Aira, the leading global provider of Visual Interpreter Services, is proud to announce and welcome Everette Bacon to the leadership team. We asked Everette about his background, advocating on behalf of blind people and the new position and he shared the following:
Aira believes access to visual information is a right, not a privilege, and this is Aira’s mission. And I believe that too – I am passionate about advocating for the rights of blind and low vision persons. Loss of vision is not a characteristic that defines me. I want to live the life I want without blindness holding me back. This mission of Aira I have long believed in, so I am happy to announce that I have joined the Aira team as Vice President of Blindness Initiatives.
“The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life.” Bill Gates
The quote from Bill Gates characterizes my belief that visual interpreting can become a necessary tool of everyday life for the blind and low vision community. I believe this position is so important because it brings the lived, human experience of a qualified blind person to the executive leadership level of Aira.
My career and education have been directly influenced by a curiosity in the advancement of technology and an admiration of the lived experiences of blind people like myself. My family history of genetic blindness dates back to the 1800s, some 13 generations. I grew up in Southern California and moved to Texas where I completed my undergraduate degree from Dallas Baptist University, where I learned how to be a “Servant Leader.” A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. Servant leadership transformed how I approached the customer service experience during my time as a District Training Store Manager for Blockbuster Video in both Dallas and Houston. I directly and successfully managed 10 stores with an average operating budget of $20 million. Working in a fast-paced customer driven environment provided me the confidence to multitask in many different areas of operations, even as I was losing more of my vision. After my time at Blockbuster, I transitioned from a person who used low vision tools such as video magnifiers into a blind person relying on screen reading software. I learned how to be a blind person using braille and a white cane. I went on to earn a Master’s degree in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy from Western Michigan University.
Upon moving to my current home in Salt Lake City, I became the Assistive Technology Specialist for the Utah Division of Services for the Blind and was promoted to Field Services Coordinator. In this position, I directed all of the outreach services in low vision, assistive technology, employment services, and field training.
Serving in the state government sector for over 18 years, working with blind people of all backgrounds, has prepared me for this opportunity. Winston Churchill said “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” I have the privilege of giving back by serving as the elected Secretary for the National Federation of the Blind, and I am the elected President of the NFB of Utah. I chair the Commission for Disability and Accessibility for Salt Lake City as well as serving on the Human Rights Commission. I am in my 5th term on the FCC Disability Advisory Committee where I work on issues regarding audio description and other services affecting the disabled community. Volunteering and advocating on behalf of blind people is a passion that I am very proud of and something that I will continue to do in my role at Aira.
This is what the CEO of Aira, Troy Otillio, had to say about why they needed this position at Aira: “We are looking for an executive to advocate to be a champion of our effort to make visual interpreting a ubiquitous accommodation service. Our mission is to remove visual barriers and make the world more accessible, creating pathways to even greater independence. Making visual interpreting available for all those who seek the benefit, irrespective of the individual’s
ability to pay is core to Aira’s belief system.”
I so much agree with Troy. The blind community must reach the understanding that visual interpretation is a human right, much like video relay is for the deaf and hard of hearing community. We need to be a part of the world, not apart from it.
I have been an enthusiastic user of Aira since its inception and have spread my enthusiasm for it by advocating for visual interpreting all over the state of Utah. Aira is a wonderful service and I look forward to bringing this transforming tool to as many blind people as I possibly can, because we can do wonderful things.