Project:Possibility : An Open Source Software Collaboration for the Disabled
November 6, 2007
Project:Possibility is a nonprofit, community service project committed to creating groundbreaking software for the disabled community--for free. Our goal is to inspire software engineers to make a difference by inventing software that unlocks new areas of life for disabled persons, giving them access to experiences previously impossible to achieve. The software that is created through this project is open source: it cannot be sold for profit, and is freely available for use, distribution, and modification.
Check out the Project:Possibility Student Innovator posters, click here.
Christopher Leung is the Chair for Project:Possibility and serves on the organization's Board of Directors. Christopher is a software engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a Masters candidate in Computer Science at the University of Southern California. In 2004, he received his Bachelors of Science in Computer Science and Engineering from the Unversity of California, Los Angeles. He brings a diverse background of development experience in web, computer graphics, and multimedia, along with a profound passion for accessible computing to Project:Possibility.
We asked Chris a few questions about Project:Possibility, here is what he had to say:
Help us understand what you are up to (Describe your work / research):
We are focused on developing empowering technology for disabled persons, to ensure that disabled persons have the ability to experience as much of life as anyone else. Ultimately, our goal is to make the world accessible to everybody. We believe that developing free, open source technology is a powerful way to accomplish this goal.
We are currently teaming the software development community with the disabled community to devise and implement empowering technology concepts.
What drives you to continue pursuing this area of study?
There are many things that keep us moving forward. However, mainly the constant realization that a particular skill like programming, which isn't necessarily an extraordinary skill, can make an extraordinary difference in someone's life. Also, many have yet to realize their ability to make a difference, and we want to help them to that realization, and inspire them to make that difference!
Describe how your work might impact people's lives, now and in the future. (What's the potential societal impact?)
There are over 500 million disabled persons alive today. Many of those persons are stuck in poverty. The idea of putting cutting edge technology in the hands of the people who need it most creates exciting possibilities for society. The malleable nature of software allows it to be distributed easily, not to mention contributed to easily!
Thanks to the Internet, parties around the world are able to download, and contribute back to the empowering projects they are interested in.
How did you come up with the idea?
One day, I asked myself the question: What is the most powerful difference I can for someone, given the skills I have today?
Project:Possibility was the answer.
Has anyone ever doubted that your idea could work? (Please elaborate.)
Yes. This is a challenging project, and it can be easy to get distracted by those challenges. However, when one focuses on the possibilities this project can create for people, the rest is exciting work. To a degree, this project moves forward as a function of inspiration. As long as we can inspire people to realize that their unique skills can make a profound difference in someone's life, Project:Possibility will remain a venue for people to make that difference.
What is the next step in the innovation process for you (and how might people help)?
Continuing to innovate in the technology we develop and the way we communicate the message of this project. We will be submitting papers on our work to conferences, holding events at universities (such as the SS12 Code-A-Thon), and promoting accessibility projects as coursework in the college and university setting%ue2%u20acall to create awareness in the area of accessibility computing.
Since our project encompasses a wide variety of disciplines, anybody who is interested can contribute to the project through ideas and conversation. Brainstorming new technology concepts that could empower a disabled person is an area that everybody can help. And of course, we are also looking for people who are willing to sit down and churn out practical contributions to existing technology projects.
What mistake taught you the most?
I can't cite a specific example, but I would have to say that one of the largest life lessons to hit home has been taking responsibility. I believe that the less we take responsibility for our lives and our world, the less power we give ourselves to do something about it. Rather than pointing our fingers at someone else, the more we look at what we could have done about a situation, the more powerful we become.
What is the one innovation you can't live without?
The text editor. I often have many great thoughts and they don't come out with much structure. That option to add structure to ideas after the fact, is incredible.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I have a fear of heights, and that I went skydiving two weeks ago.
What do you wish you would have invented?
Tattoo's for the blind.
Read this article: http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2007/10/tattoos-for-the.html
Any tips for aspiring innovators?
Share your innovation, and cherish those who share your passion for it.
Email or phone?
What is the most fun you've ever had?
Traveling the world.
Three favorite things about LA:
- There is always something to do
- World class music, art, food, and education aren't too far away
- It's only six hours from San Francisco :)
For more information about Project:Possibility, click here.
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