On occasion, a sad event occurs that makes a major impact on me personally. Last weekend, one of the leading entrepreneurs in adaptive technology in the world, Dr. Russell Smith, died in a small plane crash in New Zealand, along with his wife.

Russell was someone I greatly enjoyed and admired. His commitment to developing technology for blind and low vision people started long before I even knew there was a field. Based in New Zealand, he built one of the leading companies in the world. We worked together well as our approaches were complementary. For example, the BrailleNote device is an incredible tool when used with our Bookshare.org service.

But, the business and technology ties understate how great a guy Russell was. A leading blind commentator gives some flavour in a piece entitled In Memory of Two Wonderful People.

He was a constant presence at the major disability conferences around the world and especially here in the U.S. He would good naturedly rib me about how often he came to my country and remind me that I had to come to his country. After more than a decade of this banter, I finally committed to coming to New Zealand early in 2006. And now, my friend won't be there to greet me and brainstorm about what the technology innovations should be to serve a community we both care about so much: people with vision impairments.

The blind and the world in general are much poorer because of this loss.


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