Google Attorney Jack Chen Joins Aira´s Advisory Board


¨Aira unlocks opportunities for the blind to live life without barriers. The possibilities are endless.¨ — Jack Chen


I’m excited to announce that Jack Chen has agreed to join our Advisory Board. Completely blind since age 16, Jack joined Google in 2010 as an associate patent counsel and is a graduate of Fordham Law School, in addition to holding degrees in computer science from Harvard and UC Berkeley. Physically active and adventurous by nature, Jack has competed in five triathlons, including two Iron Man triathlons, and in 2012, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Today Jack serves as Product Counsel in charge of the Chromebook platform.

I’m obviously thrilled to have him on board and part of the Aira team that is relentlessly pursuing our mission of instant access to information for all. For those of you who don’t already know this incredible human being, I thought it might be helpful to share my recent Q&A with Jack.

Suman: How did you first become acquainted with Aira?

Jack: I had heard about Aira from various podcasts in the blind community and eventually was connected with their CEO. When Suman and I first met, we could not stop talking. His passion for Aira, technology and their impact on solving the information accessibility problem for the blind kept us conversing like we had been friends for a long time.

Suman: What was it about Aira that made you interested in joining its Advisory Board?

Jack: Aira represents a unique opportunity which is near and dear to me as a blind person: the ability to live daily life independently without barriers. For instance, I recently took Aira to the grocery store and bought flowers for my wife and some vegetables. Before Aira, I could never do that independently.

The more I use the product with the agents, the more uses I will discover to open up a new world of independence. I know Aira is having a similar impact on transforming the lives of others with vision loss — the possibilities are endless.

Serving as a board member gives me a unique opportunity to dramatically impact the lives of other visually impaired individuals and to help others unlock opportunities they didn’t even know were possible.

Suman: What advantage do you feel Aira has over other assistive technologies for the blind today?

Jack: Aira is providing the right solutions for the key problem facing blind and visually impaired people: accessing information. This is something that has not been done before. At Aira, everything is geared to focusing on solving that problem in the most effective way — including providing natural interaction between user and agent, easy accessibility, striving for no technical delays, and emphasis on quality assistance in real time. Aira, with its cutting edge technology, is focusing on one hard problem and solving it really well.

Physically active, Jack (left) is pictured in one of 5 triathlons in which he has competed.

Suman: With your active lifestyle as a marathon runner and mountain climber, do you envision using Aira in these pursuits as well?

Jack: I remember telling my Aira agent that as a runner, I always had used a guide, but with Aira, I can just put on my shoes and go for a run — what an amazing experience! I’m excited to push the envelope of this amazing technology and demonstrate to the world, and to myself, that I truly can accomplish anything.

Suman: We know that you are especially excited about the potential impact of Aira on expanding employment opportunities for the blind. Do you feel that this stands to be Aira’s most significant impact?

Jack: Yes. I think it could be one of Aira’s strongest impacts. On the one hand, unemployment continues to be a pervasive challenge in the blind community, not because people with vision loss cannot or do not want to work, but because many employers are not aware that blind and visually impaired people can perform most jobs with the right assistive technology. A blind person working, for example, in manufacturing, may need only 20 minutes of help a day in a particular function of his or her job, so Aira through its remote service and technology, could be a life-changing difference between that person working or not. In the same way, Aira presents a unique opportunity for blind individuals to excel and to significantly increase their levels of success in all areas where they are employed.

For many blind workers, lacking access to information at the right time puts them at a significant disadvantage when it comes to job performance and opportunities to advance that might be available to their sighted counterparts. Aira will go a long way to leveling the playing field and will give blind individuals an opportunity to truly be rewarded for what matters, their skills and abilities. When companies and individuals work together using Aira, we unlock potential and unlock the future.

Suman: As Aira’s first Explorer focusing on corporate strategies, what other responsibilities will you pursue as a board member?

Jack: I endeavor to advise Aira, from a corporate standpoint, on developing strategies to attract more companies to offer Aira as an indispensable tool to assist their visually impaired employees on the job.

More broadly, I envision working with Aira on how, together, we can fundamentally change the way companies view people with disabilities, transforming their concept of disability — from what they once might have thought was a liability into an asset that is highly sought after. As more and more blind workers unlock their potential and shape the corporations of tomorrow, corporate America will realize that they want blind people in their organizations. Aira will be there to help every step of the way.