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Richard Owen's Story

Supporting Entrepreneurship for People with Disabilities


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In 1975, Richard Owen lost his right arm above the elbow while working on an oil-drilling rig. It took Richard a lot of determination and several challenging years of trying to develop new skills in order for him to once again regain employment.  After three years he was at work again, driving a hauling truck with a manual transmission using his left arm to shift gears.

Then Richard hit another setback in September 2004 when the Kansas Department of Transportation revoked his commercial driving license because he was driving without a required medical waiver, which had been made mandatory by recent changes in licensing laws.

Richard looked to Kansas Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR) for assistance.  VR’s response was to issue him his fifth prosthetic arm to help him meet the qualifications.  Unfortunately, the arm, like the others before, was not compatible with the functions needed to successfully regain his commercial driver’s license and continue driving a truck.

“No matter what kind of arm they put on me, I wouldn’t be able to operate a vehicle,” Richard said. “I did not get the proper rehab treatment 20 years ago so I’ve lost about 90 percent of the movement in my right arm.” Richard was told by VR to search for other career opportunities.  This was a huge blow for Richard, because he had been a truck driver for over 25 years.

Richard was understandably frustrated and contacted the Disability Rights Center of Kansas (DRC) for help.  As a result of DRC’s advocacy, VR set up an appointment for Richard with a physical therapist in Hays, Kansas. Richard was told that he would not benefit from a prosthetic arm because of the lack of movement in his arm and the limited space in the truck. To continue driving trucks, Richard would have to have a vehicle with an automatic transmission. In January of 2005, Richard’s employer, Bosch Hauling, decided to sell the business which left Richard with no job, no truck, and no license.

Richard worked with DRC to submit a proposal to VR to become self-employed as the owner of his own trucking company. Richard’s business plan was accepted and VR purchased a 1999 Freightliner truck with an automatic transmission and paid for the initial company start-up costs.  This empowered him to maintain his employment as a truck driver with the bonus of being his own boss.

Richard’s truck arrived in June of 2005 and he has been contracting out work for his company, RD Owen Trucking.


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