[bct] Blind tech exec knocks down walls for disabled

  • From: "Sam Bushman" <sam@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "BlindCoolTech Email List" <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 20:37:35 -0700

Hi all,

I thought you guys would enjoy reading this article.
Thanks
Sam bushman

Blind tech exec knocks down walls for disabled
By
Michelle Meyers
CNET News.com Staff
Published: March 18, 2006, 6:00 AM PST
TalkBack
E-mail
Print
profile
Chris Mairs, a tech executive and world champion water-skier, has never been one
to let his blindness get in the way of his career or personal aspirations.
But it wasn't until about 1994, when he helped develop and test a new technology
that lets vision-impaired water-skiers participate in slalom competitions, that 
Mairs
recognized an even larger calling.
Chris Mairs
Chris Mairs is chairman of A-technic,
which develops assistive technology.
"It liberated me from my sight," he said, describing the audio device, the first
of a handful of technologies the
A-technic charity
, of which he is chairman, has helped develop and fund for people with 
disabilities.
"So often what we're doing in life is compensating for our disability. But with 
this
(water-skiing device), sight was no longer the limiting factor."
That was just the beginning of Mairs' unrelenting efforts to help develop 
assistive
technologies, and also to educate the business community and the public about 
technological
barriers. He's also known for tackling the question, in lectures and the media, 
of
whether technology ultimately helps or hinders the disabled.
"I have not heard anyone really talk about the issues in quite the way Chris 
does,"
said John Rigg, a blind researcher for the London School of Economics who 
frequently
uses A-technic's
newspaper reader
.
Looking at issues for the blind, for example, Mairs points out that for every 
technological
advance, such as talking books or online shopping, there are also accessibility 
roadblocks.
Screen-dependent text messaging and iPods, for example, are two crazes a blind 
person
can enjoy only to a very limited extent, he said.
Mairs on skis
Mairs is a member of the British
Disabled Water Ski Team.
A native of Nottingham, England, 45-year-old Mairs is the chief technology 
officer
for
MetaSwitch
, which develops telephone switches for telecommunication service providers. 
MetaSwitch
has U.S. offices in California and Virginia, but is a division of London-based
Data Connection
, a 350-employee company Mairs helped start in 1981 after working on mainframe 
and
communications systems software at IBM.
Mairs, who is now based in London, registered blind at age 18 after losing his 
sight
from a degenerative condition, just as he started studying computer technology 
at
the University of Cambridge. A self-described "speed-freak," he took up 
water-skiing
at about age 23 when he figured out it was "exhilarating without being 
life-threatening."
Until recently, Mairs water-skied on the
British Disabled Water Ski Team
, which he captained to win several world championships. The audio device for 
slalom
skiing, called
Bat Blaster
 ("bat" as in blind, and "blaster" because it's "very noisy"), is now used in 
all
major disabled water-ski competitions, Mairs said.
The newspaper reader, or "Newsreader," which repackages what otherwise would be 
a
massive unformatted text file, is also still used by many, and was particularly 
popular
before newspapers started putting their content on the Internet. For Rigg, it 
makes
it so "reading the newspaper every day is not a chore."
"For a lot of people, it's the difference between reading a paper or not," he 
said.
While most of A-technic's projects are geared toward helping the blind, its 
broader
mission is to improve accessibility for people with all disabilities. One device
in the works is a universal remote control with just a few buttons and spoken 
feedback
that could be useful for someone with a visual impairment or limited dexterity.
Technology--from motorized wheelchairs to hearing aids to talking books--has 
definitely
made life easier and less isolating for people with disabilities, Mairs said. 
But
too often, disabled consumers are left out of the equation for far too long, he 
said.

copied from CNET
        

Other related posts:

  • » [bct] Blind tech exec knocks down walls for disabled