Beyond
Barriers

This book is about David Davey whose life changed when he was stricken with polio in 1948. Go into the thoughts of a twelve-year-old as he lay in an iron lung, recovering. Read how he recognized that God gave him a purpose and how he spent the rest of his life fulfilling it. Witness David’s Christian leadership skills as he joined Goodwill Industries and set about to change laws and attitudes of American people regarding those with disabilities. Dave was the liaison for all Goodwills and many other organizations to assist Senator Bob Dole’s office in the passing of the Disabilities Act.

BOOK REVIEWS

Like countless others of his generation, David Davey’s body was ravaged by polio at a young age, but the footprints he left behind are of unquestionable value. He was a pioneer in his own right, laying some of the early foundations of awareness and equality for the disabled. His loving wife, Anne Davey, pays tribute to his life and legacy in her book, Beyond Barriers. She shares the details of his boyhood and the devastating diagnosis that changed his life immeasurably. She writes of their courtship and the marriage that bound them. Their travels were vast, from the Hawaiian Islands to Washington D.C., Alaska, and a variety of other intriguing destinations. She highlights the role these places played in their lives.

The couple embraced life to its fullest, savoring every moment God granted them. Their faith permeated every caveat of their lives, including their professional ones. Anne outlines many of her late husband’s greatest successes. She describes the determination and passion that propelled him. He spent 40 years serving Goodwill Industries of America, holding an array of leadership positions in cities across the Midwest. He served on nearly every board imaginable, helped to write state and national accessibility laws, and aided Fred Meijer, the owner of a reputable grocery store chain, in identifying ways to make his stores more wheelchair accessible. Davey retired in 2000 and died from respiratory failure associated with pneumonia just five short years later. However, his powerful story is kept alive through the words etched in this heartfelt account.

Anne Davey paints a beautiful portrait of her late husband. Her writing style is simple and engaging, allowing this biographical piece to be absorbed with ease despite its length. Additionally, a plethora of pictures of family, friends, and colleagues are dispersed throughout the pages. They nicely compliment the text and provide readers with a more intimate view of the Daveys. Some of the love letters her dearest friend and soulmate wrote are included as well as a serene goodbye letter to his loved ones, written just before his passing. David’s words express the intensity of his adoration for his wife and are deeply touching to read, as is his final message of closure.

The optimism Anne and David showed for life and living, in addition to their unwavering faith and belief in a better world, are both refreshing and inspiring. Despite the difficulties that exist for those living with disabilities as well as those close to them, neither one of them expressed a semblance of pity for themselves or their circumstances. They faced life with gratitude and acceptance. In a world in which blame is so often cast and negativity frequently conveyed, their story is a welcome addition. May it serve as a springboard to action for those who also wish to make a difference in the world.

Jennifer Padgett

Beyond Barriers is the heart-warming story of the late David Davey by his loving wife, Anne Davey. When Davey was a young boy, polio struck him and he found himself in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Always the optimist, he and his family made the best of his circumstances and relied heavily on their Heavenly Father to provide. Beyond Barriers shows how Davey grew up to change the world for everyone previously labeled as "handicapped" because of their wheelchair or disability. While growing up, Davey noticed that businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, restrooms, churches, etc., were not built to accommodate the extra width or challenges that come with a wheelchair, thus causing this population to be unwelcome there. Shortly after college, Davey became involved with the notorious Goodwill company; he was able to keep it afloat, help it improve, and allow it to give back to the community in a variety of ways. Through Davey's determination and ingenuity, he sat on many boards in his community to improve the environment for the "handicapped," received many grants, and made things thought impossible, possible. Anne talks Davey up into a loveable, likable, and overall great guy. His love for the Lord is something that she stresses in many of their stories.

