Wanted to share an update about the conference last Saturday, with those of you who could not join us.
First a few testimonials from those who were there:
From Dr. Aparna Raghuram, who serves on our board and is a veteran speaker and participant at many national conferences: “It was a fantastic conference. I was wide eyes and listening ears the whole time. Very empowering."
From Mr. Puran Dang (who needs no introduction to most of you :) - “Our event was a spectacular success. We met so many good people. It was so inspiring to meet Chieko, Paul and others. They showed that nothing can sway you if you have the will power.”
From Karen Young, VP of Inclusion at Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare – our partner - “Thank you so much for the opportunity to join you this past weekend! I appreciate the care and attention Vision Aid and the Vision Aid community give to creating inclusive and heartfelt connections – and inspiring, informing and leading us toward affordable, effective solutions for those with visual challenges."
Keynote by Chieko
The day began with a beyond-amazing keynote. Such an honor and privilege to have Chieko Asakawa deliver the keynote for this year’s conference.Chieko (who is blind herself) has been instrumental in furthering accessibility research and development for three decades. A series of pioneering technologies generated under Chieko’s leadership significantly contributed in advancing information accessibility, including groundbreaking work in digital Braille and voice Web browser. During the keynote, Chieko focused on advancing cognitive assistant research to help the blind regain information by augmenting missing or weakened abilities in the real world. Interweaving cutting edge research with personal humor and stories, she held the audience spellbound for the full hour. Chieko was appointed to IBM Fellow in 2009, IBM’s most prestigious technical honor. In 2013, the government of Japan awarded the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon to her. She has been also serving as an IBM Distinguished Service Professor at Carnegie Mellon University since 2014 The Vision-Aid team is immensely grateful to Chieko for making a coming to deliver the keynote in Boston despite her tight travel schedule.
Panel on Innovations in Affordable Assistive Technology
The first panel after lunch explored the innovations in affordable assistive technology and devices for individuals with blindness or low vision. While there have been many advances in the field of assistive technology and devices, the high cost of such innovations keeps many of them outside the reach of the visually impaired. The focus of this panel was to highlight innovations anc challenges which are affordable and can be scaled up to each large numbers with low cost. Moderator: Paul Parravano, Co-Director, Government and Community Relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Speakers: Brian Carlson Director of Technology Carroll Center for the Blind Igor Feinberg, head of worldwide channel Orbit Research LLC, Jessica Shi B.S. Mechanical Engineering and member of Team Tactile at MIT. The highlight of this panel was the live demo by Brian of his favorite affordable technology that included many innovative devices for the blind
Panel on Empowering and Employing the Visually Impaired
This panel discussed how to prepare the blind and visually impaired get relevant skills and good employment opportunities in today’s economy. Topics included challenges faced by visually impaired who face over 70% unemployment rate even here in the US (and even more in developing countries), the use of MOOC’s to provide skills; the clinical perspective. The panel inlcuded Nicole Ross, Asst. Prof. New England College of Optometry
Cheryl Cumings; Founder, Our space Our Place and Sonal Patel: Vision-Aid's expert on MOOC’s.
Vision-Aid and HPHC Information session
Brenda Cole from HPHC and Vision-Aid presented an update of their respective work in the area of inclusive programs for the visually impaired
Thanks, and next steps...
Heartfelt thanks to all Team Vision-Aid members who attended and supported the conference. Many new connections were made and new ideas were formed and over the next few weeks and months we will build upon these as we continue our journey to serve the visually impaired.