Harper and I head to Madison, Wisconsin today, and one of the things we’ll be doing there is this:
“The Lindbergh Lectures”
Thursday, September 29
12:00 – 12:50 PM
Room 1106 Mechanical Engineering Building
“Seeing a Bigger Picture”
NPR commentator, Teacher and Journalist
Author of “Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound”
Thanks in large part to assistive technology, people like Beth Finke, who are blind, live full, creative and pleasurable lives. But what if AT researchers stretched the boundaries even further? Beth Finke discusses the assistive technology she relies on today and the AT on her “What if?” list.
My “Seeing a Bigger Picture” lecture is free and open to the public. It’s in conjunction with AT Expo 2011 at the University of Wisconsin (also free and open to the public), and I was invited by Jay Martin, the director of the University of Wisconsin’s Assistive Rehabilitation and Technology Design sequence. Jay and I met last year when we appeared on a public radio show about technology that helps people who have disabilities.
Jay walked my (now retired) Seeing Eye dog Hanni and me to the University of Wisconsin Union after our interview, and that walk gave me a chance to ask him one question that didn’t get asked over the radio. “What motivated you to get involved in assistive technology in the first place?“ That’s when he told me about his son’s accident. Liam, now age 27, was paralyzed in a diving accident in 1999. From a University of Wisconsin article:
At the time of Liam’s accident, Martin was director of UW–Madison’s Engine Research Center and had studied internal combustion for nearly 20 years. But upon returning to work after his son left the hospital, he found that disabilities, rather than engines, were constantly on his mind.
Jay talked to a mentor in the engineering department about switching his research focus to assistive technology. A number of his colleagues were interested in doing similar research, and in 2002 the Center for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology (UW-CREATe) was born, taking an engineer’s approach to improving the lives of people with disabilities. Again from that UW article:
Today, more than 10 faculty and staff researchers and four times as many undergraduate and graduate students carry out the center’s academic goals of teaching, learning and research.
Jay urged me to come to the AT Expo last year, and I’m sure glad I did. In addition to being exposed to all sorts of new technology, I got to meet his son.
Liam finished high school with his graduating class and went on to receive a degree in psychology from University of Wisconsin. When I met him last year, he was working at a booth at AT Expo as a mentor for Midwest Alliance, an effort to encourage students with disabilities toward careers in science, technology, engineering and math. He noticed me there struggling with my cell phone to call for the hotel shuttle to pick me up. “Would it be easier if we gave you a ride?” he asked. “I’ve gotta go back to my office anyway.” He and his colleague Chris ended up chauffeuring me back to the hotel.
This year I’ll be a bit more high-tech savvy, what with my talking iPhone and all. But if asked, I’ll sure let Chris and Liam chauffeur me home again.