Speakers (2017)

Chieko Asakawa (Keynote Speaker)

Chieko has been instrumental in furthering accessibility research and development for three decades. By challenging traditional thinking on how the visually impaired use technology, she has explored solutions to improve Web accessibility and usability for the visually impaired and others with special needs. Series of pioneering technologies generated under Chieko’s leadership significantly contributed in advancing information accessibility, including groundbreaking work in digital Braille and voice Web browser.

Today, Chieko is focusing on advancing cognitive assistant research to help the blind regain information by augmenting missing or weakened abilities in the real world. She is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and IBM Academy of Technology. She was inducted into the Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame in 2003.

Chieko was appointed to IBM Fellow in 2009, IBM’s most prestigious technical honor. In 2013, the government of Japan awarded the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon to her. She has been also serving as an IBM Distinguished Service Professor at Carnegie Mellon University since 2014.

Lou Orslene

Lou OrsleneLou Orslene, MPIA, MSW, CPDM, serves as the Project Manager for the Mobile Accommodation Solution, as well as the Co-Director of the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at West Virginia University’s Center for Disability Inclusion (CDI).

As part of his leadership role at CDI, Lou provides training throughout the U.S., facilitates the strategic planning process, manages strategic partnerships, and works closely with outreach and education staff.

Lou graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with Master’s degrees in Public and International Affairs and Social Work. He also has certifications in Disability Management and Managing Public and Non-profit Organizations. Lou also has an undergraduate degree in Human Resource Management.

Lou is committed to increasing the employability of persons with disabilities. This commitment is continuously deepened through the exploration of the nexus between the needs of employers and abilities of persons with disabilities.

Peter Fay

Peter FayPeter Fay works at IBM Accessibility Research in Cambridge, MA. Currently, Peter is exploring how cognitive systems like IBM Watson and the Internet of Things (IoT) can enable the elderly to safely live at home as long as they are able.

Peter is also leading IBM Accessibility’s Higher Education research initiatives with key research institutions including University of Massachusetts-Boston, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and West Virginia University.

Over his 21 years with IBM, Peter has also worked in IBM Software Group focused on collaboration solutions and in IBM Global Technology Services focused on unified communications. Prior to joining IBM in 1995, Peter worked for a number of software companies in the Boston area.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College.

Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.

Follow Peter on Twitter: @PeterFay79.

Rébecca Kleinberger

Rébecca is the mother of hedgehogs and a PhD candidate doing research at the MIT Media Lab. Her work mixes science, engineering, design, and art to explore ways to craft experiences for self-reflection and human connection. As part of the Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab, she creates unique experiences to help people connect with themselves and with others. She accomplishes this using approaches that include virtual reality, rapid prototyping, deep learning, real-time digital signal processing, lasers, wearable technologies, and robotics.

Through five years of work on self-reflection technologies, Rebecca has developed unique expertise on the human voice as a means of expression, both to others and within ourselves. Her research spans a wide range of fields, including neurology, human-computer interaction, psychology, cognitive sciences, physics, biology, clinical research, linguistics, communication theory, and assistive
technologies. This broad range of work has enabled her to create tools and experiences that help people discover more about themselves through the uniqueness and expressivity of their own voice.

Rébecca’s work was used for a Financial Times magazine cover and has been shown at a wide range of events and venues, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Le Laboratoire in Paris, SIGGRAPH Art exhibition in Los Angeles, “Hacking Consciousness” at Harvard Divinity School, and EMF camp in the UK.

She has collaborated with Microsoft Research UK and the Google Magenta team and has presented her research at many international conferences. Working with Tod Machover’s team, her research has also been used outside of the MIT Media Labs as part of live shows and novel esthetic experiences at Maison Symphonique de Montreal, the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland, and the Winspear Opera House in Dallas.

Rébecca graduated from École National des Arts et Métiers in Paris with a Masters of Mechanical Engineering, and from University College London with a Master of Research in Virtual Environments, Imaging. and Visualization.

