Monday, January 20, 2003

Fullervision Statement of Principals

An Introduction and Background

My goal in launching this BLOG is to share with other interested individuals my thoughts and experience regarding subjects which interest me . My primary motivation stems from my professional involvement as a willing and able standard bearer for accessibility and usability of telecommunications (Telecom), Information Technologies (IT) and mass market 'consumer' electronics.

I believe technology should not discriminate by having a poorly designed user interface (UI), excluding use by people with disabilities. US laws and regulations prohibit such exclusion -- requiring manufacturers and service providers to provide "reasonable accomodation" to disabled people. To me any product and/or service that does not should be banned from the marketplace. This has been a traditional role of government -- to protect the public from excesses of the marketplace.

However, we live in a time of 'corporate socialism' and there is little or no enforcement of the 'fine sounding and high-minded' laws and regulations in the USA. The truth is that disabled people just don't have the political influence necessary to make politicians and the courts address such problems -- yet.

My career involved designing consumer electronics, cable television, /telecom and IT products and services. Whenever possible, I uded my knowledge, position and influence to advocate for the inclusion of disabled people. Such efforts were not often understood or respected by the business culture within corporate boardrooms.

Today, 'progress' for people with disabilities has largely come to a halt. One need only consider the 75% unemployment rate for disabled people to understand this fact. Finding this to be the case and, as own disability became more apparent, I decided to take a more aggressive stance.

As the US is seen racing backwards toward the cruel policies of the 19th century, it is time to abandon efforts of diplomacy, polite engagement and patience -- to instead reclaim what is already ours, our People Power!

I know that my experience with disability has given me a unique perspective. In facing the daily challenges posed by vision impairment has helped me to better understand the challenges faced by everyone challenged by a disability. If I can do it -- so can others! It's really a matter of perspective.

By engaging our vision we can begin improving our technologies to better serve the needs of all people. I envision a very exciting and bright future where technologies seem like magic, knowledge is always available and bringing people together on common ground of their own choosing. I embrace such a democratizing force for change and see it working equally well for all the World's peoples -- allowing them to choose their own scenarios for the future.

Today, most communications and information technologies are really badly designed with little or no imagination or creative thinking applied. This type of thinking has made me a heretic in Silicon Valley. This center of innovation seems to have forgotten that REAL innovation requires original thinking -- 'outside the box'.

The Future of Computing

To my way of thinking, the 'boat anchor' PC with it's attendant monitor and wire link it to the Internet -- could have been replaced long ago by ubiquitous, pervasive wireless 'Internet on denand'.

No need to be chained to your desk! computing infrastructure which weaves knowledge, communications and control, into a new social fabric embedded in the physical world. This technology would be good for people with disabilities!

In my experience the biggest obstacle to innovation and progress has U.S. business culture which exhibits paranoid, stereotypical thinking regarding people with disabilities. This hurts U.S. businesses because other countries are always looking for ways to better us and take over leadership in technology innovation.

Maintaining the status quo is the surest path to failure. The countries of the First World have aging populations. As such, truly 'cutting edge' technology products and services would naturally embrace these 'specs'. Attitude and perception are the real barriers to general acceptance of accommodating the needs of people with disabilities.

My approaches have changed over the years. From being the humble advocate -- hoping to persuade corporate decision makers with stories of improved usability and enhanced business opportunities -- to become a strident activist, determined to make companies comply with U.S. laws and regulations. Neither approach proved successful.

Now, I am thinking that the answer is in the strength of our numbers.

My efforts with gentle persuasion have not known much success, Neither did insisting which relied on the government to back me up. The good way is to recognize those companies that choose wisely to make products and services which improve the quality of life for all people. Such companies can find reward in greater market acceptance for their products and will earn positive brand recognition for themselves.

In the fullness of time the Disability Rights Movement will prevail and my message recognizing the need for change will be heard.

As 1 in 5 Americans have a disability and each of them has family and friends who would like to see them able to improve their career opportunities, independence and quality of life, it is difficult to imagine why anyone would choose to overlook such numbers.

Thank you for your consideration.


Gordon Fuller