The Courage Kenny Handiham Program provides tools for people with disabilities to learn Amateur Radio and technology skills, and to earn their Amateur Radio licenses. This sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but what is really happening behind the scenes is that people with disabilities who join our program are going to quickly learn about new technologies, including assistive technologies that will help them in other aspects of their lives, not just amateur radio. By working through the process of earning an amateur radio license, Handiham members become familiar with setting goals and following a plan to achieve them.
Our Handiham members also become part of a worldwide community of amateur radio operators. This community is alive with opportunities for all sorts of life enhancing activities. One can make friends on the air, stay in touch with other Handiham members who might use similar assistive technology such as blind-friendly computing systems and radios, take part in competitions throughout the year thanks to the many awards and contests going on nearly all the time, and learn more about “STEM”–Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
An important aspect of amateur radio has always been to offer assistance to one’s community and to one’s fellow amateur radio operators. The Handiham Program emphasizes these values and encourages our members with disabilities to “give back” by participating in public service through their local amateur radio clubs and volunteering to help others.
The mission of our parent organization, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, is “To empower people with disabilities to reach their full potential in every aspect of life.” The Handiham Program takes its members through a process that builds confidence, achievement, planning, friendships, and volunteerism in service to others. While these values have always been a part of amateur radio, we realize that they transfer to all aspects of a successful and happy life.
History of the Courage Kenny Handiham Program
The Courage Kenny Handiham Program was “born” in Rochester, Minnesota in 1967, the idea of Ned Carman, W0ZSW. Ned worked for a clinic, and, in the course of his work, would visit people with severe physical disabilities. As he spoke with his clients, who often had few opportunities to leave their homes, he realized that amateur radio would be the perfect hobby for them. Here was a hobby that could open a window to the world! A person with the most severe disabilities could stand as an equal with fellow hams in the world of amateur radio!
Ned enlisted the help of a group of local nuns, the Sisters of St. Francis, on April 30, 1967. Although their first action was as weather watchers during a thunderstorm that passed through Rochester that day, the Sisters were committed to helping Ned with his new project, and several received their licenses. Among them was Sister Alverna O’Laughlin, WA0SGJ, the former Educational Coordinator for the Handiham Program, now a silent key.
The first Handiham was Edna (Eddy) Thorson, N0YL, who took her General Class license exam in December, 1967. Eddy became a silent key in 2013.
Very soon, the Rochester Amateur Radio Club, and a little later, the PICONET of South Eastern Minnesota took up the torch of service that Ned had lighted. Word of the Handiham Program spread rapidly throughout southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.
By 1969 it was very evident that the expansion of Handiham services could not continue without some rather substantial financial support. This support came from the non-profit Minnesota Society for Crippled Children and Adults (whose name would later change to “Courage Center”). The Society granted full affiliate status to the fledgling Program and helped with money and equipment.
Word of the Handiham Program spread throughout the Upper Midwest, then across the country, and around the world. It became impossible to continue the work of the Program as a volunteer organization. Something had to be done, or the Handiham Program would be a victim of its own success. The answer emerged when Courage Center agreed to accept the Handiham Program as an integrated part of Courage Center, and in 1975 the Minnesota Handiham Program merged with Courage Center to become a full service, providing help wherever there was a need.
The Courage Kenny Handiham Program, now a fully-integrated service of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, is able to call on the resources of its parent organization, from accounting and counseling to rehabilitation medicine and physical therapy, to better serve its students and members.
Radio Camp sessions, conferences, and other virtual classes serve members from everywhere in the United States and around the world. Members learn amateur radio, electronic theory, and computing, but they also learn that they can accomplish what they set out to do!
Ned Carman has passed away, but the Courage Kenny Handiham Program’s headquarters station bears his callsign, W0ZSW, and an organization of volunteers and paid staff carries on his good work of sharing amateur radio with people who have physical disabilities.
Membership for people with disabilities
One question that is often asked is, “Do I qualify for membership?”
The answer is “probably so”, if you have a disability; but whether we can serve you effectively can depend on many other factors. In general, we serve people with physical disabilities and/or sensory impairments, such as blindness. However, we also serve people who have other reading disabilities, such as dyslexia. Please contact us if you have any question about whether you can benefit from our services. The ability to learn and work on one’s own (if studying from home via a computer) as well as a strong desire to earn one’s amateur radio license are essential.
How to contact us
There are several ways to contact us.
Courage Kenny Handiham Program
Mail Route 78446
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
Administrative Assistant: 612-775-2291
We look forward to hearing from you soon!