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Your name: Neil Jacobson

What’s your connection with disability?

I have always had Cerebral Palsy. I also consider myself part of the disability community as well as an advocate for people with
disabilities

Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Trek

If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go?

I’ve been to many countries including England, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Israel, Canada and Mexico. In my golden years I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but the USA!

What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck?

Cookies and fruit pies

Now That We’ve Been Introduced…

What do you do:

As you know, after 29 years of working at Wells Fargo, I retired to start a disability-focused employment company that specializes in consulting on staffing and placement issues. I quickly realized that there are systemic problems that intrinsically inhibit people with disabilities from working and being productive. Our society holds very low expectations for individuals with disabilities.

Defining disability as the “inability to work” in order to receive disability benefits is an inherent disincentive. I am dedicating the rest of my retirement to see that these antiquated policies are changed. I am doing so by working with The World Institute on Disability where I am leading an initiative called CareerACCESS. I am attaching a brief description of CareerACCESS. To learn more about it, please see http://www.careeraccess.org.

So now I am trying

a) run Abilicorp

b) lead the CareerACCESS initiative

c) be a good board member on 3 non-profit agencies,

d) be a good husband and father and friend and

e) deal with a progressing disability – not necessarily in that order!

How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?

You can find my oral history at
berkeley.edu/collections/drilm/collection/items/jacobson.html.
I also suggest reading The Question of David, by Denise Sherer Jacobson.

Basically, I owe a lot to my Mom who, being a holocaust survivor, believed I HAD to succeed, to my special education teachers and classmates who believed I COULD succeed, to my high school and college environments that showed me how to succeed, to the disability community that encouraged me to succeed, to jobs including CTP and Wells Fargo that ENABLED me to succeed and of course Denise and David who made me feel loved.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

5 years from now I hope to be completing my PhD, advising the implementation of Social Security reform that enables people with disabilities to work via CareerACCESS, writing a book on disability and money, spoiling a grandchild, and enjoying mocha with friends

Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you
when you’ve gone?

‘He was a good guy. He did a good job, Go! Go! Go!’

Who or what inspires you?

Judy Heumann, who I have been close with since I was 4 years old and
who has tirelessly worked for the Disability Movement. My father who
was a simple down-to-earth guy who knew what he wanted (which was to
see his 3 kids grow up and be OK)

About Disability

If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you
that was really struggling with something related to disability – what
would you say?

Use Personal Assistant Services! Use time and energy for important
things. There are wonderful people available, ready and able to
assist. To be independent, you need to know how to be dependent

What do you like about your particular disability?

Because my disability is so obvious, I’ve had the great opportunity of
observing the world from a ‘different’ view point. Because I couldn’t
do things the ‘normal way’ I had to create ‘my way’ of doing things.
It was (is) great to know there’s always a way to do what you really
want to do.

Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?

We are indeed people first. Some of us are nice, some not-so-nice,
some funny, some warm, some cold, some bright, some boring etc. We all
have good days and bad days. Enjoy what you like and forgive the rest.

What single piece of technology makes your life easier?

My powered wheelchair! Before high school, I never used a wheelchair.
In high school and undergrad college, I only had a manual wheelchair.
The day I arrived in Berkeley (8-23-1974), Ed Roberts convinced me to
use a powered wheelchair. Since then, you could take away my car and

my home and my belongings but don’t take away my powered wheelchair!

neil jacobson

Connect with Neil through:

Abilicorp

AssistMeLive

LinkedIn

Read his story: Bancroft Library Oral History Project

 

 

Josh Miele will be profiled today. I first met him back when I worked at UC Berkeley. My dear friend Lucy Greco suggested him as a keynote speaker when I was looking for someone with enough ‘ooomph‘ (and frankly, who would be funny because I tend to space out during speeches). He was a captivating and hilarious speaker in that powerful, deep, makes you think and laugh at the same time kind of way.

So I’m really happy and honoured that he consented to be profiled here. (and for more on Josh, please check out the recent New York Times article on him: A Life Well Lived).

**************************

  1. Your name: Joshua A. Miele, Ph.D., but my friends just call me Josh. I’m also known around Berkeley as “that one-eyed blind guy who walks too fast…”

 

  1. What’s your connection with disability?

 

I was born a poor sighted child, but joined the ranks of the blind when I was burned at the age of 4. I was mainstreamed and had little or no connection to the broader disability community until I moved to Berkeley to attend college in 1987. It was at that time that I began to understand that I was part of an enormous, and enormously cool, community of people with a history, cultural context, and wealth of identities. I consider myself deeply connected with the rich Berkeley disability community.

