Tribute to Steve Jobs6 min read

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Steve Jobs. Image from:

Steve Jobs. Image from:

Debra Ruh, CEO of Ruh Global Communications, Founder of TecAccess

Debra Ruh, CEO of Ruh Global Communications, Founder of TecAccess

What obligation do we have to society?  Are we born to improve lives for other people or to just take care of ourselves and our families?  I believe that we are born into this amazing and complicated world to contribute.   We should use the many gifts we have to make the world a better place.   I also believe we can bloom where we are planted regardless if we have access to resources and money.

A photo of Sara Ruh as a baby

A photo of Sara Ruh as a baby

In 1987 a doctor told my husband and me that our 4 month old daughter had Down syndrome.  We were stunned, confused and devastated.  What would that mean for this baby and for our lives?  I also started to wonder what I could do to help the community of people with disabilities.  Over the years we figured that out step by step because there are so many ways we can contribute to our society and communities.  Our daughter continues to inspire us every single day and we work hard to add value to the community of people with disabilities.

Steve Jobs is a shining example of what can be done to make the world a better place.  How can technology make the world a better place?  The ways are abundant.  Technology can be used to help a young child communicate with their parents for the first time using the iPad and some cool applications.  Allow a brilliant writer with Cerebral Palsy to finally write that book that has been locked in her head.  Help a programmer with vision loss become more productive because now they have access to better communications and tools.  Help a veteran with TBI remember the sequence of steps to handle an application that he rarely use to support his job as a technician.

Technology can help level the playing field.  Can it solve all the problems?  Of course not but it can allow people with disabilities to actively participate in all aspects of society including the workforce.

I have never met Steve Jobs and was surprised at the impact his passing had on me.  I am very sad and feel the loss in a way that is deep and surprising.  To help me work through these feelings – I reached out to others feeling the same way via social media and started reading and contributing to the chatter.

Tim Carmody, Author for Wired Image from:

Tim Carmody, Author for Wired Image from:

One post that touched me was created by Tim Carmody a contributor to Wired Magazine.  I have never met Tim but after reading his tweet knew he was “part of my community”.

Tim’s tweet:
@tcarmody I’m on my way to PHL to see my son, who uses a device Steve Jobs invented to help him talk.  He will never know. He will never know.”

That tweet gave me chills as I read it and brought tears to my eyes.

I then read his blog:
“My son is on the autism spectrum and has a severe receptive and expressive language delay.  He’s 4 years old, and can read and spell words, and sing entire songs, but is more like an 18-month- or 2-year-old in normal conversation. He cannot use a telephone and has a hard time sitting still for video telephony.  He has a thoroughly well-loved iPod Touch, filled with videos and apps that have helped him learn to speak and augment his ability to communicate.

My tweet about my son was retweeted almost 500 times, more than anything else I’ve ever written in 140 characters, and put me in touch with other parents of children with special needs — strangers — some seeking information, some wanting to share their stories.

It may be a stretch to say Steve Jobs invented the iPod Touch or most of the technologies contained in it. But Steve Jobs certainly put it in my son’s hands, both by making it a sub-$200 device (and in our case, giving it away free with a laptop) and by helping to create an ecosystem of software applications for people with disabilities — perhaps especially communication disabilities.”

My daughter, Sara Ruh, using different Apple Products simultaneously. Sara has Down Syndrome and loves the Accessibility Features that Apple's Products offer

My daughter, Sara Ruh, using different Apple Products simultaneously. Sara has Down Syndrome and loves the Accessibility Features that Apple’s Products offer

I think that summed up what I was feeling – Steve Jobs changed the world with his technology, leadership and ideas.  I watch our 24 year old daughter with Down syndrome use her iPad to play Angry Birds, listen to podcasts, improve her reading, communicate with her friends and surf the net.  She has used other laptops and operating systems but always with a lot of help.  With her iPad she can do all of this independently and it has improved the quality of her life.  Many times adults like Sara Ruh get isolated after they leave the school system.  She works part-time for Nordstrom’s but her hours were cut back during the worst of the economy.  She has worked for Nordstrom’s for over five years and is proud to be one of their team members.  The iPad allows her to stay connected with friends and an active part of society.  Those accomplishments may seem small to some people but believe me these are life changing accomplishments for our family.

1 out of 3 households in the U.S. is impacted by disabilities.   Worldwide, this group numbers 500-750 million people and is a key influencer of the public’s perceptions.  Recently the World Health Organization published a report that noted 1 in 7 people worldwide are impacted by disabilities.   The Internet has opened many opportunities and has greatly improved the quality of life for these users, but they still face barriers. You might think of disabilities in extreme terms such as blindness and deafness, but it also includes many others with visual or hearing impairments that are increasingly common in our aging population, and other challenges such motor and cognitive impairment.

Plus this is not just about people with disabilities, 96% of American has said they will spend more money to support an organization that includes everyone and is involved in social good.

Want to understand the strength of the chatter by our community – look no further than Apple under the amazing leadership of Steve Jobs.  They made the iPhone and iPad accessible for the community of people with disabilities.  We are now singing their praises and buying their products like never before.  I have read and written article after article, blog after blog about their efforts.

Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works. Image from:

Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works. Image from:

Steve Jobs has left an amazing legacy and the world is a better place because he was part of it.  He will be missed and many of us will wonder what else he could have done if he had more time.  Steve Jobs will be remembered forever and I believe that his legacy will continue to grow and expand.   What legacy will you leave?

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To follow up on Debra Ruh’s current endeavors, follow her on social media: @DebraRuh or visit Ruh Global Communications


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