Making St. Louis Accessible
for Over 40 Years

Max and Colleen Starkloff Awards

Max and Colleen Starkloff Awards

Photo of Max and Colleen StarkloffMax and Colleen Starkloff, Paraquad founders

At the age of 21, Max Starkloff was involved in a disabling automobile accident.  At the time, the only option for someone with a severe disability was to move into a nursing home, where he resided for 12 years. During this period, Max met his future wife Colleen and they set out to make the changes that enabled Max and ultimately many thousands of others with disabilities to live fulfilling and independent lives.

Max and Colleen established Paraquad in 1970, one of the first Centers for Independent Living nationally to receive federal funding. Under their leadership, Paraquad became a leading force for change and empowerment for people with disabilities.

In 2003, Max and Colleen left Paraquad to establish the Starkloff Disability Institute. Max passed away in December, 2010. His legacy continues as the Institute which works to change societal attitudes about people with disabilities.

2011 Starkloff Award Recipients

Jim Tuscher, Former Paraquad Vice President Public PolicyJim Tuscher, Former Paraquad Vice President Public Policy (Posthumously)

Jim Tuscher, who passed away on March 1, 2011, made countless contributions to the disability community in Missouri, and nationally.  Jim’s career followed the independent living movement: charting advancements for disability rights among centers for independent living; spearheading initiatives that changed state legislation; and identifying national opportunities for sustainable change.

Jim joined the Paraquad staff in 1979 and served as Program Director for 10 years. After realizing that a greater number of lives could be impacted through policy changes, Jim began working on legislative priorities and created the Public Policy Department at Paraquad.  At the national level, Jim worked as Missouri’s field leader in advocating for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mercy (formerly St. John’s Mercy Medical Center)

Mercy Hospital St. Louis is strongly committed to helping individuals with developmental disabilities acquire and maintain meaningful employment. As a leading employer in our community, Mercy offers above minimum wages, accessible transportation, a wide range of benefits and career advancement opportunities. Currently Mercy employs 54 people with developmental disabilities.

For the past 15 years, Paraquad has worked closely with Mercy Hospital to identify job opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and to design job coaching strategies for a successful, long-term work experience.

In 2010, Mercy started a volunteer program for St. Louis County residents with developmental disabilities who are supported by job coaches to help them learn their volunteer role and work toward paid employment.

2010 Inaugural Starkloff Award Recipients

Image of Bill SheldonWilliam Bixby Sheldon

Bill Sheldon has a strong record of achievement in creating positive, grassroots change for the deaf and hard of hearing community. He was one of the founding members of Paraquad and developed the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, one of the first programs of its kind in the country. Through Bill’s 24 year tenure at Paraquad he worked to ensure that the deaf and hard of hearing community had access to education, employment, and public accommodations. Most notably, he successfully advocated for the adoption of a closed captions option on television for deaf and hard of hearing community members. Bill continues to be a leader in the deaf and hard of hearing community, serving on local boards, advisory councils, and community groups.

Emerson logo


Emerson has a long history of partnering with Paraquad in support of our accessible housing and assistive technology services. In 2005, Emerson funded a pilot project, “The Assistive Technology Re-utilization Program” to provide access to vital equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters. As a result of state budget cuts people with disabilities were unable to receive necessary equipment to live independently in the community. Through Emerson’s generosity, our pilot recycling program has become a successful agency services, and has distributed over 1,600 devices to-date.