  1. Star Trek or Star Wars?

I was eight years old in 1977. Star Wars had an indelible developmental impact on my little brain, although as a deeply indoctrinated SF reader and fan, I recognize the important substantive impact Star Trek has had on our culture. So I guess I’d have to say Star Wars in my heart and Star Trek in my brain. How’s that for equivocation?

  1. If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go?

Maybe New Zealand? My language skills aren’t what they might be, having unenthusiastically studied French in high School, but with no great love of the language or its people. I’m addicted to being able to communicate, so I’m afraid I’d be restricted to English-speaking countries. I’ve visited England and Canada, but New Zealand has always sounded like an absolutely beautiful place. Also, I love the accent!

 

  1. What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck?

 

Hmm… probably some kind of pasta. I’m somewhat famous for my pasta salad with parmesan, parsley, pine nuts, and peppers. I do a lot of cooking and love many foods, but you have to be careful what you bring to a pot luck, especially in Berkeley…

Now That We’ve Been Introduced…

 

  1. What do you do:

I’m an information accessibility researcher. Basically, I invent, prototype, evaluate, and otherwise involve myself with a scientific approach to finding new and better ways for blind people to get access to the information they need to do the things they want to do. For blind people, the majority of accessibility barriers involve getting access to information, so it leaves me free to work in a wide variety of areas. Generally, I focus my efforts on information accessibility  issues around The Three E’s –education, employment, and entertainment,  but that includes pretty much everything.

 

I’m a Principal Investigator at The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, where I am the Director of the Video Description Research and Development Center. I am also the Associate Director of the Smith-Kettlewell Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center.

  1. How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?

I started out studying physics at UC Berkeley, wanting to be a space scientist. I have always loved science, and physics is at the root of all sciences. I thought I might be some kind of atmospheric or solar researcher, but realized relatively early in my career that, while I am delighted by the knowledge of how things work, I am not the kind of theoretical thinker that makes major innovations in physics.

 

I have also always been fascinated by computers and software, and in college I got involved with a small software company called Berkeley Systems, a company made famous by After Dark, the screen saver with the fish tanks and flying toasters. It turns out that they had also invented something else – a screen reader for the Macintosh. This came at a time (around 1989) when graphical computers were really starting to take over from earlier command-line interfaces, and blind people were terrified that the new graphics-based computers were going to close the door on many employment opportunities. I was fascinated by the approach that Berkeley Systems was taking, and was invited by my mentor and friend, Marc Sutton, to join the Berkeley Systems team, first to do technical support, and later to help guide the expansion of the Berkeley Systems screen reader (called outSPOKEN) to Windows.

 

When the accessibility group of Berkeley Systems was sold, I decided to return to school to get a graduate degree. I wanted to help guide information accessibility on a larger scale than just working on one screen reader. I wanted to investigate new approaches to information accessibility with broader implications for interface design and usability. I was interested in finding out more about how non-speech sounds could be used to present usable information as part of a data display, and learning more about the limits of human auditory and tactile perception. In short, I needed to become a real scientist. So I decided to return to school and get a Ph.D. in psychoacoustics – the study of auditory perception.

 

It’s interesting to note that many of the information accessibility tools I needed as a graduate student – software for displaying and interpreting data – did not exist. I had to write my own software to produce data plots, both in sound and embossed tactile graphics. These tools later became the basis for some of the accessibility research I came to conduct as a post doc and beyond – SKDtools and TMAP.

 

  1. Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

 

I am extremely happy doing the things I am doing. My only wish would be to be able to do more of it, and better. Maybe I’ll win the lottery…

 

  1. Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone?

He was smart, funny, and resourceful, and when he remembered to put effort into it, he was a really nice guy…

 

  1. Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by problems. When I hear about an accessibility problem a friend or colleague is having, or when I learn about a new piece of inaccessible technology, my mind immediately starts flipping through possible solutions. The harder and more urgent the problem, the more inspired I am by it. I am also inspired by innovations in mainstream technology. Whenever I read about a new sensor or transducer, social media platform or consumer device, my first thought is, “how can we use that to solve one of our pressing accessibility problems?”. I have many heroes, but I am not generally so much inspired by them as I am trying to some day measure up or learn from them. They are all bad-asses of one form or another, and in order to keep myself from feeling completely inadequate, I often remind myself that heroes are also human, and feel their own failures as deeply as I do. They include Eleanor Roosevelt, Louis Braille, James Holman, Julia Morgan, Jim Fruchterman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Tim Cranmer, and many more.

About Disability

 

1. If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say?

“Don’t hit him – it’s not worth it.”

  1. What do you like about your particular disability?

I love that I don’t have to look at all of the advertising everywhere.