She is home-schooled in the art of raising hedgehogs.

Karen Young

Karen YoungKaren Young serves as VP & Chief Inclusion Officer of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a regional health services company serving members throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. In her current role, she is responsible for catalyzing and advancing Harvard Pilgrim’s company-wide commitment to put inclusion at the forefront of everything we do. Reporting directly to Harvard Pilgrim’s President & CEO, she leads the Center for Inclusion Initiatives.

Ms. Young holds an MSW from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Barrington College. Ms. Young is the recipient of the 2016 Carl Sciortino Ally award from the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and has received the Compassion, Courage and Professionalism Award from the Northeast Human Resources Association for her practice of human resource management. Ms. Young currently serves on the Board of Directors of Boston Alliance of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth (BAGLY) and is a Member of the Perkins School for the Blind Corporation.

Her purpose is to contribute by helping individuals, groups and organizations see gateways to meaningful engagement in the world.

Cheryl Cumings

Cheryl CumingsCheryl Cumings is the founder and chief executive of Our Space Our Place, Inc. (OSOP), a 501(C)(3) nonprofit based in Boston. Soon after entering high school, Cheryl contracted encephalitis and became blind. She completed her BA at Princeton University and a graduate degree at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Cheryl worked at the Pentagon, Peace Corps, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Even as Cheryl worked in the community, her concern for the success of blind children grew. Cheryl was concerned that without changes, the next generation of blind people would face the same obstacles she and others have encountered and that there would continue to be an unacceptably high unemployment rate within the blindness community.

As a result, in 2005, with the support of friends and family, Cheryl started Our Space Our Place, Inc., which provides an after school and career exploration program to middle and high school blind or low vision youth. The program is housed at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury.

Wanting to give blind youth an opportunity to participate in the tech field, OSOP created a Coding Camp. Students are taught HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Students also meet and interact with tech professionals.

Nicole Ross

Nicole RossNicole Ross, OD, MSc, FAAO serves as Assistant Professor of Optometry, New England College of Optometry. Dr. Ross’ clinical area of expertise in is in low vision rehabilitation. She is a clinical instructor for optometry interns in low vision at NECO Center for Eye Care Commonwealth and Perkins School for the Blind. At the college, Dr. Ross is an instructor for the following courses: Low Vision Rehabilitation throughout the Life Span and Principle and Practice of Optometry I and II.

Dr. Ross matriculated from the New England College of Optometry with dual degrees in OD / MSc program, achieving honors with distinction in both degrees. She conducted her dissertation work in low vision research at Schepens Eye Research Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ross was presented with the 2009 Atwell Award in low vision at the annual ARVO meeting for this work.

Dr. Ross then completed her residency in vision rehabilitation at Ohio State University, where she also supervised and participated in the clinical teaching of student interns. Subsequently, she completed a two-year clinical fellowship at the Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Additionally, part of her time in the fellowship program was devoted to clinical research within the Departments of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Ross continues to have research interests in evaluating outcomes of low vision rehabilitation care and low vision aid device development.

Dr. Ross became a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry in 2012 and has authored several research papers and abstracts, and she recently co-authored a textbook chapter on stroke rehabilitation. Dr. Ross has been an invited speaker to the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Optometry at the Vision 2014 International Conference on Low Vision in Melbourne.

Sonal Patel

Sonal PatelSonal has worked with web and accessibility since 1998 at the Harvard Extension School, teaching various topics related to web development for 15+ years. She also managed a consulting business on Web technologies, where her work involved developing accessible web sites that conformed to W3C standards.

Sonal has a PhD in Experimental Atomic Physics and has taught Physics at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where she was involved with research in education methods to teach Physics in High Schools.

She is a lifelong learner on MOOCs and is an active participant as a learner and a mentor on the major MOOC platforms like edX and Coursera. She advocates Social Learning on MOOCs.

