Wired To Work
By Gina M. Larson
In 1989, it took Vernon Cox a long time to write a letter. As a quadriplegic, he would put a pencil in his mouth, lean over a keyboard, and peck out each and every letter to compose one single memo.
Cox wanted a better solution, so he sought the help of Marty Tibor.
At the time, Tibor owned a computer-consulting business, Synapse Adaptive, that helped find IT solutions for companies — not individuals. But Tibor was glad to help. A few years earlier, his vision was temporarily compromised due to diabetes and he knew it was difficult to work efficiently with a disability.
Cox wasn't the only one who found his world changed. Intrigued that technology could dramatically alter one person's life, Tibor decided to research other tools that could help disabled workers become more productive.
What he found wasn't impressive. The few products on the market didn't necessarily work reliably, nor did they work on multiple computer platforms. Tibor thought the technology could be better.
With the help of engineers from Stanford University, Tibor created the Synapse total-access port, or TAP. The TAP is a single switch into which a wide range of peripherals can be installed to help people with low mobility. Even more impressive is that it can be used on nearly any operating system — Unix, Mac, mainframe or PC. Tibor is now working to the Synapse Video TAP, which will universally convert text on the screen to speech.
Of course, the TAP is not a solution unto itself. The software and hardware that plug into the device is what enables people with disabilities to do their jobs better. For instance, a person with limited mobility can plug in a head-tracking device that will work like a mouse to open files and documents.
Next page: "If you're solving a problem, you don't make what already exists."