Robert (Bob) Johnston
My advocacy is rooted in two separate events which occurred 30 years apart. First, during the evening of August 23, 1975, I was trapped between two cars as a pedestrian. As a result of the accident, I sustained multiple fractures of the bones in my legs. The first hospital recommended amputation, so I asked to be transferred for a second opinion. Following the accident, both of my legs were in full-leg casts for the first two months, with my right leg in traction for a total of three months. My right leg remained in a full-leg cast for fourteen months, followed by an additional six months in a full-leg brace. Eventually, I traded my wheelchair for a bicycle and, with my right leg still in a full-leg cast, I started rehabbing my left knee by riding my bike. It was at that time, before the Americans with Disabilities Act, while a student at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, that I developed an interest in advocacy and better accessibility for disabled students.
Over a time-span of 43 years, I have had 22 surgeries to include bone-grafts from both hips, my right tibia and right fibula re-built twice, four knee replacements (left knee 3x) and right ankle replaced, and the tops of four toes on my right foot amputated. Eventually, with thanks for the support from a dedicated group of surgeons, family and friends, I accomplished my goals of skiing the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and the French-speaking Alps in France and Switzerland. Today, I ride my Trek for therapy and enjoy walks with my son, Harley. He was born on February 8, 2003. Two years later, in 2005, he was diagnosed with autism, 30 years after my accident.
With an understanding for the challenges faced by those with physical disabilities, and then my experience as a parent of a child with autism, I became more deeply committed to advocacy. I am a past president of the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin and a member of the Governor’s Council on Autism. I am actively involved in supporting many non-profit organizations that focus a variety of diagnoses. Additionally, my wife and I invented, patented, trademarked and licensed a “buoyant assistive device” for the learn-to-swim market, given our son’s attraction to water and possible danger of drowning. Paddler® is licensed to Kiefer Aquatics, the internationally recognized innovator of the aquatics industry. Paddler® is available through Kiefer, Amazon, The Lifeguard Store, All American Swim, and Swim Shops of the Southwest.
Facing challenges has become familiar territory. I am committed to helping families face the challenges of tomorrow by helping them build a financial strategy designed to help meet their needs. I believe that overcoming challenges is best accomplished with a team that shares a common goal and knows what steps are suitable and appropriate to find the right solution. Together, we can find solutions for you and your family. (Bob is the President and CEO of Special Needs Planning, LLC.)