Sonal believes, “When we build MOOCs that are accessible to everyone, we are creating equal opportunity to learn for everyone, including those who are visually impaired.”

In the past year, Sonal has worked with visually challenged students from Vision-Aid, a nonprofit based in Lexington, MA. She mentors students with varied degrees of visual impairment, as a mentor and as a learning facilitator, to guide and motivate them to take various courses on MOOCs like edX and Coursera. She believes that in the world of employment, continuous learning is the key to success for everyone and we should be mindful about providing accessible material on MOOCs. Accessibility on MOOCs will open up possibility for everyone to learn and improve their job skills. Sonal wants to help empower the visually impaired to get the full benefit of learning on MOOCs. Which will prepare them to contribute towards developing innovative solutions, which will lead to the creation of a more inclusive society.

Sassy Outwater-Wright

Sassy Outwater-Wright is the director of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI). She specializes in user experience for those with multiple disabilities and assistive technology instruction for the aging population.

She is a leader in small business accessibility. She believes that every business can and should be both digitally and physically accessible to all customers. Her work with companies in publishing, fashion, health and beauty, retail, lingerie, and entertainment have earned her a reputation for thinking outside the box and pioneering new ways of approaching old accessibility challenges that benefit both the business and the customer.

John Rochford, Student Panel Moderator

John has been developing accessible websites, web applications, and online courses since the early 1990s. In 2009, he started exploring and experimenting with best practices of web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities.

John is the Director of the INDEX Program, which provides information about professionals, programs, and services for people with disabilities in Massachusetts; and a faculty member of UMass Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, a research, education, and service center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. John is an Invited Expert on the World Wide Web Consortium’s Cognitive Accessibility Task Force and Low Vision Accessibility Task Force. John is also a co-founder and a co-organizer of the Boston Accessibility Group.

Visit www.DisabilityInfo.org

Follow John on Twitter: @ClearHelper

Student Panelists

  • Mina Shojaeizadeh, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, focus on eye tracking
  • Aurom Lum, Fitchburg State University, focus on app gamification
  • Cynthia Chen, Lexington High School, focus on technology and tools to make reading easier
  • Tong Wang, UMass Boston, focus on machine learning

Paul Parravano

Paul ParavanoPaul Parravano Co-Director, Government and Community Relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Paul has been part of the MIT community since 1991. His role in the Office of Government and Community Relations involves fostering communication and understanding between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and all levels of government, major constituency groups, and MIT’s surrounding community. He serves as a liaison and resource for people within MIT who may have a need to work with external parties and those in the community who have a similar need to interact with the Institute. Mr. Parravano serves as MIT’s campus federal relations officer, accompanying MIT’s President on regular visits to Washington and hosting campus visits by elected officials and other dignitaries.

In Cambridge, Paul works to strengthen MIT’s involvement in science education for K-12 teachers and students through a growing list of partnerships, especially with the Cambridge Public Schools. In all of his work and travel, both in Washington and locally, Paul’s most critical task is to represent the Institute in a personal way as a resource for knowledge, neighborly support, and the advancement of MIT’s mission of scientific education and research.

Prior to his employment at MIT, Paul worked as a staff attorney in a civil rights consulting firm in the Boston area, providing advice and consultation for corporations on the implementation of civil rights regulations. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. Paul likes to highlight his strong affinity for baseball, barbecue, and water sports. His greatest delight flows from his family, which includes two absolutely splendid daughters, Emily and Eleanora, and his wife Martha.

Brian Charlson

Brian CharlsonBrian Charlson is a national authority on assistive technology for persons who are blind or visually impaired.  Brian has worked at the Carroll Center for the Blind as both a classroom instructor and as the Director of Technology over the last 30 years.  Blind himself, he has dedicated his career to ensuring that persons with vision loss have equal access to technology and the skills to independently use it in their daily lives.

