James Brady, the former White House press secretary wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan, announced Monday he is vice chairman of the National Organization on Disability.

At a news conference in Washington, Brady left the wheelchair where he has been confined since the shooting and walked with the aid of an assistant to the podium."I'm now one of the 37 million Americans with disabilities," he told his audience. "I know what it's like - the daily frustrations and problems. I want to help the National Organization on Disability sensitize non-disabled people to what it's like, and above all, what can be done in communities to improve and expand our democracy."

Alan Reich, president of the organization, described Brady as a public affairs professional whose volunteer counsel "will advance our goal of full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of life."

Brady, who suffered brain damage when he was shot in the head, reportedly chose to serve as a volunteer so he could retain federal retirement benefits. Brady said in addition to his new responsibilities, he is considering writing a regular newspaper column "that might help sensitize more people."

Invoking the nickname given to him by college classmates and used by many journalists during his tenure in the White House, Brady said, "So you might say that the Bear is back! And I'm ready to get on the playing field."