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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Assistive Technology Oral History Project

This note was posted on an assistive technology listserv this morning:

Have any of you been interested in the history of assistive technology.  How did we get to the point of voice recognition software, power wheelchairs, and other devices? 

There is a wonderful body of work that outlines the history of assistive technology and I hope each of you will take the time to enjoy, watch, and learn.

Chauncy Rucker is one of the “originals” in the use of technology and individuals with disabilities. Some years ago, after a along and satisfying career at the University of Connecticut that included preparing innumerable students to become tech-savvy educators, holding the annual CONNSense Conference and many, many other ground-breaking activities,  Chauncy “retired“… or rather, as hard-working “retiree” Diana Carl likes to put it, “refocused.”  He remains active at UCONN as professor emeritus involved in many projects, including launching the CONNSense Newsletter, but it another of Chauncy’s “refocusing” activities– and I dare say his favorite?–that I am writing to you about today.

The Assistive Technology Oral History Project has beenChauncy’s challenge and bliss since, in 2007, he began collecting audio and video interviews with people who have played and are playing strong, interesting and diverse roles in the development and provision of assistivetechnology devices and services aver many, many years.  If you have been to any of the major AT conferences over the last few years, you have undoubtedly seen Chauncy walking about with his audio and video equipment seeking interviews and making history as he goes.

At present the Assistive Technology Oral History Project consists of more than 50 interviews with AT community leaders, some as audio podcasts an others with full video.  All of these interviews are available at the AT Oral History project Web site (https://mail.alsa-national.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://atoralhistory.uconn.edu/index.html).  As you peruse the site, you undoubtedly recognize many, many AT colleagues and, I’ll bet you will greatly enjoy their stories. You will also see how many of the activities and tools that we take for granted today got started and, in his Director’s Notes find out a lot more about how the actual project was begun and sustained.

 In a bit of a turn-about, Chauncy was interviewed by Eliza Anderson at the ATIA 2012 conference in Orlando for anarticle that appears in the Friends of ATIA newsletter (Issue 11 available at https://mail.alsa-national.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.atia.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3933. When Chauncy was asked what he hoped people would take away from listening to AT Oral History, he said that one thing is the collegiality of the whole ATfield that comes up in several of the interviews.

I hope that each of you will find the time go to the website and “visit” with the people there whose work and passion are our collective roots.

And, if you have a chance, drop Chauncy a note  (chauncyrucker1@mac.com) and let him know how much his work means to all of us AT folks and how much it enriches our lives.  

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