  1. Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?

There is no *one* thing about disability that I wish people would get. There are a bunch of blind-specific things that I wish people would get – things like I’m not lost, I ‘m not stupid, and I’m not lonely. There are other more general things that I wish the world at large would embrace, but I’m not sure if it can be boiled down to one thing. I suppose my single piece of advice for the non-disabled world in interacting with disability would be to relax.

 

  1. What single piece of technology makes your life easier?

Public transit!!

 

• Where else can we find you online?

• Website: http://www.mielelab.org

http://twitter.com/@berkeleyblink

Josh Miele

Getting to Know You

Your name: Susan Henderson

What’s your connection with disability?
I’m a person with a disability — a below the knee amputee, and I work at a disability civil rights organization. My life has always been filled with disability. I am amazed when I meet people who say that they don’t know anyone with a disability.

Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek. While I’ve never gone to a Star Trek convention, we went out of our way when we were in Wales to visit Portmerion so we could see The Village where The Prisoner was filmed. Vote for No. 6.

If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go?
Spain.  I love the late, late nights, gatherings in the squares, the architecture, the warm sea and the warm people.

What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck?
The Davis Coffeehouse Broccoli Noodle Casserole. Feeds a lot of people and it’s so “potluck”

Now That We’ve Been Introduced…

What do you do?
I’m the executive director at Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund


How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?

I used to work in private law firms (I’m not an attorney) but as I finished my MBA I knew that I wanted to do something more than help law firms increase their profit. The first time I looked at job listings I saw an ad for an administrator at DREDF. Despite being a person with a disability I wasn’t connected to the disability community, but I was aware of the movement and the connection between disability and discrimination. I’d followed the 504 Sit-Ins in the news back in 1977, and watched the corporate reaction to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
With a healthy retirement fund.

Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone?
I’ll leave that up to them.

Who or what inspires you?
Here’s my chance to say that I respect and admire what my parents, Ozzie and Dorothy, did for me and my brother. They grew up in large families living in poverty during the Depression and World War II. They left high school to work to help support their families. They didn’t get a chance to finish their education. My dad became a union electrician and they joined the middle class. In their different ways, they made sure we could and would go to college–that we’d be among the first in their families. They made sure that their kids had opportunities. And everyday, I’m inspired by the people I work with and know in the disability community.

 About Disability

 If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say?
I never struggled with being disabled. I did, for awhile, worry about other people who were uncomfortable around me when they learned that I was an amputee. But once I realized that I was going hear the question “Why are you limping?” over and over again, and when I replied because I used a prosthetic leg and their response would be, “I would never have known — you walk so well,”  I lost that sensitivity.


What do you like about your particular disability?

It leaves more room at the bottom half of the bed for the dogs.

Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?
That pity is useless. That resenting or denying accommodation is ignorant. That fear is misplaced.

What single piece of technology makes your life easier?
Laptop — undeniably. It’s often the last thing I put aside before I close my eyes at night and the first thing I grab when I wake up.

***
Connect with Susan Henderson via:
DREDF Facebook page, Website: DREDF

Henderson at Nigerian UN Mission

Susan Henderson at Nigerian UN Mission

Post Script:

For parents of children with disabilities, there is a tremendous amount of information on the DREDF site under “Special Education“. Those new to disability and legal advocacy will find it worthwhile to spend time on the DREDF site, learning about IDEA, section 504, the ADA and more.

Getting to Know You

Your name Neil Jacobson
What’s your connection with disability?

I have always had Cerebral Palsy. I also consider myself part of the disability community as well as an advocate for people with disabilities

Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Trek

If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go?

I’ve been to many countries including England, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Israel, Canada and Mexico.In my golden years I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but the USA!

What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck?

cookies and fruit pies

Now That We’ve Been Introduced…

What do you do:

As background, after 29 years of working for Wells Fargo as a disabled IT professional, I retired as a Sr. Vice President to start Abilicorp, a disability-focused employment company that specializes in staffing and placement. I quickly realized that competing for existing jobs was very difficult for many people with disabilities.  It became apparent to me that a new job market was needed.  Knowing how ubiquitous the internet and telecommunications has become, Remote Assistance Services seemed to be that next new job market.

So now I am trying

a) run Abilicorp,

b) start AssistMeLive,

c) chair Center for Economic Growth (CEG) for WID,

d) start my PhD program in Public Policy at Walden University,

e) be a good board member on 3 non-profit agencies,

f) be a good husband and father and friend and

g) deal with a progressing disability – not necessarily in that order!

How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?

