Social Justice Issues

George McKinlay Enhanced

Writing By Regina Revazova

Mexico was the island of refugees and a political melting pot over the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  George McKinlay was twenty-three when he first saw snow on top of Popocatepetl, an active volcano located in Central Mexico. He got out of his political world in Australia and into science in Mexico. He worked at a private American School that provided him with the way to survive on a teacher’s salary and he taught biology to kids from affluent American and Mexican families.

He lived and worked there for seven years, married his first wife, an Argentinean national, and they moved to Argentina, where another four years passed by. Latin America opened a new world for an “Australian bush kid,” a world that accumulated “extensive amount of poverty and flow of resources away from people who needed it mostly,” says George. “Especially lack of self-determination, the ability of people to lead their own lives or have the opportunities. They were pretty blatant.” Also a strong class system, cutting off social services, massive inflation, soup kitchens, and very affluent people leading an excitingly good life next to that poverty.

Paolo Freire, who was advocating for liberation of people through education, became one of George’s heroes. “I always thought the education is an opening thing. The only people who can afford the luxury of deep thought are people who are in an affluent position. You don’t have lifelong learners anymore, but lifelong trainees. And that it is a drawback to me.”

George of the Jungle

In 1990 he moved to California, then after three years to Reno, Nevada, where he pursued his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). At that time George got more and more involved in the Assistive Technology (AT) field. Working on a project for the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, George got interested in an AT, first providing technical support because of his computing and teaching background. “I got more and more involved – with today’s technology you have to know about assistive technologies as well. That’s just not true, but it certainly helps in some ways.”

Today George is a Data Collector at the Nevada Center for Excellence and Disabilities (NCED). AT occupies 45 percent of his regular activities. Yes, he has a somewhat pessimistic outlook for his job: “People are exceedingly thankful even for minor things. But I always thought there is something missing. There is more that can be done.”

“It is hard for me to rest,” says George, referring to his habits and vision of his childhood when he moved from one house to another. “I don’t sit down under the shady tree and rest. I keep working. I derive satisfaction from building something, making new things. We built cubby houses when I was little, or tree houses. There was always something that annoyed me and we never used them when they were built. We moved to another tree to build a new one.”

Working with people with disabilities was something natural for George. At least he perceives it that way. He always believed in teaching and social services related work. “My position really is looking for the ways to enhance lives of people with disabilities. Specifically in Nevada of course, but in a broader sense, for everyone. What I do is increasingly look at the changing assistive technologies and see how they could be enhanced, how to improve the delivery of the services and control that change in a positive sense. These technologies are meant to be for a maximum number of people possible, rather than purely economically driven. So it is a social imperative rather than an economic imperative.”