Kyle Cox, MPSA ’20, was born with muscular dystrophy. Now he will advise Texas legislators on disability issues.
Kyle Cox ’20, a graduate of the Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) program at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, earned a position on the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities. Appointed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in January, Cox will advise state legislators on disability issues until his term expires in February 2027.
“This has been my passion all my life. Having a severe disability myself, I’ve seen the flaws in the system. My philosophy is to have an all-inclusive community of people who have disabilities and people without disabilities,” said Cox.
Cox, 24, was born with a hearing impairment and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disorder that causes muscles to progressively break down. Researchers estimate that DMD affects every 6 per 100,000 individuals in North America and Europe. Those affected by DMD experience systemic physical weakness that grows more severe over time.
For Cox, physical obstacles gives him an advantage in advocacy for others with disability. Cox draws on his own experiences and to infuse the concept of diversity into his advocacy for persons with disabilities. His goals for his tenure on the Council include increasing employment rates for persons with disability and creating a more accessible means of public transportation.
“My biggest challenge will be to make lawmakers and policymakers see things in the same way I do on why we need these changes. Growing up around it, I can definitely see the reasons,” said Cox. “But they’re having to figure out what’s the best way to get what people with disabilities need while at the same time weighing the needs of other constituents. I have to find a middle ground.”
To do this, Cox says he will use tools acquired from his Bush School education, especially Dr. Frank Ashley’s course on workplace diversity. His approach draws on the parallel between people with disabilities and others facing societal hurdles.
“That class helped me figure out how to talk to people, how to show them my view without putting other views down,” said Cox. “I learned how disability plays a role in diversity and how to better advocate for people with disabilities. He [Dr. Ashley] opened my eyes to things about race that I had not considered. Using those things, I was able to figure out a different way to describe to people how disability fits into diversity.”
Cox did not always see himself in the advocacy space. He originally planned to major in engineering at Texas A&M University and design products for people with disabilities. When that didn’t work out the way he hoped, he switched to political science.
Taking classes at the Robert H. ’50 and Judy Ley Allen Building led him to the Bush School.
“I’ve always wanted to advocate for others with disabilities. The best way to do that was by going to the Bush School and getting my master’s in public administration. I use that to influence policy and help other people with disabilities to pursue a life I was blessed to have.”
After graduating from the Bush School, Cox began his own consulting firm, Cox Consultants.
So far, Cox has helped a client improve their hiring rate for people with disabilities. He gathered data on disability hires and analyzed it for changes in hiring practices over time. From there, he could apply his own knowledge of disability to make recommendations to the company on how to improve their language and hiring processes in a way that encouraged people with disabilities to apply for jobs.
“Data analytics is something I definitely took from the Bush School,” said Cox. Other skills developed under Bush School professors, like policy writing, have enhanced his ability to communicate his message to clients and the public.
Now, his audience includes the Texas Legislature. “It is a big honor to be able to have that direct connection to the policy makers in the house, to be one of the bigger voices for people with disabilities in the state of Texas.”
“If anything, I hope to inspire other people to go out advocate for themselves and others, making the community better, not just for people with disabilities, but all people. When you have people with disabilities out in the community making a difference, it makes the world better for everyone.”
By Micaela Burrow