Friday, November 13, 2009

The Freedom of Speech

This week, Intel made a big, bold move, stepping squarely into my world with the launch of the Intel Reader. Frankly, I could not have dreamt up better company, and I applaud their interest in changing the world a little bit by creating a product that just might take the sting out of reading for millions who have difficulty with print due to dyslexia and declining vision.

The mastermind behind the Intel Reader is Ben Foss, a kid from New Hampshire (now 36), who managed his way ― all the way ― to, through and beyond Stanford Law School with severe dyslexia. While reading print, admittedly, was not one of his strengths, strategy clearly was! He knew early on that if he could get all those words past his dyslexia, the rest might be easy.

Last week, I had the great pleasure of participating in a number of press briefings on the Intel Reader, serving as an advocate for people with low vision, as well as sharing my perspective as a person in need of a “reading machine.”

The Intel Reader is coming home with me this weekend ― and we have big plans! First, I’m going to read my mail, which has been piling up. Then, I’ll break open a magazine or two, maybe Vogue first, then The New Yorker. And on Sunday, my plan is to take some of my favorite cookbooks off the shelf and try a new recipe. These things are suddenly possible again because the Intel Reader has a camera that photographs pages of text and converts it to speech. The technical aspects are of little interest to me; I just want to know if it will help me get back to things that I enjoy but have been unable to continue to do with less and less vision.

Everything happens for a reason. I’d like to think that Ben Foss was very successful at overcoming the challenges of dyslexia. And his endeavors may save millions of children and adults the embarrassment of having to say, “Sorry, I can’t read this.” Not to mention the unfortunate misperception that lack of intelligence or illiteracy is to blame.