One of my favorite places to shop at is Goodwill; there are many things to enjoy about these stores, the variety of merchandise is pleasing, and the prices are great as well. I had heard about the help that Goodwill provides for others, but didn't know much about it all. It is astounding that one human man had such an impact on a variety of areas. The stories of every time he improved a human's life are heartwarming; all of the other stories of his life with Anne are incredible as well, he lived a life that was loved by so many. The people that he knew who also had a connection to Goodwill are surprising and are sure to be envied by the reader.

I like how this story shows that anyone and everyone has the potential to make a difference, no matter their physical strength. The Lord sure had a plan in mind when David Davey was born. I appreciated the attention that Anne brought to this. However, for a non-believer who is reading this, it is not overpowering. Overall, this is a lovely story to read and will find enjoyment by readers who like learning about influential people and their personal lives; you will be surprised at both the public and personal facts presented!

Rachel Dehning

Beyond Barriers details the life of David (Dave) Davey, a remarkable man who, in 1948, at the age of twelve, was diagnosed with polio. After spending nine months in hospital, he was able to return home, albeit in a wheelchair. But he didn't let that stand in his way. He believed God had a plan for his life. With the help of a very supportive family, he was able to finish high school and attend Wayne State University. Along with his college roommate Dick Wooten, who was also in a wheelchair, Dave dreamed of helping others with disabilities to live fuller lives. Later, Dave worked at Goodwill Industries, where he was able to use his skills to create the kinds of programs that he and Dick had thought so much about.

This book was an interesting look at Dave's life, as presented by his loving wife, Anne. It was peppered with so many amusing and memorable details that I felt like I knew them both personally by the end of the book. It's clear that being in a wheelchair did not stop Dave from pursuing his dreams of helping others and traveling to Hawaii and Alaska. I loved the details included from these family trips, especially the episode where Anne decided to use reverse psychology on the bus driver in Denali. My mother was a wheelchair user while battling cancer, so I know that travel is not an easy task, especially if you are not sure there will be easy or barrier-free access available.

I gather from this account that Dave didn't let such things stop him. In fact, he seemed to enjoy life to the fullest, making the most of its many challenges. Plus, his work at Goodwill and being invited to serve with Senator Bob Dole on the National Architectural Barrier and Transportation Board helped lead to the Americans with Disabilities Act. I think this is one of his best legacies. Anyone who has ever had to negotiate a wheelchair on a sidewalk curb where there is no easement knows how challenging this can be. We have Dave to thank for pressing for the changes that may seem small to some but mean a world of access to others. I loved the fact that the book included many family photos. It made the story seem more vivid and personal. I wish the author had mentioned a bit more about the history of polio and the spread of this disease. Some of us are too young to remember that time and the fear that must have existed before a vaccine was widely available. I also wish there had been a little bit more information at the beginning about the mission and structure of Goodwill Industries. I am aware of Goodwill stores and the fact that they employ people with disabilities, but that is the extent of my knowledge. I was unaware that each state has a separate chapter and that they seemingly
act independently.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book, and Dave's story will undoubtedly be an inspiration to those who want to continue his work breaking down barriers.

Susan Miller

Beyond Barriers is the biography of humanitarian and disability rights activist David “Dave” M. Davey, as related by his wife, Anne Davey Koomans. It is the inspirational story of a man who had absolute faith that God had a plan for him and who never wavered in his desire to help others.

A polio epidemic swept the United States during the 1940s and 1950s, with outbreaks causing more than 15,000 cases of paralysis every year. Davey was just twelve years old when he was struck down with the disease. Despite being rushed straight to hospital, he had to spend more than five months in an iron lung and then another four months undergoing rehabilitation therapy. When he was finally able to leave hospital, he did so in a wheelchair. At this point, it seemed that the medical profession and much of wider society had given up on him.

Fortunately, Davey was blessed with an abundance of grit and positivity and this, coupled with the immense support he received from his family, meant that he wasn’t ready to give up on himself. He worked extremely hard at his home study program and then at a special school. Eventually, the principal of the local high school agreed that Davey could complete his junior and senior years there. It was the fact that Davey did so well at school that persuaded education officials to change the policy that prohibited children who used wheelchairs from attending public school in the Detroit area. He was already helping people simply by living his best life.

