Over our 20+ years of going to tradeshows and conferences we have seen a lot, but never anything like the Abilities Expo in Los Angeles.
When I first met some of the staff and leadership for Abilities Expo I was impressed by their sincerity. Valerie Teague and David Korse really care about people and they wanted us to exhibit that at the LA show. Now you might say “da, Tom – they’re selling you booth space!” and while this is true, that wasn’t their core motive for wooing us. They wanted InvoTek at LA because we are a technology company and we could offer Expo visitors a better sense of how technology might improve their lives. This is Valerie’s mission and it came across clearly.
The Expo was in downtown LA and is free to the public. Thousands of people came to the show – everyone from lawyers to street people, each with an interest in disability. We had parents looking for help with their children, people with disabilities looking to see the latest technology for themselves, people looking to help their mom, dad, or sibling, and therapists checking out what’s new for their clients. I have never met so many people that listened well and were sincerely interested in learning. In return, we learned a lot about the needs and struggles of many families. Click on the video to see a brief video that will give you a sense of our experience.
While we had lots of extraordinary interactions with people, two stand out that I want to tell you about. On Saturday afternoon our booth was packed and we were working hard. Lots of people with lots of questions and needs! Valerie was really pleased – her mission to get us to the show was paying off in the excitement of the visitors at our booth. She came up to me and I thought she wanted to tell me something, so I leaned over to her. She gave me a gentle kiss on the check and walked away without saying a word. I was very touched by this sweet gesture. It clearly meant a lot to her that we were there.
Second story. Barret (InvoTek's chief engineer) was demonstrating the AccuPoint head tracking system and noticed a gentleman watching him from several feet away. The man was in his 60s with wild long white hair and beard, and eye glasses that were very dirty. He was someone who most people would consider “strange”. Barret said “hi” but the gentleman didn’t respond. He just watched Barret. All of a sudden he came up to Barret and said “Hippie hair!” Now Barret’s hair is also long, but he wasn’t quite sure he had heard correctly, so he said “excuse me?” The man repeated “Hippie hair! Hippie hair! Hey, what’s that on your hippie head?” Barret started to explain that the dots on his head made it possible for him to control the computer with only head movement. The man asked “What kind of light does it use, infrared or UV?” Barret was taken aback. This is a very insightful technical question that we rarely get asked. Barret replied “infrared.” The man then asked “What are the mirrors for?” Barret started to explain and the man said “Oh, triangulation!” Again, Barret was impressed. Then the man turned and walked away, saying “Hippie hair … hippie hair …”
LA gave us the chance to meet lots of people with a broad range of abilities and disabilities. Such diversity. Such spectacular humanity. It was a wonderful experience and reminded me yet again just how fortunate we are to work in this field. Thanks to all of you who make Be Extraordinarypossible. If you have a story about a wonderful encounter, I hope you’ll share it below.