Kay Ellis, the Service’s accessibility program manager, retired on January 3rd with just over 30 years of federal service.
Prior to beginning her federal career, she worked several years in the private and nonprofit sectors in the fields of recreation and disability issues. She was also an adjunct professor in the therapeutic recreation program at George Washington University.
Kay began her federal career in 1982 with the NPS and the establishment of the Special Programs and Populations Division, as the program was formally known. She was instrumental in the development of the first policy on accessibility for the NPS, and was actively involved in technical assistance activities and training on accessibility issues for the NPS staff nationwide. She enjoyed working with parks from all over the country -- from Tumacacori NHP in Arizona to Cape Cod NS in Massachusetts and from Mt. Rainier NP in Washington to Biscayne NP in Florida and so many points in between.
In 1995, she transferred to the Bureau of Land Management to establish their national accessibility program and serve as the first bureau accessibility program manager, although her heart never left the NPS.
“Returning to the NPS in 2009 was like coming home,” she was recently heard to say.
Kay’s work over the years has also included working closely with the U.S. Access Board, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior in the development and review of accessibility regulations, most notably access to outdoor recreation areas. She was recently recognized with an award from DOI’s Office on Civil Rights for “years of dedicated service to the DOI EEO and civil rights programs.”
“Being part of the NPS family has been a wonderful experience,” said Kay. “I’ve made so many friends and received so much support from everyone over the years. To love the work that I do and to work with so many dedicated, supportive co-workers has been awesome. Thanks to all of you for helping me in so many ways to make our national parks more accessible and welcoming to visitors with disabilities.”
Kay plans to stay in the D.C. area for a while, but will eventually relocate to North Carolina to be closer to family and friends. In the meantime, she says there are many more trails to hike and adventures to experience. In addition to continuing her work on the board of directors of the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, she plans to return to volunteering with NPS parks in the area, traveling, and visiting NPS friends throughout the System.
In parting, Kay leaves a quote from Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Kay can be reached at email@example.com and would love to hear from everyone. After all, as she says, you never really leave your “family.”