Davey went on to attend Wayne State University. His roommate, Dick Wooten, also used a wheelchair, and the two of them spent many hours discussing the fact that God must have had a plan for them and strategizing about the training, knowledge, and equipment that would help disabled people to achieve their full potential. After college, Davey worked for Goodwill Industries, where he helped both the company and its clients. He also dedicated his time to raising awareness of the barriers faced by disabled people and to identifying ways of overcoming those barriers. This led to him working on a number of nationally important projects, including serving on the National Architectural Barrier and Transportation Board alongside Senator Bob Dole. Davey really helped to change the world for the better.

As noted in the introduction to Beyond Barriers, Davey “was concerned for anyone whose life circumstances are a barrier to work and a normal life.” He recognized his purpose very early on in life and then never wavered in pursuing it. It’s clear from reading the book that innumerable people’s lives were improved by Davey’s work, and further, that his personality impressed and inspired nearly everyone he met. His achievements were certainly remarkable, but it is his character that comes across most memorably in the book. It seems that he was just a really great guy who had time for everyone and who really wanted to help people. He also had a super sense
of humor, which comes across both in the chapters written by him and in people’s recollections of him.

Beyond Barriers is a moving, inspirational, and informative book, and it is a marvelous tribute to Dave Davey, a truly remarkable man. It’s written in a very engaging and accessible style, and Anne Davey Koomans’ love for her husband shines through on every page. Davey’s story might prove particularly inspiring for people with physical disabilities and for those with a strong Christian faith, but Beyond Barriers would be a great read for anyone seeking to learn about a truly exceptional life well lived.

Erin Britton

BEYOND BARRIERS, by Anne Davey Koomans, is the touching but slightly disorganized story of Dave Davey, a man who devoted his life to helping others.

When Dave Davey was just twelve years old he contracted polio. It was a bad epidemic year for the disease and he was one of many children in the hospital. Imprisoned in an iron lung and forced to endure painful treatments, Dave found strength in his relationship with God and the love of his mother. He was one of the fortunate ones who survived the dreaded illness, but he would never walk again.

Dave’s confinement to a wheelchair opened his eyes to the needs of the handicapped and the problems of accessibility. After attending college he went to work for Goodwill, an organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate. He spent his life working to improve the lives of others and make the world as barrier free as possible. BEYOND BARRIERS book chronicles his life and struggles and his marriage to the love of his life, Anne. A memoir, his story is told mostly through her eyes, but there are also chapters that were written by Dave before his death. Their love for each other shines through their words and the photographs that document their life together and their family.

Anne Davey Koomans has put her heart into this book about her beloved husband and she clearly writes with real love and emotion. But there are just so many details and so much information included without any real planning that it gets confusing. Somehow there also seems to be information missing and things left out. The mother of Dave’s daughter, Susan, for example, does not seem to have been Anne. But there is no mention of anyone else. It’s a pretty glaring omission. The writing and phrasing also need work. They are often repetitive and a little stilted. The quality of the writing and the overall readability of the book would be greatly improved by some good editing and it needs some real polishing up to add professionalism and clarity to the love and warmth with which Koomans has infused her work.

BEYOND BARRIERS is a biography full of lovely memories, a real diamond in the rough that with some solid editing could easily be made into a great book.

Heather Stockard

A poignant testament to a life that exemplified unconditional love, faith, and dedicated persistence, Anne Davey Koomans’ Beyond Barriers lovingly commemorates the exceptional life and times of her husband David M. Davey; a force to be reckoned with when it came to helping others, particularly the disabled.

This loving, eloquently told narrative, draws the emotive attention while tracing the incredibly inspiring life of David M. Davey, who in his youth was heartbreakingly struck at 12 years old with Polio during the 1940s Polio epidemic.

