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August 23rd, 2011
07:33 AM ET

Human Factor: A bridge from dyslexia

In the Human Factor,  we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship - they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week Ben Foss shares how his own disability led him to invent a device that helps others who share his condition.

People like to say that I have overcome dyslexia.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

What I have overcome is the mainstream world. A person in a wheelchair overcomes stairs with a ramp. In the same way, I have overcome people who think dyslexia equals lazy.

This experience is why I am now the executive director of Disability Rights Advocates, a national legal center that tries to get people to do what they should have done in the first place, i.e., include people with disabilities in the mainstream.

Eighteen veterans a day commit suicide. We are fighting to make sure that the Department of Veterans Affairs provides the services vets with disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury deserve. In New York, they are about to replace all the cabs in the city with vans, but they have not picked one with a ramp built-in.

Wheelchair users can use 100% of the cabs in London, but less than 2% of those in NYC. That is wrong. For 17 years DRA has been fighting for equal access to work and school for all.

I made it through a JD/MBA at Stanford but it was because I have integrated my disability, dyslexia, not because I overcame it. I think of it like my nationality; I am from dyslexia. ADHD is our Canada and dyscalculia is our Mexico. Indeed, there are 30 million people with the same disability I have in the U.S.

If we join the disability rights movement with the people in chairs and with canes who fought to get the workplace and schools open to us, there is little we cannot do.

The real mother of invention is frustration. In college, I used to fax my term papers home to my mom to get help finding my own spelling mistakes. It was a bad situation for me and for my mom. When I got to graduate school, it took three weeks for me to get my textbooks converted to digital text so I could have a computer read them aloud with a Stephen Hawking voice.

That led me to invent the Intel Reader. For me it is a ramp into a book. Independent research suggests that kids with dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities  can improve their reading comprehension test scores by up to 23% when using the Intel Reader. These days GE and Intel are selling the product through a joint company called Care Innovations.

The most important thing any person who is dyslexic can do is be seen. Tell your story with all its warts and better still with some good one-liners.

We are everywhere. If you work with 500 people, at least 50 are from dyslexia. But if we do not stand up and talk about it, the kids coming up behind us will believe they are broken. They are not. Together we can overcome, or better yet fix, the world around us.

Editor's note: The text below was the raw version of this blog. To blog, I write my thoughts, then put it into a speech engine and proof it three or four times myself. I then hand it to an editor to assure the written language is clean. The key here is I have command of literacy, metaphor and vocabulary, but not the code of the written language. I am publishing this to show people the work behind the curtain. Yep, still from dyslexia.

People liek to say the I have over come dyslexia.  Nothing could be further from the truth. What I have overcome is the mainstream world.  A person in a wheel chair overcome stairs with a ramp.  In teh same way, I have overcome people who think dyslexia equals lazy..  This is why I am now the Executive Director of Disability Rights Advocates, www.dralegal.org, a national egal center that tries to get people to do what they should of done in the first place, i.e., include people with disabilities in the mainstreem.

eighteen veterans a day commit suicide.  We are fighting to makes sure that the department of veterna affair provides the services vets deserve.  In New York, they are about to replace all the cabs in the city with vans, but they have no piced one with a ramp built-in. Wheel chair users can use one hundred percent of the cabs in London, but les than 2% of these in NYC.  That wrong and for 18 years DRA has been fighting for equal access to work and school for all.

I did make it through a JD/MBA at Stanford but it was because I have integrated my disability, dyslexia.  I think of like my nationality - I am fron dysleixa.  ADHD is ourCanadaans dysscalcula is ourMexico.  Indeed, there are 30 million people with the same disability I have in theUS.  If we join the disability right movement, the people in chairs and with canes that fought to get the work place and schools openned to us, there is little we cannot do.

I like to say that the real mother of invention is frustration.  When I used to have to fax my term paper home to my mom to get help fiding my own spelling mistakes, it was a bad situation for me and for my mom.  When I got to graduate school, it took three weeks for me to get my text books converted to digital text so I could have compute read them.  That lead to to invent the Intel Reader.  For me it is a ramp into a book.  Independent research suggest allow kids with dyslexia or other specific leagning disabilties to use it can improve test scores by up to 23%. Those kids are not overcoming dyslexia, they are overcomeing a poorly designed school and with noe that has tools to hep them show their through will allow them to get good jobs and enjoy life.These day GE and Intel are selling the product through joint company called Care Inovations.

The most important thing any person whos is disylexia can do is to stand up and be seend. We are everywhere. If you work with 500 people, at least 50 are from dyslexia.  But if we do not stand up and talk about it, the kids coming up behing us will beleive they are broekn.  Then are not and together we can fix the workld around us.

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Filed under: Human Factor

soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. James Pressley

    Thanks so much for the article. My wife is typing this for me. I am 53 years old and have dealt with dyslexia all my life,after reading the article I am interesting in getting the Intel Reader. Please let me know how I can get one and the cost. Thanks looking and waiting to hear from you until then God bless.

    July 1, 2012 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cheryl Paulson

      Hi James, I read your response and wonder if you got your answer yet? If so could you send me some information? I have struggle with a from of dyslexia myself. I have to be very creative with how I write and it takes me forever to do it. So what ever help you can share I will be most thankful.
      Take Care
      Cheryl

      August 19, 2012 at 21:23 | Report abuse |
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.