You can find my oral history at bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/drilm/collection/items/jacobson.html. I also suggest reading The Question of David, by Denise Sherer Jacobson.

Basically, I owe a lot to my Mom who, being a holocaust survivor, believed I HAD to succeed, to my special education teachers and classmates who believed I COULD succeed, to my high school and college environments that showed me how to succeed, to the disability community that encouraged me to succeed, to jobs including CTP and Wells Fargo that ENABLED me to succeed and of course Denise and David who made me feel loved.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

5 years from now I hope to be completing my PhD, advising the implementation of Social Security reform that enables people with disabilities to work,     writing a  book on disability and money, spoiling a grandchild, and enjoying mocha with friends

Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone?

‘He was a good guy. He did a good job, Go! Go! Go!’

Who or what inspires you?

Judy Heumann, who I have been close with since I was 4 years old and who has tirelessly worked for the Disability Movement. My father who was a simple down-to-earth guy who knew what he wanted (which was to see his 3 kids grow up and be OK)

About Disability

If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say?

Use Personal Assistant Services! Use time and energy for important things. There are wonderful people available, ready and able to assist. To be independent, you need to know how to be dependent

What do you like about your particular disability?

Because my disability is so obvious, I’ve had the great opportunity of observing the world from a ‘different’ view point. Because I couldn’t do things the ‘normal way’ I had to create ‘my way’ of doing things. It was (is) great to know there’s always a way to do what you really want to do.

Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?

We are indeed people first. Some of us are nice, some not-so-nice, some funny, some warm, some cold, some bright, some boring etc. We all have good days and bad days. Enjoy what you like and forgive the rest.

What single piece of technology makes your life easier?

My powered wheelchair! Before high school, I never used a wheelchair. In high school and undergrad college, I only had a manual wheelchair. The day I arrived in Berkeley (8-23-1974), Ed Roberts convinced me to use a powered wheelchair. Since then, you could take away my car and my home and my belongings but don’t take away my powered wheelchair!

neil jacobson

Connect with Neil through:

Abilicorp

AssistMeLive

LinkedIn

Read his story: Bancroft Library Oral History Project

 

Today is the day in which I’m going to finally do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time here on this blog: profile an interesting person with a disability each week. Without further ado, please meet my first guest, Rich Donovan.

________________________

Getting to Know You

  1. Your name:

Rich Donovan, CEO of Fifth Quadrant Analytics 

Return on Disability

  1. What’s your connection with disability?

I see disability as the single largest opportunity to create economic value facing the world today.  Oh yeah…almost forgot….I happen to have CP.

  1. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars…although Picard is certainly worthy of mention.

  1. If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go?

I’d live on a sailboat large enough to visit all of countries with salty water.

  1. What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck?

One that doesn’t break when dropped.

Now That We’ve Been Introduced…

  1. What do you do:

I create value for the economy by measuring value inherent in the disability market. Our company, Fifth Quadrant Analytics, assigns ratings to companies based on their actions in the disability market. We also marshal companies and governments to act with a focus on economic value, rather than just social value.

  1. How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?

I think my story begins with being silly enough to run for class president at Sacred Heart High School in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada…and actually winning.  For me, that was a wake-up call in terms of what was possible.  I  attended the Shulich School of Business at York University where I studied finance and policy. I met some lifelong friends there, and got a rigorous education in understanding the fundamentals of accounting, something the school does very well. Got my first job at Citibank Canada in Credit Risk at 18 in my second summer at Schulich. I got that job through cold-calling, so yes, it does work.

Risk, as I learned then, is the basis for all finance and I tell people that if you want to understand money, understand risk. Our current financial crisis is based in a gross mis-handling of risk.  I then ran for Federal Parliament prior to taking a job at the Ministry of Finance for the Province of Ontario assisting in managing the market risk tied to the $35B (at the time) provincial debt. Then something wonderful happened, I was admitted to the Class of 2002 at Columbia Business School.

My two years at CBS were incredible, especially the first 6 months. My colleagues, both students and professors, are the best at what they do in the world…and here was this ‘little guy from Newmarket’ trying to keep up. It was also my first time living alone…in Manhattan.  Needless to say, it was intense. I still recall rolling into orientation introductions on my scooter thinking “Holy shit…I have no option here but to go full throttle and see what happens”. Of course; I didn’t know then that I would have lots of highly motivated friends around who had my back then…and still do today. 

I was fortunate to have 6 offers of employment and chose to join Merrill Lynch as a trader on their Equities Portfolio desk. At Merrill, I managed a $6B Arbitrage book, helped manage the risk to the firm of capital commitment trades, and ended my career there in the internal hedge fund as a portfolio manager running $100mm in global macro strategies.  While at Merrill, I founded an organization called Lime Connect, which is a vehicle for corporations to recruit people with disabilities at colleges and universities across North America.

