I received word yesterday that my friend Jeff Dunn has passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Jeff was the “Computer Czar” of Guiding Eyes for the Blind and an enthusiast of assistive technology for people with disabilities.
I first met Jeff when I attended a Guiding Eyes for the Blind “walkathon” in October, 1994 and discovered he was my “room mate” at the Marriott Hotel. Jeff was a non-stop fountain of knowledge about computers and he also knew more about science fiction than I could absorb in a lifetime. I knew instantly that I was in the company of someone who relished the idea that machines could and would change the lives of people with disabilities forever.
Jeff was tireless in his pursuit of knowledge about technologies for pwds (people with disabilities) and he knew which software patches were necessary if you wanted JAWS to work with instant messaging (though he could also tell you why you didn’t “want” instant messaging in the first place–always recommending something better).
To say that Jeff will be missed is too simple. To say that he’s in Heaven now with Charles Babbage (the Victorian inventor of the forerunner of the computer, “The Difference Engine”) is too easy. I think Jeff would like it if we imagine him in an afterlife where we get to be reunited with our loved ones and our dogs and where the machines are as infallible and user friendly as they are on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Boy! Could Jeff talk about Star Trek! And boy did he love his people and his dogs! And boy did he love Guiding Eyes for the Blind!
And boy do we miss him.
I used to crack Jeff up with a joke about an octopus in a bar. I can’t tell it here. But I will remember most of all Jeff’s wonderful laughter.