Emotionally scarring accounts of the horrors he faced during his treatment phase leave indelible marks on the psych while reading about his time in the Iron Lung, the painful treatments he endured, and especially the instances of listening to the “death wagon” coming down the hall in the hospital ward leaving all those within hearing range terrified and whimpering.

Moreover, incredibly after surviving the treatments, David was sent home, with a grim prognosis with little promise for a future. However, with powerful determination and faith in God’s purpose for his life, he went on to disprove the prognosis by setting precedent by attending High school and also by becoming a member of the honor society and class president, as well as gaining a scholarship to Wayne State University.

Furthermore, David continued to negate the adversity of his bound condition with dedication and love for others. Believing his calling was to help other wheelchair-bound people have the opportunity to make a living, he went on to foster a very distinguished career as the CEO of Goodwill industries in Battle Creek Michigan, and also helped to pioneer changes for wheelchair equipment, accessibility, barrier-free areas, and rehabilitation programs. He also was involved with writing state and national accessibility laws and working with Senator Bob Dole on the national barrier-free architectural and transportation board.

Overall, He was a man who held a profound desire to show people wheelchair-bound people were not limited in the ways usually preconceived by people, a fact which his life epitomized on multiple levels, including romantically when he met and married the author of his biography Anne Davey Koomans who started out as his executive secretary. Theirs was a love that was truly unconditional.

Beyond Barriers was a great read, that I wholeheartedly recommend. I found myself rapt within this well-written,
biographical tour de force, following the frustrations, stigmatisms, and triumphs of David M. Davey’s life. Altogether,
moving, inspirational, and starkly truthful, this book bears important messages for us all, wheelchair-bound or not,
concerning perceptions, exceeding limitations, unconditional love for self, as well as others, and having the mettle to bear
it all. In particular, my favorite chapters was chapter 6, Our Posterity, written by Dave shortly before his death; he shares
cherished memories of his children, it was very touching, actually tear-jerking, to say the least. Additionally, another
favorite chapter was chapter 22, Yes Men in Wheel Chairs have a Sex Life, which beautifully presented an honest look at
the stigmatisms about the carnal needs and desires of a wheelchair-bound person, who ultimately is the same as any
other man or woman.

I would recommend Beyond Barriers by Anne Davey Koomans for a true inspirational story. I have been inspired myself to remember that everyone struggles with challenges and setbacks. David M. Davey has shown me that giving up should never be an option.

Lisa Brown-Gilbert

“Goodwill and other service providers must never be satisfied with the current program. They must continue to look for new initiatives and ways to help all the people who aren’t employed.”

This expansive biography tells the story of Dave Davey, who was born in 1936 in Detroit. Davey, like a good many children of his age at the time, was a victim of polio. Like others, he spent a handful of years in an iron lung. Unlike many of his peers, however, he would go on to not only live until 2005 (after the doctors had warned his parents that he likely wouldn't make it through his 20s) but to live a life confined to a wheelchair. His situation quite literally paved the way for innovations across the board, helping ensure public places were adequately designed to be handicap-accessible. Davey worked at the highest levels with Goodwill Industries, where his passion and talents earned him numerous recognitions and awards. He was also instrumental in working with former Senator Bob Dole in establishing into law the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in 1990.

Written lovingly by his wife of nearly three decades, this is the story of an exceptional man who made a positive difference in the lives of many in the world. It is a testament not only to Davey but also to the triumph of human accomplishment by those who, even when faced with personal difficulties, somehow always push further and further. Koomans describes her husband as being as selfless and giving as any man could ever be. When reading about their story together and, in particular, the extraordinarily hard work Davey put into helping lead the way for others with physical limitations to excel beyond any barriers, one is inclined to agree.

Jonah Meyer

RADIO INTERVIEW WITH KATE DELANEY

RADIO INTERVIEW WITH RIC BRATTON

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anne Davey Koomans is a wife, mother, and grandmother. Above all, she is a strong Christian and accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior when she was twelve. Being in God’s will for her life has always been Anne’s greatest desire.

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