[Athen] White House Highlights STEM Innovators in the Disability Community as "Champions of Change"

Laurie Vasquez Vasquez at sbcc.edu
Fri May 4 11:55:41 PDT 2012


The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President
Obama*s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector
is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to
entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are
doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

To watch this event live, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/live at 1:30
pm ET on May 7th.

The White House "Champions of Change" are:

Ralph Braun is the founder and CEO of The Braun Corporation. Diagnosed
with Spinal Muscular Atrophy in 1947, he began using a wheelchair for
mobility. Determined to maintain his independence, he engineered the
worlds first motorized scooter and followed with the first accessible
vehicle a few years later. The company grew substantially over the next
decades, and today, The Braun Corporation is the worldwide leader of
wheelchair accessible vehicles and wheelchair lifts in the mobility
industry. What started as a part-time business operated from his
parents* garage has grown into an international corporation with over
800 employees. Ralph is now 71 years old and is the father of five adult
children. He still lives and runs The Braun Corporation from his
hometown of Winamac, Indiana with his wife, Melody.

Joseph Sullivan is president of Duxbury Systems, Inc., a small company
that has specialized in software for braille since its founding in 1975,
and which now employs two blind people and which provides braille
translation software for more than 130 languages worldwide. He has also
served on many braille-related committees, including the Literary
Braille and Computer Braille Committees of the Braille Authority of
North America, was chair of the technical design subcommittee of the
Unified English Braille (UEB) project of the International Council on
English Braille (ICEB), and currently serves on the UEB Maintenance
Committee of ICEB. Joe believes that braille is the key to literacy for
blind persons, that literacy is the key to an informed citizenry, and
that an informed citizenry is essential to civilization.

University of North Texas (UNT) Biochemistry graduate student Nasrin
Taei is developing a model peptide system to investigate the effects of
mutations that cause sudden cardiac arrest in young adults. Her model
system will be used for testing potential candidate drugs that
ameliorate the structural effects of heart disease causing mutations.
Nasrin is a member of Phi Theta Kappa an international honor society. As
a STEM model, she tutored at the community college and mentored high
school students, which led to her recognition at UNT as a Soaring Eagle.
Nasrin is being honored as a Champion of Change for her humanitarianism
and contributions toward discovering a treatment for heart disease and
making a better future for people around the globe.

Maria Dolores Cimini, Ph.D. is the Assistant Director for Prevention
and Program Evaluation at the University at Albany Counseling Center and
has served as the Principal Investigator for over six million dollars in
behavioral health projects funded by the National Institutes of Health,
the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the
U.S. Department of Education during the past decade. As a
scientist-practitioner, Dr. Cimini has been active in promoting access
to STEM for students with disabilities, particularly young women with
disabilities, through her work with the American Psychological
Association*s Women with Disabilities in STEM Education Project for
which she serves as Co-Chair and her mentoring of students and early
career scientists on a national scale. Through her own experience as a
scientist with a disability, she is helping our nation identify and
enhance facilitators and address barriers to STEM education and career
success for people with disabilities. Dr. Cimini is being honored as a
Champion of Change for her work in enhancing access to the STEM
disciplines by students with disabilities through her research,
leadership, and mentoring efforts.

As a professional and a parent, Virginia Stern has been working for
more than four decades to raise expectations of persons with
disabilities, their families, educators, and employers, especially
employers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Since 1977 she was a guiding force of the Project on Science, Technology
and Disability of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS). She recognized that talented students with disabilities
needed more than legislation and STEM degrees to gain employment in
their chosen fields. In 1996 Mrs. Stern and her colleagues developed the
flagship program, Entry Point!, to provide paid internships and develop
career skills in the private and public sectors for students with
disabilities in STEM. Hundreds of Entry Point! alumni have joined and
continue to advance in the STEM workforce of the nation.

Steve Jacobs is President of IDEAL Group. Steve is dedicated to
enhancing the accessibility of STEM curriculum for students with
disabilities. Steve*s company offers software that translates printed
STEM materials into digital formats for conversion into speech and
Braille. Steve*s company also developed fully-accessible STEM-enabled
eBook reading software. Over the past 3-1/2 years, Steve*s company has
become one of the world*s largest developer of mobile accessibility
applications with five million installations in 136 countries. Steve is
also working with many institutions to tech-transfer their STEM-related
work to mobile platforms. These institutions include
Smith-Kettlewell*s Video Description R&D Center, University of
Oregon*s Mathematics eText Research Center, and Georgia Tech wireless
RERC and sonification lab. Steve is a 1973 graduate of Ohio State
University. Steve and wife Pauline have been married for 37 years.
Pauline and Steve have two daughters, Shana and Jessica, and a
granddaughter Brooke Christine* who is Steve*s boss.

Rafael San Miguel began his career at NASA working on the Space Shuttle
program, and has spent the past 23 years as a scientist for The
Coca-Cola Company. He also serves as a board member of the Atlanta
Speech School, an 80-year old private institution focused on meeting the
needs of those with speech and language based disabilities. Rafael, who
has been profoundly deaf since infancy, creates awareness about
disability by focusing on ability as he inspires young people to pursue
education in science and math. Using his unique format that presents
science in an exciting way, he has volunteered at schools both locally
and in communities where he travels by connecting with underserved
schools through the volunteer network of Points of Light. Rafael is now
turning his energies toward a call to action and creating an initiative
called the U.S. Science Project focused on inspiring individual
scientists, businesses, legislators and community leaders to scale
efforts for engaging in impact-driven volunteerism to begin to fill the
science deficit in our nation through a volunteer Science Corps.

