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Dr Russell Smith is a huge loss to the world

9 August 2005

Dr Russell Smith is a huge loss to the world - Foundation of the Blind The world's blind community tragically lost a brilliant friend, engineer and humanistwith the death of Dr Russell Smith, founder of Pulse Data International (now HumanWare).

Over the past decades, Dr Smith perhaps did more to help blind people through literacy and technology than any other person in the world, according to many at the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB).

RNZFB Chairman Don McKenzie (who was born blind and worked professionally as a physiotherapist): Russell';s death is a tragedy not only to his family and blind people in New Zealand, but to the world. He had one of the most brilliant and creative minds. He was an outstanding software engineer and had remarkable intuition about what blind people needed to make life easier.

He narrowed the digital divide between blind people and technology. One of Pulse Data';s most brilliant inventions was the BrailleNote. It allows blind people to do what a sighted person would do with a laptop - surf the internet, send emails, access all kinds of information that you need for employment and education. He was a brilliant software engineer and, more than that, a great humanist.

Geoff Gibbs, former CEO of the RNZFB and past office holder with the World Blind Union: (Geoff is sighted): He was an engineer who mixed with blind people and understood their needs. I';ve known him since he came out of the University of Canterbury. He was a helluva nice guy. Very caring. Very understanding.

A very bright guy who understood the issues facing blind people. Within the World Blind Union, he was well liked and respected - a man of huge talent Once he had an idea, he would keep on refining it and refining it to get it as close to perfection as he could He knew that a bit of technology, money and encouragement could help blind people get to the next level in education and employment. I cannot think of anyone who made a bigger contribution to blind people. And largely through his efforts, Pulse Data became a world leader.

Mary Schnackenberg, RNZFB Divisional Manager, Adaptive Support (who was born blind and was the first blind New Zealander to earn an MBA):

Russell was a very interesting man. He was quiet, thoughtful, and patient. He never rushed to conclusions. I relied on his early technology in the nineties - it was really critical to me getting my MBA - Russell was a unique mix of philanthropist and businessman... He was a champion of literacy. His passing is a huge loss to the blind community.

Everyone at the RNZFB offers their heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dr Smith and his wife Marian.

The RNZFB is the primary service provider for approximately 11,500 blind, deafblind and vision-impaired people, many of whom have benefited enormously from Dr Smith's contributions and vision.


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