Born: July 30, 1960
Richard Ahern Hosty is a pioneer in the disability movement. He was the first person with a severe disability enrolled in a regular classroom in a Kansas school system. He went on to a private Catholic high school, where he was the first student with a major disability.
He competed in the World Cerebral Palsy Games in Denmark, racing in his wheelchair to an impressive finish in various events. He has been a guest at the White House during a trip advocating for the disabled and has worked as a consultant in the disability field, providing motivation to others.
Throughout his life, Mr. Hosty has wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. “I reached out and broke barriers,” he said.
Mr. Hosty was born in Dallas, Texas, where his late father, FBI Agent James P. Hosty, was assigned to investigate Lee Harvey Oswald after his brief defection to the Soviet Union and return to the U.S. in October 1963. After the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Oswald in November 1963, the elder Hosty was transferred to the FBI’s Kansas City office. He later wrote a memoir about the assassination entitled “Assignment Oswald.”
That’s how Richard Hosty ended up in Kansas schools. His parents pushed to have him admitted into a public school in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. This was before federal laws protecting rights of children with disabilities. He recalls his first day at the school as a third-grader. He was in a wheelchair. His parents had brought him to school before the other children arrived.
“I was petrified. When my parents left, I went after them, I didn’t want to be there,” said Mr. Hosty, who was born with cerebral palsy and arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that includes joint contractures. At birth, his feet were turned upside down and his hip was dislocated. “I cried. I said, ‘Take me with you.’ “
The school bell rang. The other children piled into the classroom. They made a circle around him and began asking questions about his disability, he said. He answered their questions. They like each other. From then on, he felt like one of the kids.
“I was one of the first persons with a disability to be mainstreamed in that school district,” he said.
Time passed and he excelled. When he learned his parents were sending him to the same high school his eight other siblings were or had attended, it was one of the happiest days of his life, he said. That school was not wheelchair accessible so other students helped him get around by picking him up in his wheelchair to help him over otherwise impassible building challenges. He was the first disabled student at that school.
He completed college in 1983 at Emporia State University with a degree in Rehabilitation Services. He went to work advocating for the disabled.
He has served on various advisory boards for organizations fighting for the developmentally disabled. He worked in the field for 27 years before retiring in 2007.
“I have been called a pioneer in the disability movement. Through my strong motivation and the drive to be a success, I have opened doors to opportunities for other people to follow,” he said.
He drove his own specially-equipped vehicle for several years. “Some of my personal highlights are snow skiing, I was invited to the White House, and I competed in the World Cerebral Palsy Games in Denmark,” where he won two gold medals and one silver.
Mr. Hosty has had 41 surgeries. He is now planning to move from the senior health community to supportive living. In Indiana, he has that choice, he said.
“Some states don’t offer a choice. They just put you into an institution. In Indiana, you do have a choice. You have places like Greenwood Meadows when you need it, and when you’re ready you can move on.”
The support of his family has always been a reason for his success, he said. “I owe a lot of my success to my family support. My personal philosophy is if you want something, you must reach for it. “