For more than 30 years, Curtis Chong has worked to improve the ability of blind people to use computers and other technologies. He has been active in the National Federation of the Blind since 1969, promoting civil rights and improved services for blind people in Hawaii, California, Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa, and now in New Mexico.
Before entering the field of work with the blind, Curtis spent 20 years working in mainstream information technology. He programmed his first mainframe computer as early as 1972, at a time when computers did not talk to the blind. As a designer/consultant at American Express Financial Services (now Ameriprise), he provided technical support for mainframe database and communications software, keeping systems running for thousands of sighted coworkers within the company. From 1997-2002, Curtis worked as the Director of Technology for the National Federation of the Blind supporting internal information technology for the Federation and its external programs to improve nonvisual access technology for the blind in several different areas.
From October 1998 through April 1999, Curtis served as a member of the Electronic Information and Technology Access Advisory Committee of the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board; this group prepared the preliminary standards which were later used by the Access Board to implement Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Curtis also served on a second Access Board committee, appointed ten years later, which developed updated technical standards for Section 508; these standards have not yet been incorporated into published federal rules.
Today, Curtis Chong serves as president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science and the treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico. He also works as the Manager of Access Technology at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.