The Writers

Michael Barber

Michael Barber was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and attended the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton from K-12. He spent 4-1/2 years with the Iowa Department of Transportation after which he became a vending facility operator for a little over 14 years through the Iowa Department for the Blind’s Business Enterprises Program. After that, he spent 5-1/2 years working for what is now Wells Fargo as their first totally blind communication specialist in both the credit card and home mortgage branch. It was there that he learned the Windows operating system and JAWS for Windows. He has spent the last 14 years at the Iowa Department for the Blind as a technology analyst. Ten years were spent working on Project ASSIST, where he helped with the production and dissemination of tutorials to teach blind people how to use the computer from a strictly keyboard approach. These tutorials were distributed throughout the United States and in many countries around the world, including France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Russia and Norway.

Says Barber, “I am pretty much a self-taught computer user. When I learned to use a computer, I did so by much exploration and by asking questions of other computer users. At that time, there were no tutorials or classes to help blind people learn to use the computer.”

Barber is married to Kim, and they both enjoy their dog Allie. They have two granddaughters, who both have more energy than is needed to power the whole state of Iowa.

Curtis Chong
Curtis Chong has more than 40 years of experience in commercial and nonvisual access technology.

Born prematurely in Honolulu, Chong lost his eyesight lost due to excessive oxygen in an incubator. Without the incubator, Chong would have died; so the choice was simple: live as a blind person.

His involvement in affairs of the blind began when, in 1969, he joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and, through that organization, worked to improve the quality of services provided to the blind of Hawaii. In 1972, Chong was hired by the Federal Aviation Administration and began his career as a computer professional. Because there were no talking computers at the time, he developed his own Braille output program for the IBM 1401 computer which, together with a piece of elastic taped to the front of an impact printer, enabled him to Braille information stored on punch cards.

Chong has since held various high-profile technology positions in Minnesota, Washington, D.C, and Iowa.

In 1984, Mr. Chong was elected President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, a position that he still holds today.

Chong continues to be well regarded in the field of access technology for the blind. He continually writes and lectures on the topic and has served on a number of advisory bodies, including the National File Format Panel–a group charged with developing a voluntary standard which textbook publishers can follow to produce accessible material for K-12 students with disabilities.

Susie Stageberg

Susie Stageberg is a relative newcomer to technology: she had never had her hands on a computer until 2000, when her growing family’s needs necessitated a larger home, which in turn required a return to the workforce after 18 years as an at-home mother of four.

Knowing she would need computer skills to be marketable, she contacted the Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) for help. Ms. Stageberg credits Project ASSIST tutorials and her own stubborn refusal to give up with helping her get ready to go back to work.

In the winter of 2001, she joined the IDB staff in the Library’s Braille Production unit, where she put her new computer skills to work producing Braille materials to be used by blind Iowans in school, for work, and for leisure activities. In 2003, she joined the Project ASSIST team to produce tutorials designed for use by deaf-blind individuals whose interaction with the computer would be exclusively through a refreshable Braille display. During her time with Project ASSIST, Ms. Stageberg gave presentations at international technology conferences and had the fun of learning about the newest and best in nonvisual access technology. When Project ASSIST, a grant-funded program, ended, Stageberg found her way back to the Library, where she is currently a Reader Advisor, using her computer skills to navigate the Library’s circulation system and perform “other duties as assigned.”

Ms. Stageberg and her husband, Paul, live in suburban Des Moines with two teenaged children, two dogs, and a cat. When she’s not at work, Stageberg enjoys knitting, reading and choral singing. She writes a bimonthly fashion column for “Our Special”, a magazine for and by blind women produced by National Braille Press in Boston, Massachusetts. Autumn weekends find her cheering for her beloved Iowa Hawkeyes and Chicago Bears.


21 Responses to The Writers

  1. Pingback: Stick the with BraillNote | Technology for the Blind

  2. Pingback: Keep pushing for accessibility on Windows Phone 7 | Technology for the Blind

  3. Pingback: Microsoft Ribbon is accessible | Technology for the Blind

  4. Pingback: Samsun Haven: Is it for everyone? | Technology for the Blind

  5. Pingback: iPhone on Verizon a boon for accessibility | Technology for the Blind

  6. Pingback: Page not found | Technology for the Blind

  7. Pingback: The versatile digital talking book player | Technology for the Blind

  8. Pingback: Instant currency ID with the LookTel app | Technology for the Blind

  9. Pingback: At CSUN: Zoom Reader app on its way | Technology for the Blind

  10. Pingback: CSUN: A recap from the week in San Diego | Technology for the Blind

  11. Pingback: Curb Cut » The Great Big List from the 2011 CSUN International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference

  12. Pingback: Web Page Reading: Have It Your Way | Technology for the Blind

  13. Pingback: Hefty Battery Pack For iPhone | Technology for the Blind

  14. Pingback: Olympus Digital Recorders Still Accessible to the Blind | Technology for the Blind

  15. Pingback: | Technology for the Blind

  16. Pingback: Olympus DM-620 Still Accessible After All These Years — BlindGadget

  17. Pingback: Just Me and My Netbook | Technology for the Blind

  18. Pingback: The Struggle To Upgrade My iPhone To iOS 5 | Technology for the Blind

  19. Pingback: A Less Expensive Bar Code Scanning Alternative | Technology for the Blind

  20. Pingback: JAWS 13: The First Screen Reader To Recognize Text In Images | Technology for the Blind

  21. Pingback: HOW ON EARTH DOES SHE DO THAT? | Blind Living

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s