Stanford Alum Helps School For The Blind
Stanford’s Graduate School of Business recently published an article that interviewed the Perkins School for the Blind’s President and CEO Dave Power (Stanford MBA ’80) about the school’s embrace of new technology to close the gap so the 12 million blind children worldwide have fewer disadvantages.
Power is a former Sun Microsystems executive and Fidelity Ventures and Charles River Ventures V.C., who spent almost a decade “evaluating high-tech startups and looking for companies that had the greatest potential for impact.” Power’s son David is deaf and blind and was enrolled in a Perkins outreach program as a toddler, eventually graduating in 2009.
Power has spearheaded online course offerings at Perkins to “recruit and manage people with disabilities.” He explains, “We’ve created an international online community for teachers of students who are visually impaired. We have teachers in Egypt, Myanmar, and Indonesia sharing teaching plans over a private network. Last year we reached 70,000 students, parents, teachers and other professionals in 45 countries.”
Power has brokered partnerships with major companies like Uber, Harvard and Dunkin’ Donuts to “help them hire more people who are blind.” One of the major barriers to employment for blind people is transportation. Power explains that Perkins was instrumental in developing BlindWays, a crowdsourcing mobile app that helps visually impaired people find bus stops, with the help of a Google Disability Challenge grant.
According to the article, three of every four adults who are blind in the U.S. do not participate in the workforce, 60 percent of visually impaired students who enter college never finish, and only 10 percent of students who are blind learn braille.
Power explains that audio is a cornerstone for Perkins’ innovative technologies initiative, pointing to the KNFB Reader, which “takes a picture of a page of text and converts it to voice,” and TapTapSee, which “lets you point the phone at something and take a picture of it. You wait 10 seconds and it tells you what that object is.”