Here is an interview from the Give Access Founder...
Tell us about you and your history : who are you and where are you from ?
I’m Emmanuel Hureaux, I’m 34 years old and I’m the Give Access founder. I’ve a genetic disease which is named spinal muscular atrophy and which makes me completely quadriplegic. To be precise, I can’t walk and I move a very little my fingers. I studied in many universities and the lastest certification I obtained is a master degree in mechanical design at the University of Poitiers in France. I was supposed to be a mechanical engineer specialized in mechanical calculation and more specifically in finite elements modeling. That’s the kind of work where you treat a lot of data with computer programming to deduct physical and mechanical laws to build many things like buildings, bridges, airplanes, cars, trains, robots, etc…
Oh, a really long time ago, I was very young. I was always interested in assistive devices to compensate disability. I had a very atypical technological journey in my life because I wasn’t taken over by disability associations. To be more precise, I was supported by computing, home automation and signal processing engineers who used the cutting-edge of technology to design specifically adapted devices for me. This experience gave me a very different point of view of accessibility tools and assistive devices. Lately, during my adolescence, I worked with them to create prototypes of advanced assistive devices more and more adapted to my accessibility needs. All those very high-tech assistive devices allow me to live a very different technological experience than any other disabled people.
When I was at university, I developed programming skills and I was really interested in studying artificial intelligence. I quickly understood that to overcome my disability, I had to have different tools than the one which are usually proposed to disabled people. I quickly saw the compensation potential of artificial intelligence and I continued in this path.
I’m the kind of man who is extremely persistent and optimistic by nature. I’m also the kind of man who loves to build and work on massive projects. I don’t fear long range works at all : I like them and it’s motivating me.
I can tell that my philosophy of life is that if you observe a problem with a different point of view then you can find innovative ways to solve it. It’s in this kind of process where you can learn and discover the most important things.
First of all, it was by necessity. As I said before, I had the chance to use extremely advanced prototypes of assistive devices which had compensate my disability during a long time. Unfortunately, those prototypes became obsolete with new computer technology and at this moment of my life, I was without any technology once again. I was back to my previous situation and I was just able to do nothing. My use of the computer was really passive and that was terrible for me after having such possibilities. I talked about that in the first video I made on the homepage of the Give Access website. I really had to make something to recover all the activities I did before. And then, I told to myself that the best thing I can do is to start programming new assistive tools by myself and step-by-step I improved my autonomy and I recovered my abilities. To be honest, I outperform by far what I had previously with the current tools I use.
Oh my God, yes of course ! And the more I continue on this 100% accessibility way, the more difficult they are. First of all, I had to admit that the technology has its own limits and even if we can push those limits back with new inventions or new algorithms, it’s an obligation to accept some compromises. In fact, when a disabled people discovers for the first time the new computer ergonomics I built, some of them fear it. Even if the technology can adapt to disabilities, the human must do a step toward technology. That’s an equation between technological efforts and human efforts which creates the new generation of accessibility softwares.
One of the most surprising obstacle I encountered came from certain disability professionals and who officially promote accessibility. Even if there is a big majority of them who act with a great commitment to help disabled people, to help them to acquire a better autonomy, there’s also people who act to slow technological evolution and who are frightened by new technologies.
This will to slow the evolution exists because various reasons… Regardless of the reasons, that’s a fact and it’s important to raise the awareness about that. We, the disabled people, must keep those things in mind.
For me, all of these obstacles mean an important thing. It’s the time for disabled people to take the power on our digital, numeric and technological accessibility. We must not fear to test things by ourselves to improve our technological life. It’s time for us to solve our accessibility problems by ourselves : the needed tools are already there and can overcome more than 75 % of motor deficiencies. The only thing to do is to take action, right now !!!
One of my biggest successes is to succeed to control video games as easy as I don’t have disability in games. You probably ask yourself about why I always insist on video games. The reason is very simple… The video games are the environment which is the most difficult to adapt. Playing require a lot of speed between actions, reactivity, adaptability and a lot of functionalities at the same time. Succeeding in developing technologies which adapt to this kind of environment is a real tour de force. I’m sure that you know the adage : “Who can do more can do less !”. For the computer accessibility, that’s the same ! When you are able to solve accessibility problem for a very difficult environment, all what you did can transpose its efficiency in an easier one as productivity to work easily or in everyday computer activities. I think that’s my biggest success at this time… And I don’t want to stop myself to this one !
My vision for the future is a world where the technology allows to every disabled people to live completely independent to put forward their talents and creativity.