As Director of the Carroll Center for the Blind Computer Training Services program, and as the Chair of the Information Access Committee of the American Council of the Blind, he has worked with Sun Micro Systems, Adobe Systems, Microsoft, IBM and may other companies to improve the accessibility of mainstream products and services. While working with Freedom Scientific, GW Micro, AI Squared and Duxbury Systems, among others, to assure that access technology keeps up with the rapidly changing information technologies used in school, offices and places of public accommodation.

Brian has presented at national and international technology, leadership and special education conferences including traveling to Spain, Israel, Greece, England, Canada and Australia.  He is often a guest speaker on subjects related to access to technology for those with disabilities at universities, library associations and other media events. Brian has taken leadership roles in local, state, national and international consumer groups including the Bay State Council of the Blind, Library Users of America, American Council of the Blind and the World Blind Union.  Brian is an advocate for quality services for people who are blind so that they can achieve their individual best.

Brian’s current passions include universal design so that mainstream technologies can be used by everyone; making access technology training available to everyone who needs it and major League Baseball as a fan of the Boston Red Sox.  Brian enjoys playing the ukulele which he taught himself using YouTube.

Igor Feinberg

Igor FeinbergIgor Feinberg, currently with the Orbit Research LLC, leading worldwide channel sales development, has been in the assistive technology field for the last 8 years. Initially with the ABISEE Inc., makers of the Eye-Pal OCR-based reading devices for the blind and then Perkins Solutions, a division of Perkins School for the Blind where he was responsible for the sales of Perkins Braillers and other types of assistive devices. As part of his duties, he works closely with the prominent blindness organizations and various NGOs to bring new innovative solutions to the blind and visually impaired. Orbit Reader-20, a refreshable braille display and Graphiti, a dynamic multilevel tactile touch display are just a few innovative solutions that dramatically increase access to information for people with visual impairment.

Jessica Shi

Jessica ShiJessica Shi  received her B.S. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering in 2017. During her junior year, she and her friends invented a real-time text to braille converter called Tactile, which allows individuals who are visually impaired to read printed text such as menus, textbooks and agendas. Their concept is now patent pending in the U.S. and in India. Her team has been interviewed by media outlets such as Forbes, Mashable, and Upworthy. They were recently listed as one of the top 100 Global Thinkers of 2017. Jessica and her team since graduation have continued to develop Tactile. The company aims to improve braille technology and access for the 285 million visually impaired individuals worldwide.

Brenda Cole

Brenda ColeAs VP of Marketplace Inclusion at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Ms. Cole’s knowledge and experience within the healthcare industry spans 30 years.

Ms. Cole joined Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in February 2012 and is responsible for developing and implementing the strategy that prepares the organization for the changing, multicultural/multilingual demographics, and aligning the Marketplace Inclusion Initiative with the end goal to profitably grow business in new and existing markets, creating customer value through innovation and technology, while delivering the best in-class customer experience in the communities where she lives and works.

Ms. Cole authored a book on developing a Mentoring Program which served as the model for developing the first formal Mentoring Program at Aetna, Inc., and she has mentored over 150 young adults throughout her professional career.  Brenda been selected as a “go to” Mentor four years in a row by Women Unlimited, Inc., a national leadership program focused on developing women leaders.

Ms. Cole was a recipient of the 2015 National Diversity Leadership Excellence Award, which recognized her invaluable work as a leader who has not only achieved personal success, but has made it easier for others to follow in her steps.

She received her BA in Organization Management from Eastern University and an MBA in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, and most recently received a certification from Harvard University in “Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives.”   She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania.

Brenda is currently on the following Boards: Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM), Building Bridges for Education (BBFE), Sisters with Amazing Goals (SWAG) and the Metro West Chamber of Commerce.

Brenda considers herself a lifetime student, open to learning and growing in her passion pat it forward through inspiring and motivating others to succeed.