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University of Connecticut Assistive Technology Oral History Project

Alan Brightman, Ph.D.

Senior Policy Director for Special Communities - Yahoo!

Date: March 13, 2008

Snippet 1: "How did you happen to end up at Apple Computer?" (3:14)

Snippet 2: "Tell us about the initial acceptance of the Macintosh by those with disabilities?" (3:13)

Download: Full Transcript

Alan talks about beginning his awareness of the needs of those with disabilities when he volunteered in state institutions, retaining those stark images and wondering how he could make a difference in the lives of the people he met.

After working in the non-profit sector setting up programs in Boston for individuals with developmental disabilities and getting his PhD at Harvard, he was invited in 1984 to visit a friend in California who worked at Apple. He tells the fascinating story of joining the Apple Education Foundation, proposing that they include the needs of those with disabilities, learning the best business lesson of his life, and the "hands off" exercise with the engineers that was a turning point in understanding the challenges of accessibility and how to make the Macintosh accessible.

Alan reflects on the awareness of the real purpose of their work--changing the experience of being disabled—and shares a story of a talented jazz musician paralyzed from the neck down who was able to continue to be what he was before his accident. The Disabled Children's Computer Group and the Alliance for Technology Access connections and development are chronicled during this account of Alan's AT journey. Alan tells of his present work at Yahoo making sure that anyone with any disability can use the web and internet the way they want to, and the challenge of adapting mobile devices to meet a wide range of needs.