Who’s Blind and in the Executive Suite

In its white paper, ACB commented on the lack of blind professionals in jobs outside the field of blindness. During 1989, a period of low unemployment, Julia Anderson, who for three years coordinated the Perkins Project with Industry, wrote in the Harvard Business Review about new innovations in technology leveling the field for blind employees and encouraging them to stop overlooking a group that now had independent access to print along with education and experience. Here’s her take on an interview for a job applicant named Russell with several telephone company division managers. “The applicant, blind since the age of two, had had five years of experience as a customer service representative with a government agency before attending a computer programming school. Russell demonstrated a device attached to a computer that allows the information on the screen to be read in braille on a tactual display. While he talked about his research in adaptive devices, he wrote a program to perform a simple data sort and then inputted the names of his interviewers. As the screen displayed the sorted material, Russell read it aloud by means of the attached display. Intrigued, the managers showered him with questions about debugging programs and the comparative versatility of braille and speech in accessing visually presented information. He answered them readily while he broke down the equipment and packed it up. As he left, Russell offered to show them “a piece of the most impressive technology ever developed,” and in one motion he snapped his folded cane into extension. Earlier, several of the managers had expressed reservations about bringing a blind person into the department. ‘What if there were a fire?’ one asked. ‘How would he find his way to the restroom?’ another wanted to know. But their interview with Russell convinced them that he would be an asset, so they offered him the job.” It’s 2020, and a search for blind or low vision executives at for profits showed that there’s still a whole lot of work to be done.

Chad E. Foster, VP at Red Hat , “the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source solutions,” received a diagnosis of RP at age three. He spoke with Authority Magazine for its series “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success”. Said Foster, who is also a motivational speaker and author of Blind Ambition, “Grit is what gave me the patience and drive to learn how to engineer software without being able to see the screen, and code the screen reading technology used by the blind to interoperate with the sighted world, even though I am blind myself….And after mastering my computer, grit was the foundation that allowed me to excel in the business world. Unstoppable Interview Foster explains more on his website. “… he taught himself how to write code in order to program his screen reading software. As a result he did what Oracle said could not be done – building a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software solution that created job opportunities for hundreds of millions of people.”