Remembering 9/11 and the Birth of a Friendship

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The following blog post was written by Laura Ruby - Director of Accessibility Policy and Standards at Microsoft. She has worked in this area of the technology sector for more than 22 years.

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The anniversary of 9/11 means many things to people. On that day, I always pause to honor the birth of my friendship with Michael Takemura.

On September 11, 2001, I was at the New York State Capitol in Albany, speaking about Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires access for the public and federal employees to technologies developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies. I had been invited, along with a number of my industry colleagues, to be on a panel about the act’s implementation. One of those colleagues was Michael Takemura, who was only a few years into his role as Director of Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Accessibility Program Office.

Right after my now-husband Ken Nakata finished his presentation for the Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section, someone ran into the room and told us one of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers had been hit. Then we were asked to evacuate the building.

While people from New York and Washington, DC, rented cars and drove home, Michael and I were from Houston and Washington State. So, we went back to our hotel and waited for the airport to re-open. We spent days sharing meals, talking through our sadness and discussing accessibility. By the time we headed home a friendship was born.

Since then, Michael has contributed to the field of accessible technology around the world. Along with building the Accessibility Program at HP, he has served on the board of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) and has brought leadership to the Industry Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) Accessibility Committee. In addition, he was a major contributor to the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC), which was chartered by the Access Board to review Section 508 standards and Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines and to recommend updates.

As we remember 9/11 today, I would like to wish Michael a happy friendship birthday and thank him for his many years of dedication to the field of accessibility.

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  • Thank you Laura for this story and sentiment.  Michael is also a friend and mentor to me.  I would even vote to have a picture of Michael in the dictionary next to the word inspiration.

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