David H. Rose, EdD, is a developmental neuropsychologist and educator
whose primary focus is on the development of new technologies for
learning. In 1984, Dr. Rose co-founded CAST, a not-for-profit research
and development organization whose mission is to improve education, for
all learners, through universal design for learning (UDL). Dr. Rose also
teaches at Harvard*s Graduate School of Education where he has been on
the faculty for more than 25 years. He is the author or editor of
numerous books and articles on UDL, and the winner of awards from the
Smithsonian Museum, the Tech Museum, and others.

Christine Reich is Director of Research and Evaluation at the Museum of
Science, Boston, one of the world's largest science centers. The Museum
of Science brings science, technology, engineering, and math to about
1.5 million visitors a year through its dynamic programs and interactive
exhibits. As Director of Research and Evaluation, Christine oversees a
department that conducts research and evaluation studies related to
various aspects of the Museum experience, but her passion and expertise
focus on researching ways to advance the inclusion of people with
disabilities in museum learning. Prior to her current position,
Christine worked as a museum educator and an exhibit planner,
specializing in the development of museums exhibitions and programs that
are inclusive of people with disabilities.

George Kerscher began his IT innovations in 1987 and coined the term
"print disabled." George is dedicated to developing technologies that
make information not only accessible, but also fully functional in the
hands of persons who are blind or who have a print disability. He
believes properly designed information systems can make all information
accessible to all people and is working to push evolving technologies in
this direction. As Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium and
President of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), Kerscher
is a recognized international leader in document access. In addition,
Kerscher is the Senior Officer of Accessible Technology at Learning Ally
in the USA. He chairs the DAISY/NISO Standards committee, and serves on
the USA National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)

As a child in the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind in
1949, John Boyer found that contemporary scientific material in braille
was almost non-existent. John has never lost the sense of frustration he
felt when the braille resources available to him were insufficient to
satisfy his hunger for more science education. John believes that is the
motive for his life*s work. He obtained a master's degree in Computer
science, with a minor in electronics engineering at the University of
Wisconsin in 1980. His first company was a Braille publishing enterprise
which served an international client base. Abilitiessoft, Inc., his
current company, creates open source adaptive software which makes Web
pages available to blind persons through a Braille display. The current
project, BrailleBlaster, will allow the integration of text with Braille
graphics such as maps and graphs into a format accessible to blind

Dr. Dimitri Kanevsky is a Research staff member in the Speech and
Language Algorithms Department at the IBM T.J.Watson Research Center.
Prior to joining IBM, he worked at a number of prestigious centers for
higher mathematics, including the Max Planck Institute in Germany and
the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1979, he
invented a multi-channel vibration based hearing aid, and founded a
company to produce and market this device. He also developed the first
uses for speech recognition as a communication aid for deaf users over
the telephone, for which he received an award from the National Search
for Computing Applications from John Hopkins to Assist Persons with
Disabilities. In 1998 Dr. Kanevsky introduced the first remote
transcription stenographic services over the Internet, and created the
ViaScribe product speech recognition concept and system that allows
automatic transcription of lectures in real-time and the creation of
multimedia notes. At IBM he has been responsible for developing the
first Russian automatic speech recognition system, as well as key
projects for embedding speech recognition in automobiles and broadcast
transcription systems. He currently holds 152 US patents and was granted
the title of Master Inventor IBM in 2002 , 2005 and 2010. His
conversational biometrics based security patent was recognized by MIT,
Technology Review Magazine, as one of five most influential patents for
2003. His work on Extended Baum-Welch algorithm in speech, another
initiative for embedding speech recognition in automobiles and his work
on conversational biometrics was recognized as science accomplishment
in 2002 , 2004 and 2008 by the Director of Research at IBM . In 2005
Dimitri Kanevsky received an Honorary degree (Doctor of Laws, honoris
causa) from the University College of Cape Breton. He was elected a
member of the Word Technology Network in 2004 and was a Chairperson of
IT Software Technology session at Word Technology Network Summit 2005 in
San-Francisco, Calif. He also organized a special session on Large Scale
Optimization at ICASSP 2012 in Japan.

Henry Wedler is a graduate student at the University of California,
Davis, working towards his Ph.D. in organic chemistry. Inspired by
programs offered by the National Federation of the Blind in high school
and with encouragement from professors, colleagues and others, Henry
gained the confidence to challenge and refute the mistaken belief that
STEM fields are too visual and, therefore, impractical for blind people.
Henry is not only following his own passion; he is working hard to
develop the next generation of scientists by founding and teaching at an
annual chemistry camp for blind and low-vision high school students.
Chemistry Camp demonstrates to these students, by example and through
practice, that their lack of eyesight should not hold them back from
pursuing their dreams. Henry was nominated by Douglas Sprei of Learning
Ally, a nonprofit that produces accessible audio textbooks for blind and
learning disabled students, which is an indispensable resource that
allowed him to excel in school.

Sina Bahram is a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science at
North Carolina State University. His field of research is Human
Computer Interaction (HCI). Sina's primary interest is the dynamic
translation of interfaces, with an emphasis on innovative environments
being used by persons with visual impairment (PWVI) to facilitate
learning, independence, and exploration. His other research interests
focus on using AI inspired techniques to solve real-world user-centric
problems. When he is not busy with his academic pursuits, Sina enjoys
staying on the bleeding edge of technology and working with small,
high-tech startup companies. Sina's passion for his field originally
stems from the fact that he is mostly blind and uses assistive
technologies such as a screen reader to navigate computer systems and
technological devices. After experimenting in the fields of
bioinformatics, privacy policy/law, and systems security, Sina
discovered that his heart lies in helping users of all capabilities use
computer systems more effectively and efficiently. He has worked in HCI
full-time ever since.

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