Fred Sammons: The Man Who Changed the World of Occupational Therapy

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
I first heard of Fred Sammons in OT school.  Then as a practicing occupational therapist, the Sammons/Preston catalog became my go to reference for adaptive equipment.  Now I will have the honor of getting to know Mr. Sammons and hear his story in person, here's a little bit about this great man who changed the world of occupational therapy forever. 



May we all make our own marks on occupational therapy as well.

(On Wednesday, April 6th (the day before the AOTA conference) we will be having a road trip from Chicago to the Frank Lloyd Wright wheelchair accessible home in Rockford then to the Enabling Gardens at the Chicago Botanical Gardens and Fred Sammons will be speaking about his life as an entrepreneur.  Everyone is invited, here's a link to register:www.hotlavascion.weebly.com.


Sammons’ path to occupational therapy
Fred Sammons has had an extensive career that took him to many places and where he wore many hats. Born in eastern Pennsylvania, and while growing up, he demonstrated a keen ability to solve mechanical problems on his family’s farm. It is not surprising that he later became an inventor and an entrepreneur.  He began his career as a high school mechanical drawing and industrial arts teacher.




Sammons served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and then attended Virginia Commonwealth University, where he earned his Occupational Therapy credential. His first job was at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and in 1957, he became its director of Occupational Therapy.


In 1960, Sammons joined the staff of the amputee clinic at Northwestern University, and then began to design and build devices in his basement to help people with disabilities. At the time, he considered his inventions a hobby and the mail order business was something he did “on the side.”  But demand for his inventions and devices grew.

An idea and innovative spirit help grow a multimillion dollar business

In 1965, he quit his day job and devoted himself full time to the business. Part of his marketing strategy was to visit OT programs at colleges and universities across the country. His ability to build warm, trusting relationships helped grow what was once a hobby into a multimillion dollar business called Sammons, Inc. Later, the company merged and was successfully purchased as the business continued to evolve as Sammons Preston, a part of Patterson Medical, Inc.

Every year, Sammons attended the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) annual conference. He had a unique role at the conference. He would rent a limo, dress as a chauffeur and greet conference attendees at the airport with free rides to the conference center. Another conference tradition was “A Picture with Fred” where he shot thousands of photos with therapists long before today’s “selfies.”


"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover." Mark Twain, author.

(On Wednesday, April 6th (the day before the AOTA conference) we will be having a road trip from Chicago to the Frank Lloyd Wright wheelchair accessible home in Rockford then to the Enabling Gardens at the Chicago Botanical Gardens and Fred Sammons will be speaking about his life as an entrepreneur.  Everyone is invited, here's a link to register:www.hotlavascion.weebly.com.

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