Last night an interview with me ran on Main Menu. Although I’m doing some work in radio I really do prefer the written form. In the interview that aired last night, Jeff Bishop, the host of Main Menu, asked me who, in the assistive technology field, I admired. I did the interview without notes and mentioned Ted Henter, Eric Damery, Glenn Gordon, Ben Weiss and a few others. Unfortunately, I left out a few people who I admire greatly because, at the time of the recording, they just didn’t enter my mind. So, today I present you with a few other people for whom I have great admiration but neglected to mention in the Main Menu interview.
As I admire all of these people, including those mentioned in the interview, I’m going to mention them in no particular order in this article. Thus, you can consider the admiration to be equal and the order in which they are presented to be random.
Recent MacArthur Genius Fellow, Jim Fruchterman is one whom I hold in extremely high esteem. Jim’s work in the blindness field has been tremendous and it is always been done under the auspices of a nonprofit because Jim felt it was the right thing to do. Today, in addition to bookshare.org, Jim is involved in everything from human rights to handheld minesweepers and brings a set of ethics, genius and tremendous energy to everything he does. Jim is also one of the most interesting, exciting and just plain fun people to be around.
I also greatly admire my friend Mike Calvo. Against all odds he took on the David role against the Goliaths of the access technology industry and, especially recently, has started making tremendous inroads into markets previously thought to be blocked by the Freedom Scientific and Humanware juggernaut. Mike, along with super hacker Matt Campbell, have managed to produce a credible screen reader without multimillion dollar budgets and sell it more affordably than any of their competition. Mike also brings a passion and the values of the community to his products and I recommend to everyone that they check out Freedom Box System Access if they haven’t done so already.
I admire John Gardner greatly. His Tiger Braille embossor’s have set a new mark for quality and durability in that market segment. John is also one of the smartest leaders of any access technology company and he brings a tremendously creative mind and a willingness to innovate to his business. Unlike most access technology leaders, John is willing to do high risk experimental projects motivated by his own blindness, curiosity and desire to have such products for himself to use. Along with Mike Calvo, John is one of only two blind people at the top of an assistive technology company and, as a result, his company shows the signs that the products are made for themselves to use with a lot of extra attention paid to quality and usability.
Last but not least, my admiration for a nearly unknown blind fellow in Oklahoma named Donnie Donne is nearly boundless. Donnie came back from Vietnam blind and missing the better portion of both of his legs. In the period since then he earned a degree in automotive engineering, not a typical field for a blind person, started a cattle ranch in Oklahoma which he still runs today with something on the order of 500 head of cattle and he participates in outdoor sports, a passion he and I share. Visit the Paddle Odyssey website at the link above and surf over to the stories page to read a long piece I wrote explicitly about Donnie a couple of years back. In brief, though, I must say I think that Donnie is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met and as a true American hero.
I also admire a tremendous number of people outside the blindness industry and, perhaps, one of these days I’ll do an article about them.