Dumb post to the Stargardts Facebook group

Jason White jason at jasonjgw.net
Mon Apr 8 21:13:24 EDT 2013

Bill Cox  <speakup at linux-speakup.org> wrote:
>At one point I wanted to collaborate with Sina on a book about being blind
>in the age of technology, where stories like your's and Sinas would make
>excellent examples throughout the book.  Then I got busy at work, and now
>I'm more busy than ever.  I still like the idea, though.

I'm sure you can find wonderfully inspiring people, such as those who have
already contributed to this thread, to share their experiences for the book.

Here's a brief personal account, for what it is worth. I am very fortunate
never to have undergone the experience of losing sight: I simply didn't have
it in the first place. I divided my time between the local school for the
blind and a good private school chosen by my family, switching full time to
the latter after the primary years. I was also active in music at the time; a
highlight of those years was the opportunity to travel to Europe as a
violinist in a chamber orchestra. (Visiting the then divided Berlin shortly
before the collapse of the east German regime is an experience that I shall
always remember.)

I completed secondary school with sufficiently good results to enter a
combined Arts/Law degree program at university. My first year of university
also entailed discovering UNIX, the Internet, and becoming an observer in a
group known as the International Committee for Accessible Document Design
(ICADD), which was developing Document Type Definitions and a transformation
technique to enable publishers to make books accessible to people with
disabilities. I started reading all of the papers I could acquire related to
accessibility research. Four years later I entered the Honours program in
Philosophy, a subject in which I had become deeply interested. At this point,
the World Wide Web was also expanding rapidly, and I was invited into the
inaugural W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Working Group, the beginning of
what unexpectedly became quite a career in Web accessibility standard-setting
work that I continued while studying law school subjects in subsequent years.
The W3C work involved negotiating technical standards as well as editorial and
administrative responsibilities, notably as Co-Chair of the Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines working group from 2000-2004 during the development
of WCAG 2.0. It was all highly enjoyable and engaging, with superb people
involved and a lot of work to be done. I contributed to technical work in the
Daisy Consortium as well, principally associated with Daisy 3.0.

Having completed law school, specializing in public law (international law,
human rights, Constitutional interpretation), it was time to pursue my
childhood dream and embark upon a Ph.D. I chose a topic in philosophy, more
specifically in contemporary analytic semantics of natural language, that was
relevant to both my interests in public law and moral philosophy and to my
Web-related work. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to keep up with the
workload attached to my Web accessibility responsibilities while focusing on
research toward a Ph.D., so I had to set aside my W3C commitments entirely,
just to concentrate on research and thesis/dissertation writing.
Notwithstanding the difficulties along the way, I ultimately graduated with
the Ph.D., and have since returned to more Web accessibility work. I am also
attempting the academic publishing process while looking for the next research
opportunity and pursuing a number of smaller projects, with an intention to
contribute at both a theoretical and practical level to issues of human
rights, social justice and of course accessibility as a special case of the

That's rather long as a summary but it covers the essential points.

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