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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blind software pioneer delivers Turing Lecture

An IT entrepreneur, who overcame blindness to become a world champion water skier and went on to establish his own charity for the visually impaired, yesterday, Wednesday delivered the prestigious Turing Lecture at The University of Manchester in United Kingdom (UK).

Media Relations Officer at the institute’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Mr. Simon Hunter, informed that Director of Data Connection Ltd and founder of the a-technic charity, which develops technology for the disabled, Mr. Chris Mairs, delivered the lecture, entitled: “Lifestyle access for the disabled - adding positive drift to the random walk with technology.”

The lecture, hosted by the University’s School of Computer Science, focused on the affect advancing technologies like ipods, mobile phones and even microwave cookers have had on people with disabilities.

Mr. Hunter also said that the event was sponsored by the British Computer Society (BCS), Institution of Electrical Engineers and IBM.

Held at Roscoe Building, Lecture Theatre A, University of Manchester, he said, the lecture saw Mr. Mairs, who overcame a severe inherited eye disease to eventually lead the British disabled water ski team to victory at four world championships, said technology could sometimes be helpful to disabled people.

“On one hand technology can sometimes help visually disabled people, but on the other hand, the ‘technology heavy’ nature of 21st century lifestyle often disenfranchises the disabled. I will be looking at what should and can be done to improve the outcome resulting from this technological dichotomy,” he said.

Mr. Mairs who directs Data Connection’s product line strategy and is Chief Technical Officer of their MetaSwitch telephony subsidiary, also has oversight on Bat Blaster device which is used by blind water skiers throughout the world to compete in slalom events.

The Turing Lecture series is held in honour and recognition of Alan Turing’s contribution to the field of computing and Chris Mairs’ lecture represents the eighth lecture in the series.

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