Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Larry Skutchan: a Blind Cool Tech

Larry Skutchan holding his John R. Mattioli Jr. Technical Innovation Award

With the introduction of APH's Braille+ Mobile Manager, I thought it was time to talk about someone I've looked up to for many years.

As a student at the Kentucky School for the Blind, I became aware of Larry Skutchan when I began working on the apple II E computer. My screen reader was a program called Bex and I remember seeing Larry's name on the credits. I would later meet Larry as I toured APH and stopped in his office to hear some of the latest speech-enabled products offered at the time. It's people like Larry who fired up my interest in technology and computers.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to speak with Larry at different events and now that we work in the same building, I get to speak with him a little more often. He's just one of those people who you learn something from everytime you talk to them. He's always up on the latest computer gadgets and filled with great ideas of how to make technology work for the blind. There's a handfull of people that have made a difference in my life, and Larry is certainly one of them.

Larry began his career writing software for use with the Apple II computer, the ProWords talking word processor and ProTerm, a telecommunications program. He created the ASAP and ASAW screen readers for DOS and Windows, respectively, to make computers accessible to the blind. Skutchan later formed the company, Microtalk, and later the BlindCoolTech Podcast, an internet forum for people involved in developing technology for persons who are visually impaired and blind.

Born in Nebraska, Skutchan has lived all over the world as his dad spent 20 years in the Air Force. After his father retired, the family bought a farm and settled in Arkansas. He graduated from high school in Arkansas and received a B.A. in English from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. He lost his eyesight at the age of 19 due to retinal detachments.

People like Larry have opened so many doors for the rest of us. I wouldn't be the Coordinator of Fred's Head without the work of Larry Skutchan.

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