people who use wheelchairs. It was the first U.S. Housing and Urban Development property in the nation of its kind. For the first time, people with disabilities had the opportunity to live on their own in a space that was suited to their needs.
Jack also searched for a way to create a white collar alternative to Center Industries for people who preferred technology to manufacturing. In the late 1990s, Dan Carney introduced Jack to Patricia and Bob Patterson, who assisted him in creating CPRF’s newest affiliate organization: Business Technology Career Opportunities, Inc.
Jack retired in 2000, but remained active as President Emeritus and Board of Directors member until his death in 2014.
With the help of an entrepreneurial and generous Board of Directors, a dedicated staff, individual donors, multiple federal and state grant programs, and significant legislative support, Jack positioned CPRF to create many opportunities once denied to his former Institute of Logopedics students and people with disabilities throughout Kansas.
Corporations like the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, Koch Industries, Raytheon Aircraft, Cessna Aircraft, and foundations such as the J.E. and L.E. Maybee Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the William T. Kemper Foundation, and the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation have also greatly supported CPRF in our efforts to make independence a reality for people with all types of physical disabilities.
CPRF Founder John F. "Jack" Jonas Jr., along with Deryl Schuster (Vice Chairman of the CPRF Board), opened the Jaycee Cerebral Palsy Ranch - a summer camp for teenagers with disabilities - to make up for the lack of accessible recreational activities available to teens. The Jaycee Ranch offered a traditional camp experience, complete with activities like fishing and swimming, but with wheelchair-accessible features and aides/counselors for assistance with daily living needs and activities.
John F. “Jack” Jonas Jr. founds CPRF.
Jack opens Center Industries Corporation, a manufacturing company that hires people with disabilities at competitive wages. Center Industries seeks contracts in the open marketplace, produces its own goods, and sells them – all while paying its employees a competitive wage with benefits.
Center Industries Corporation’s first contract came from the state of Kansas to manufacture license plates, a project previously undertaken out of state.
Now with more than 250 employees (nearly half of whom have a physical disability) and diversified manufacturing capabilities, Center Industries proves that with the right workspace adaptations, a disability isn’t an employment deal-breaker.
The engineering achievements that made large-scale employment of people with disabilities possible at Center Industries Corporation were fully recognized when CPRF and the College of Engineering at Wichita State became a National Rehabilitation Engineering Center. It was one of only 16 such facilities in the United States at the time.
The RERC project continued until 1998, receiving its funding through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The RERC focused on the use of technology in the vocational environment, and how it could be used to enhance independence for people with severe physical disabilities at school and home. The final RERC program consisted of eight projects, including mental workload assessments of individuals using non-standard computer interfacing, physiological capacities for work of people with neuro-physical impairments, and the development of integrated input systems and computer interface.
CPRF begins construction on The Timbers, a 100-unit apartment complex built specifically for people who use wheelchairs. The Timbers apartment community, located on the CPRF campus, was the first HUD property in the nation built specifically for people who use wheelchairs. With 100 fully accessible apartments, The Timbers continues to provide people with independent living and a sense of community. The addition of the Timber Lines Transportation Services also provides accessible transportation, which gives residents a “full circle” service that increases their sense of independence, dignity, and community.
CPRF opens the Daniel M. Carney Rehabilitation Engineering Center (now the Wheelchair & Posture Seating Clinic), providing customized wheelchairs and seating systems for Kansans of all ages.
The CPRF Adult Day Services program begins offering daily enrichment, learning activities, and care to adults with physical and developmental disabilities.
Along with fellow board members and supporters of the organization, Treasurer Daniel Taylor spearheaded the CPRF Endowment Fund to ensure the organization was positioned to continue our mission for years to come.
The School of Adaptive Computer Training opens for students who need specialized classroom equipment.
Patricia and Bob Patterson, owners of Digital Consulting Software Services, worked with Dan Carney and Jack Jonas to form CPRF's newest affiliate organization: DCSS Ability, a white collar alternative to Center Industries Corporation that offers information technology training and open-source web research.
CPRF receives Projects with Industry grant, which provides funding for students to attend the School of Adaptive Computer Training.
CPRF founds Business Technology Career Opportunities, Inc., a document imaging company with a mission to employ people with disabilities. BTCO's inaugural contract was with the U.S. Census Bureau.
In order to supplement DCSSA's open-source web research division, CPRF merged DCSSA with Business Technology Career Opportunities, Inc., adding digital document conversion and precise-tolerance plot printing services.
CPRF becomes a founding member of the One Percent Coalition, a federal, bi- partisan initiative seeking to grant federal procurement advantages to employers who hire people with disabilities.
AmeriCorps Financial Empowerment Services begins at CPRF through coordination with Source America's Institute for Economic Empowerment.
CPRF receives the Disability Employment Initiative grant through the Kansas Department of Commerce, via the federal Department of Labor, to expand the School of Adaptive Computer Training through web-based, satellite learning at other locations.
The Bidder’s Preference Program, championed by CPRF, passes through the state House and Senate, giving state procurement advantages to employers who hire people with disabilities.
In partnership with the State of Kansas Department of Commerce, CPRF renews the Disability Employment Initiative Grant, which funds the School of Adaptive Computer Training and Job Placement.
HB 2044 is signed into law, geared toward creating more job opportunities for people with disabilities through a state tax credit for employers. CPRF was instrumental in researching, conceptualizing, proposing, and advocating for this bill.