Lime was a test to see if companies would embrace a market driven message and action around disability.  The answer: YES.  It got me thinking that recruiting was a small part of the value proposition for most companies acting in disability and it forced me to redefine disability as an emerging market of consumers with common demands and desires amongst those with disability and those who identify with them. I started to analyze the market as I would any other market as a portfolio manager and I was stunned by the size of the market – and the reality that NOBODY was looking at disability this way. 

In March of 2008, I decided to leave Merrill to start what is now Fifth Quadrant Analytics.  It started as a deep dive consulting firm with our anchor client- PepsiCo – joining on day 2 (still a client 5 years later).  It has evolved into a rating agency and index provider that ties action in disability directly to share price through the Return on Disability analysis system. The public face of the system is here http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/FQARODUS:IND and here http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/FQARODCA:IND .

  1. Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

Leading a team of professionals to spread the RoD system globally.

  1. Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone?

He adjusted the conversation, such that others changed their actions to change their lives.

  1. Who or what inspires you?

Richard Branson – I’ve been using the line – “Create a new world of POSSIBLE, yet deliver on the PROBABLE”.  This is essentially Branson’s bread and butter. He sells POSSIBLE in Virgin Galactic (I’m gonna haul your ass into space…someday), but he delivers a very commoditized product in airlines/mobile/bank – with a high PROBABILITY of satisfaction.  I think the same can be applied to disability – paint a picture of a world where disability drives outsized value as the POSSIBLE goal, while delivering on the concrete steps taken today that have a high PROBABILITY of success.  The key is to work your ass off to deliver on the POSSIBLE, while being comfortable with the fact that you aren’t certain of each step to get there.

The thousands of PwD I’ve met – These folks represent a new face for disability and 100% re-enforce that we are on the right track.

WD-40 – Yes, the lubricant. I keep a can on my desk.  WD-40 stands for “Water Displacement, 40th Attempt” – meaning that there were 39 versions that failed before they got it right. Whenever I pause with second thought of failure or looking foolish, I think “WD-40” and trust my instinct to move forward. I’ve learned to enjoy looking foolish at first, because my instincts and process are usually right.

My father – I remember coming home one day in high school during student council elections feeling crushed when I quietly discovered the PTA President was overheard saying that no “cripple’ would be President of Student Council while she was PTA Head.

It was the first time I remember being ‘hated’ due to disability. My dad sat me down at the kitchen table and simply said “If you want to be on top, you must be prepared for others who will try to knock you off. The only way the prevent being knocked off, is to be the best”

Words I still live by, and am instilling in my 2.5 year-old son  Oh, by the way, I won the election in a landslide and this is the first time I’ve told that story publicly. Curiously, I never met the PTA President…

About Disability

  1. If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say?

I avoided all things disability prior to 2005. It represented low quality when I wanted to personify excellence. My good friends from Columbia convinced me that I had the skills, the experience and the moral obligation to change the brand of disability.  I see 15 year old entrepreneurs today, and realize that I wish I started this earlier. 

Oh, I would have been waaaaay more confident with women if I just let my disability be part of who I was…if you are 18 and just starting to date, my advice is…go get ‘em Tiger.  To find the right partner takes finding lots of wrong partners (see WD-40 above)…but that can be fun too if you don’t tie your identity to rejection based on someone’s perception of your disability.  My beautiful wife Jenn was the 54th woman I dated in 52 weeks in 2006.  I wish my 18 year old self knew that…

  1. What do you like about your particular disability?

Everything. Man, if I could revel in it like a pig revels in mud, I would.  I would not be who I am today without it. It’s taught me how to do almost everything differently, both physically and mentally. That brings new perspectives that most folks just don’t have, and those perspectives are valuable if properly packaged.

  1. Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?

We’re not Jerry’s Kid’s anymore. Most of us have invisible disabilities that you would not know about unless we choose to bring you in.  The ‘bell curve’ of disability is still publically dominated by a largely unorganized minority of condition-based orgs that are dinosaurs who do not represent the ‘average’ PWD. The biggest challenge facing PWD is dismantling that legacy by helping folks understand the PWD are currently your butcher, baker and candlestick maker or soon will be…you might even be sleeping with one, and not know it.  

  1. What single piece of technology makes your life easier?

My King Keyboard, soon to be made obsolete when I can plug a chip into my brain and think to control any machine…then you guys are on my terms.

 

 photo(21)Rich Donovan

Connect with his company: Fifth Quadrant Analytics

 

 

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