My name is George Kerscher (just George please), a new Mentor with the DO- IT program. I'll introduce myself and give you a little background on the work I've done.
First, I'll let you know that I am blind. I have retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and am in the later stages of that eye disease. I can still see a little bit, but not much. I use a computer with a speech synthesizer all the time.
I am 45-years-old and started off my professional career as a teacher and coach. I taught at a lot of different grade levels, but most of the time I was in the high school and junior high levels. In 1980 I started to get into computers Ñ that was also the year I turned in my drivers license because of the RP. In 1985, I could no longer read standard print even with magnification and decided to quit my job and go back to school for a masters in computer science.
At that time I discovered the problems of attending college with a disability -- ten years have made a lot of difference and things are much better now! One of my biggest problems was reading books. I could never seem to get the books I needed from Recordings for the Blind and I couldn't find very many qualified readers. At that time the cost of a scanner and OCR equipment was over $20,000 and very few people can afford that kind of cost. So, I had a big problem.
Well, I figured that publishers are using computers to publish these books, so why not just get the files and read the books on the computer? I wrote to many publishers asking for their files and only one company responded by sending me three disks each containing the books, but what a surprise! The files were a complete mess and they were not usable. Over Christmas break, I looked very closely at the files and began to decode that publisher's files. By the end of break, I had the first electronic copies of Lotus 1-2-3, Dbase III, and WordPerfect. This was in the beginning of 1988 and by that Summer I had started a project at the University of Montana called Computerized Books for the Blind & Print Disabled" (CBFB). This was very successful as far as non-profit companies go. In 1991 CBFB joined forces with Recording For the Blind to form their E-Text division!
Currently I work for Recording For the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) we added the "& Dyslexic" to our name in July of this year. My position is research fellow and I help RFB&D stay on top of technology for persons with print disabilities. I work with a lot with publishing systems and also serve on the International Committee For Accessible Document Design (ICADD).
I enjoy interacting with the Scholars in the DO-IT program. I try to stay on the leading edge of computer technology for the blind sometimes called the bleeding edge! I believe that computer technology is the great equalizer for persons with disabilities and I encourage students with disabilities to get an adapted computer and really learn how to use it!
On a personal note, I feel that my disability does not reduce my worth as a person or a member of society -- in other words, I'm proud of who I am and what I can do!
DO-IT continually recruits Mentors. If you are interested, or know someone who might be, email firstname.lastname@example.org and request an application. To write to the Mentor group, send a message to email@example.com