Over the past few weeks and months, the AT family has lost a number of people who will be missed for a long time to come.
A couple of months back, Eric Damery lost his father. Eric’s dad had a major influence in an entirely indirect manner on the history of access technology for people with vision impairment (PWVI). He did not invent anything nor did he define new and exciting features; what he did was give us Eric Damery.
Eric, already a resident of this part of Florida went to the Henter-Joyce office to buy a copy of OpenBook for his father. While there, the HJ staff was so tiny that Ted handled the sale himself and then gave Eric a demo of JAWS (the DOS version back in the Paleolithic era of AT). Eric was so enamored conceptually by the power of the screen reader that he practically camped out on the HJ doorstep until they hired him as their only full time sales person. Eric then went to as many places that would have him, he would sleep on friend’s sofas or at the cheapest motels around. Eric believed in the future of PWVI in the workplace and while competitors spent much less time educating the population, Eric went on a mission which resulted in a vastly greater acceptance of screen readers and PWVI in the workplace.
So, if Eric’s dad didn’t need a copy of OB, the zealousness and verve of Eric’s effort may never have been sparked and, observing the history of the industry, I cannot find another evangelist with so much energy and such a deep belief in the future of these products who would have picked up the ball the way Eric did.
Susan (my lovely wife) and I sent our condolences directly to Eric but everyone should remember that the kismet that caused an explosion in JAWS sales and a huge reduction in unemployment for we people with vision impairment was started by Eric’s dad who caused the dominos to start falling. We all owe Eric’s dad and Eric himself a great debt of gratitude as, without them, the real advances in screen reading, mostly invented by HJ/FS may never have happened.
By now, most of us have heard of the death of GW Micro salesman Clarence Whaley. Clarence was one of the real sweethearts of the access technology family. With him, it was never about competition (which we all took seriously) but, rather, when off the clock, we were all buddies. His charm and friendliness helped a lot of us lower our stress levels and enjoy the after hours times at many a conference.
Stephen Guerra, the commissioner of beep baseball and the greatest salesman at ILA lost his mother to a heart attack last week. I don’t know anything about Stephen’s mom other than she raised a really terrific son and we at BC send our heartfelt condolences to Stephen and his family.
Peter Scialli, a founding employee of Benetech, home of Bookshare.org, also passed away last week. About Peter, Jim Fruchterman wrote, “Peter’s impact on the field of access technology for the blind was major. He moderated email lists, organized conference sessions (I particularly remember Dueling Scanners) and wrote articles for the journals in the field. Peter believed strongly in the power of technology to help people with disabilities, became an expert in the field and then committed himself to sharing that expertise widely.
His knowledge, sense of humor and dedication will be sorely missed.”
BlindConfidential sends its deepest condolences to all of the families of these dearly departed individuals. If anyone has an address to send a contribution to a charity in memory of any of our recently departed please post it as a comment to the blog so we can send what we can afford.