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Boston Globe article on Cynthia Ice

From: Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2008 11:45:17 -0500
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <OFAEFC4F17.C2C55590-ON86257460.005BB4C8-86257460.005C2232@us.ibm.com>
Obituary for Cynthia Ice that appeared in the Boston Globe on Friday May 

Cynthia Ice; opened Web portals for the blind

Cynthia Ice "was a major figure in making sure that computer systems were 
accessible for people with disabilities," said Barbara Lybarger of the 
Massachusetts Office on Disability. 
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size – + By Bryan Marquard 
Globe Staff / May 30, 2008 
Windows 95, the Microsoft operating system that threw open doors to the 
computer world for so many, slammed one shut in the face of Cynthia L. 
Though blind, she had worked for Lotus Development Corp. in the early 
1990s by using software that read MS-DOS screens and converted text into 
speech she could hear. But adaptive equipment was not readily available at 
the outset of Windows 95, with its graphics, toolbars, and icons that were 
as helpful for those with eyesight as they were useless to those without.
"All of a sudden, it was like going back to the days when I first lost my 
vision and everything was frustrating," Ms. Ice told the Wall Street 
Journal in 1996. "When I first lost my sight, one of the best things about 
the computer was that I could go onto the Internet and get access to 
information, to newspapers, stock quotes, anything. Now I have to spend 
half my time finding a website that is actually accessible."
So over the next dozen years, she worked with companies such as Iris 
Associates, Lotus, and IBM to develop and test programs that make 
computers more accessible to the disabled. Ms. Ice, who was diagnosed with 
diabetes as a child, died in her Maynard home of a heart attack on May 14. 
She was 49 and had previously lived in Cambridge.
"She was a major figure in making sure that computer systems were 
accessible for people with disabilities," said Barbara Lybarger, general 
counsel for the Massachusetts Office on Disability.
Ms. Ice "was very, very helpful in addressing the issues of what would 
work and what would not work for people with disabilities," Lybarger said. 
"She would tell it like it is."
Sometimes, colleagues said, that meant balancing a personal commitment 
with working for large companies.
"One of the challenges that all of us in the disability field face, at 
least those of us who work in corporations . . . is that many of us are 
advocates for the disability community," said Peter Korn, accessibility 
architect with Sun Microsystems in California. "Like Cynthia, some have 
disabilities themselves, and yet we have to temper that advocacy with the 
reality of corporations.
"One of the things I really appreciated about Cynthia was she did a very 
nice job of never apologizing for Lotus and later for IBM," he said. "She 
continued to not only hold the company to high standards, but she was not 
one to sugarcoat things when speaking in public. That kind of transparency 
and honesty, and quite directly showing her own impatience with the 
progress being made, really demonstrated her commitment, and through that 
the commitment from Lotus, from IBM."
Born in Fort Worth, Ms. Ice's parents were psychiatrists who worked for 
the US Public Health Service. As her parents moved to different job 
assignments, the family lived in such places as Seattle and Kentucky, and 
Ms. Ice graduated from Blue Hill Academy in Blue Hill, Maine.
After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, she stayed to work with the 
school's housing and student activities departments. Ms. Ice, who was 
diagnosed with diabetes at 7, lost her sight while attending graduate 
school in engineering at Brown University.
"She was always very bold and brave, and I think when she went blind in 
her 20s, she had to call on that courage," Shelley Ice of Fairhaven said 
of her younger sister.
Ms. Ice learned to use a computer, got her first guide dog, and went to 
work for Iris Associates in Littleton. She insisted on living alone, her 
sister said, though everything from giving herself insulin shots to 
testing her glucose levels was challenging until medical equipment 
advanced to make such tasks easier for patients who are blind.
Her dogs made independent living possible. First there was Ellery, a black 
Labrador retriever, and then Cashmere, a yellow Labrador retriever.
"She loved her dogs," her sister said. "She depended on them, I think, for 
security and for companionship because she always did live alone, as well 
as the working part of getting around and going places."
But when Cashmere died a year and a half ago, Ms. Ice took a break from 
seeing-eye dogs, and not just because she was grieving.
"She felt that having a dog sometimes kept people at a distance, that they 
would interact with the dog, rather than her," her sister said.
At work, colleagues turned to Ms. Ice for her knowledge, appreciated her 
common sense, and admired her lacerating wit.
"She just seemed to have this bottomless pit of patience to educate us 
all," said Mary Beth Raven, a colleague at IBM in Westford. "She 
approached issues with a practicality and a sense of humor that ended up 
being more of a motivator. Many times we went the extra distance to make 
something more accessible just because we liked Cynthia."
And Ms. Ice used humor to put at ease those who felt the need to step 
gingerly around her because of her disability. Last year, when a grocery 
website made a change that prevented her screen-reading software from 
reading meat department items, she quipped to the Associated Press: 
"Everybody could go on the Atkins diet but me," referring to the 
low-carbohydrate plan.
In addition to her sister, Ms. Ice leaves her mother, Inez Busch of 
Fairhaven; another sister, Amy of Goshen, N.Y.; and a brother, Kevin of 
Rock Hill, S.C.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Fowler-Kennedy 
Funeral Home in Maynard.

Phill Jenkins

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Received on Friday, 6 June 2008 16:58:34 UTC

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