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

Greg Kraus greg_kraus at ncsu.edu
Fri May 4 12:27:58 PDT 2012

I have to give a special shout out to one of my local colleagues on
the list - Sina Bahram.


Greg Kraus
University IT Accessibility Coordinator
NC State University
greg_kraus at ncsu.edu

On Fri, May 4, 2012 at 2:55 PM, Laurie Vasquez <Vasquez at sbcc.edu> wrote:




> 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)

> Board.


> 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

> people.


> 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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