When I left ACCD in May 1981, I was hired by Maryland Computer Services (Later Blazie Engineering) as a public relations specialist. MCS was a leader in developing talking terminals for blind and visually-impaired people.My job was to get MCS media coverage.Since talking terminals were seen by the media as science fiction becoming reality it was easy to get media coverage.
In the three years that I worked for MCS, I wrote and placed 47 out of 48 articles. In addition, I was successful in getting MCS marketing people and engineers on radio and TV programs.I stuttered when making the contacts, but nobody made a big deal of it.I was a professional doing my job and doing it well.
While working for MCS, I developed lifelong friendships with Deane Blazie, Ted Henter and Dan Gorney. Blazie and Henter developed first rate products for blind people Henter developed JAWS (Job Accommodations with Speech) and Blazie developed .Dan Gorney is the best marketing person I have worked with in the assistive technology area.
In the three years I worked for MCS, no one, to my knowledge, made any derogatory comments about my stuttering.Rather, everyone there praised me for my accomplishments. From time to time, I was asked, “How can you do all that you do while stuttering?”
My response was, “When people hear what I am selling they listen.”
As for success as a writer, I don’t stutter when I write.
Most people’s response to my answer, “I don’t stutter when I write” was “I see,” or “Catch you later.”
Between 1983 and 1997, I worked for more than a dozen assistive technology manufacturers as a public relations consultant and marketing director. I was very successful working as a public relations/marketing director.But these were not full time jobs. I wanted full time jobs. But no one wanted to hire me full time – despite my successes. I believe therewere two reasons for not hiring me full time.One was they could not afford to hire me full time. The second was my stuttering. I had heard some private comments about my stuttering. In some cases this was true. When I found such situations, I left the company.
In the early 1980s, I coined the phrase assistive technology to describe a range of products, used by a range of people with disabilities, that eliminated information barriers that historically kept them from being educated and employed. A multi-billion industry worldwide has developed around that phrase.
In the 80’s and 90’s, I was successful in writing stories for the New York Times, People Magazine, Newsweek, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other well-known publications. Still I was not able to find a steady job.
In the mid-nineties, I published a bi-monthly tabloid newspaper titled Assistive Technology News. Each issue ran between 32 and 40 pages.Each issue paid for itself. Over 38 months I published 19 issues.I stopped publishing because I lost my two best salespeople and editor at the same time.They were offered better paying jobs.I could not write the stories, sell the ads, do the layout and handle the business side simultaneously. Therefore, I stopped publishing.I was not wise enough to try to sell the newspaper.Being a successful businessman was not in my genes.
Despite my successes as a writer, I still could not get hired full time as awriter. In the mid 1990s, I decided I would try to sell the concept of a weekly column on disability issues to a national publication.For nearly four years, I was unsuccessful.I approached Time Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Post, Business Week, Nation’s Business, Associated Press, and other publications.Everyone thought the column was a good idea, but no one wanted to publish. Finally, . Nations Business and Business Week offered me the opportunity to write a weekly column. I picked Business Week. It was the correct decision.
The column for Business Week was an instant success.Business Week paid me very well to write 56 columns a year. I have never had so much fun, thrills, excitement as a writer as I did writing that column. The people who I interviewed included Hillary Clinton, Janet Reno, former vice president Al Gore, Texas Governor George Bush, Vinton Cerf, actor Christopher Reeve,Senator Max Cleland, singer Mel Tillis, Jeopardy’s host Alex Trebek, Clint Eastwood, Governor Jesse Ventura and Newt Gingrich.
My editors never told me they were sending someone else to do my interviews because I stuttered.They said, “go to it.” I did so with gusto.Iam credited with raising the awareness of disability issues to anational level.
While writing for Business Week, the column won the TASH Image award for portraying people with disabilities in a positive light; Easter Seals’ Equality, Dignity and Independence award; California Governor’s Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons award; American Council of the Blind Lifetime Achievement award; and the National Council on Communicative Disorders’ Charles Van Riper Lifetime Achievement Award.
I left Business Week in October 2001. It was one of the saddest days in my life. I have never come close to equalizing the visibility and the impact that I achieved when writing for Business Week.
In 2004, I was invited to Beijing, China as part of a team to speak on education policies on Educating Students with Special Needs. During the four day conference my stuttering never came up once.I spoke every day. I was proud of my accomplishments at the conference.
I returned to consulting after I left Business Week. One of the highlightsof my career was my multi-year association with Concurrent Technologies Corp. Foundation. I reported to Howard McClintic, one of the best men it was my pleasure to work with. While working for CTC, we producedthe book, Assistive Technologies: Expanding a Universe of Opportunities. The book remains one of the proudest achievements of my life. Unfortunately, the book did not sell as well as we wanted.
While working at CTC my stuttering was never an issue. Howard was interested in my abilities.
I had two situations in early 2008 and in 2009 regarding my stuttering. In 2008, I was invited to speak at a business meeting in Baltimore, MD on assistive technology’s benefits to the working man with a disability. Initially, I was given 45 minutes. The first two speakers went over their time limit by 15 minutes. The host of the program approached me and said, “If you would rather not speak because you stutter, I can shift your presentation to later in the day and you can have someone else give your presentation.”
I was livid with anger. I told the host I would make my own presentation. I did. I spoke when I was scheduled and I spoke the entire 45minutes.
In 2010 I was invited to London, England to speak on a British conference on Assistive Tehnology in the Workplace. I rehearsed the speech more than a dozen times. I delivered a nearly flawless speech for 30 minutes. When I finished, I received a standing ovation for more than 10 minutes. About a dozen people told me after the speech that “they never heard me stutter once during my speech.” I was in the heavens because of their comments.
Three years ago, I was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s Disease, The disease can affect speech. I have been amused by the number of people who have connected my Parkinson’s disease with my stuttering. They are surprised when I correct them.
Stuttering is only a part of me. I have lived with it for six decades. It has not beaten me. I have learned to live with it. I am not embarrassed by it. I do not hide it. I control it. I do not let it control me.
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