Richard O. Salsgiver

Exceptional practitioner, educator, and advocate for disability awareness and rights

A leading voice in California and the nation for individuals with disabilities, Richard O. Salsgiver has embraced his role as professional social worker, educator, researcher, and advocate for disability awareness and rights.

Born with cerebral palsy and institutionalized from age 6 to 12, Salsgiver drew inspiration and resolve from his childhood experiences to develop a career dedicated to demonstrating that physical limitations and social mistreatment do not inhibit an individual’s ability to contribute to society and achieve personal and professional success. He earned four degrees, including his Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh and a Doctor of Arts in the social and intellectual history of the United States from Carnegie Mellon University.

As program manager of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, Salsgiver became a powerful political advocate for individuals with disabilities in San Mateo County. He worked closely with other leaders of the independent living movement to frame and secure the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Later, hired as executive director of the California Association of the Physically Handicapped Independent Living Center based in Fresno, he continued his political advocacy, educating political representatives on disability-related issues and supporting legislation that positively affected members of the disability community in the Central Valley and beyond.

During his subsequent tenure as director of diversity programs and systemwide coordinator of disabled employee programs for the California State University (CSU) system, Salsgiver promoted causes related to the treatment of ethnically and racially diverse employees, women, members of sexual minority groups, and people with disabilities. He served as the spokesperson for faculty and staff members who experienced disabilities and oversaw programs designed to enhance the diversity of all CSU campuses.

In 1994, he became an associate professor at CSU Fresno, teaching courses on practice and human behavior at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the Department of Social Work Education. He became a full professor and ultimately Professor Emeritus following his retirement in 2009.

In addition to his work as a practitioner, administrator, and educator, Salsgiver has authored numerous academic texts on the topic of disability, including the well-regarded Disability: A Diversity Model Approach in Human Service Practice. Now in its third edition, the book outlines a strengths-based approach to working with clients with disabilities.

Throughout his career, Salsgiver has embraced core values of the social work profession to empower individuals with disabilities and other underrepresented groups that have been affected by discriminatory social values and expectations.

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