Gerry Chevalier witnessed the revolutionary power of navigable DAISY books and recognized that the DAISY digital book represented the most significant advancement in the history of audio books for the blind.
A native of Edmonton, Alberta, in western Canada, Gerry Chevalier has over 30 years experience in the IT industry as an entrepreneur, consultant, and software developer. Since 1996 Gerry has also been an enthusiastic advocate for accessible information technologies. He currently works at HumanWare Canada as the Victor Reader Product Manager.
In 1975 Gerry graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in Computing Science. He incorporated his company, Promek Consulting, in 1978. Between 1978 and 2003 Gerry successfully marketed Promek Consulting as a provider of custom computer systems to more than 50 companies. He developed several hundred specialized software programs for small business accounting and electronic health claims processing. Gerry has managed these projects, authored much of the software himself, and managed the computer systems for his clients.
Over the course of his career Gerry became blind due to a deteriorating retinal eye disease. He has continued his work through the use of special assistive technologies used by blind people to access computers and information. In his efforts to maintain his business and livelihood he became a strong user and advocate for information access technologies. As an avid reader, he was especially interested in any technology that would help print-disabled people to read.
His own deteriorating vision and interest to help other blind people led Gerry to expand his work to provide both consulting and volunteer services to organizations who serve print-disabled people. These organizations included libraries, educational institutions, and assistive technology companies.
In 1998 Gerry learned that the CNIB Library in Canada would adopt a new standard for digital audio books known as DAISY. He witnessed the revolutionary power of navigable DAISY books demonstrated on the prototype Plextor and VisuAide Victor Reader CD players. Immediately Gerry recognized that the DAISY digital book represented the most significant advancement in the history of audio books for the blind. He wanted to become a part of the DAISY movement. As a result he offered his services as a volunteer technology advisor to CNIB in 1998 to assist them in their transition from analog cassette books to an integrated digital library and producer of DAISY books. Ultimately he became chair of the CNIB Library Board of Directors, serving in this capacity from 2001 to 2004. Through his involvement with CNIB's digital library project, Gerry has also spoken at both national and international conferences on issues related to assistive technology and access to information.
Gerry's growing interest in DAISY-related technologies led him to a new career. In 2004 Gerry concluded his consulting business and joined HumanWare Canada as the Victor Reader product manager; he is responsible for coordinating the development of all Victor Reader DAISY digital talking book players. His background in technology and his experience as a blind entrepreneur have allowed him to take a user-centric approach to the design of HumanWare's digital talking book players. He has especially enjoyed the successful launch of the Victor Reader Wave in 2005, the Victor Reader ClassicX in 2006 and the popular Victor Reader Stream in 2007. Says Gerry, "I feel very privileged to shepherd the development of devices that have made such a difference in my life and the life of thousands of other blind people. I look forward to the next generation of our Internet enabled players that will use the DAISY online protocol to bring digital books directly from the library to the reader without the delay and frustration of shipping and handling physical media."
Gerry continues to be an advocate for the right to independent and equitable access to information by those unable to read print due to a visual, physical or perceptual disability. He recognizes the importance of the DAISY Standard and its value to blind, low vision and learning disabled people around the world.