Introducing My Blog

November 30, 2009

After many years of following the blogosphere, a blog I can finally call my own.

I will use this blog to write about issues in the technology and accessibility space. Depending on how I utilize this blog, I may write about other topics not related to the above.

The driving force behind this blog is my passionate interest in technology and its role in making the world more accessible to people with disabilities. As some of you know, I was born profoundly deaf. This has colored the way I lived my life and made me the person I am now. I grew up mainstreamed in the public school system in Westchester County, N.Y., first in Scarsdale and then in Hastings-on-Hudson. In other words, most of my friends were not deaf. Academically, I was doing fine, but socially, I had to be creative. The Ma Bell telephones of that time did not lend itself to chatting with other friends and setting up social gatherings.

A TTY with telephone.

This was my main mode of telephone communication in the 1970's.

TTY’s were the savior of the times, yet even then, they were very limiting in their utility as a communication device for getting in touch with everyone else in the world. In high school, I dreamed about the perfect application that would enable me to chat up anyone I wanted, without going through technological hoops to make this work. It would be as easy as picking up the phone, dialing a number, and carrying on a normal conversation. Alas, it was and still is a dream.

When the Internet arrived as a mass medium in 1995, my opportunities for social and professional networking increased dramatically. I could email anyone I wanted, and be up to date on what my friends and colleagues were doing. Today, almost 15 years later, I now use video relay over the Internet to conduct phone conversations at work and at home. Last year, for the first time, I was able to conduct a worldwide conference call to 75 people at American Express. What appears mundane and a standard “given” for successful business executives and managers, is a new and empowering experience for me. I just wonder how far I came in my career without the aid of office technologies that people take for granted — I went through Wharton, got my MBA, and moved up through three different jobs in three different companies with minimal phone communication. That in and of itself sounds like a great achievement — however, I do not feel satisfied. I always have this feeling that I would have done more in the business world if I always had the capability to speak on the phone and understand the complex discussions in business meetings. That is why I am very excited about the technologies available today to enable me to carry on the telephone conversations that are part and parcel of life in the business world.

Even so, for each technological advance, there is usually a drawback. When closed captioning was introduced to television in 1980, it opened up TV shows and movies that I could not otherwise enjoy and appreciate. I missed out on Star Trek, Mod Squad, M*A*S*H, and Adam-12 in the 1970’s, but more than made up for it by following popular 1980’s shows like Diff’rent Strokes, Cheers, Fantasy Island, and Eight is Enough. Today, many shows are migrating to the Internet, and new video opportunities have emerged in the new medium – so much so that captioning services are not able to keep up with the demand, and even then, the economics do not support captioning of every video Webcast. So I am unable to enjoy most of the video offerings on the Internet. Currently, there are efforts to address this issue through business and political channels, including promising technologies that could address the problem of captioning every video Webcast, such as voice recognition and lipreading recognition.

For every obstacle, there is a creative solution. It is how I lived my life. This, I hope, is what this blog will be about.

Share

    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    Andy Harrison December 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Great column; however, you should never publicly admit that you watched “Diff’rent Strokes” or “Fantasy Island”. Hidden guilty pleasures are meant to be hidden.

    Reply

    Michael December 1, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I wish they were guilty pleasures. They were the only shows captioned in the early 80’s.

    Reply

    David Kanbar December 1, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Well written, Mike. I would also discuss what you are doing and going through day-to-day in your professional life. While I was not even remotely naive to your challenges, I was not aware of all of them (like there being no captioning for web casts).

    You’re an accomplished guy, and how you continue to overcome your disability and succeed is (at least to me and I would think many others) very interesting reading.

    FYI, I didn’t rely on captions and I freely admit to watching all the 80’s shows you mentioned. The blogosphere is the place to admit this stuff!

    Reply

    Leave a Comment

    Next post: