Opening the Web to the Blind

I was a high school dropout, angry at those who saw my blindness as a limitation. I was working as a DJ in Miami nightclubs, using drugs and involved in a gang. Then a mentor told me: "Mikey, behind that keyboard you're an equal." I started writing mainframe-to-PC connectivity software and adding in adaptive technology to make it more accessible to disabled people. By my late 20s, I was consulting, working with the FBI and Alamo Rent A Car. I did the first Pizza Hut where blind people could take orders. Then we lost the funding for job training for the blind and for making workplaces more accessible to the disabled.

So I went back to the world I knew—until I discovered this thing called the Internet. In 2000 a friend and I decided to try to make the Web accessible to blind people. We put our software on thumb drives and CDs. Blind folks have huge transportation issues, but now they can work from anywhere.

If your iPod or GPS talks, that's whiz-bang cool, but for me, it's not a luxury. I'd like to see universal design in computing. Not because it's the right thing to do, to heck with that. There are millions of us. Do it because my money's as green as the next guy's.

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