When I met Ron Klein the first thing that stood out to me was how easy he was to talk with. The fact that he has an amazing sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. Picture this: You’re on a Zoom call frantically looking for another headset because yours died. Without missing a beat Ron says “here, I’ll let you borrow mine” as he holds out his headphones towards his camera. Since I’m not as quick on my feet, for a mere millisecond I almost reached out my hand towards my monitor. And just like that, I was quite taken with Ron. At 85 years of age, I could hear the excitement in his voice when he told me he failed three times at retiring. And today, like the Energizer Bunny he still keeps going.
We have exciting news on the technology front which Ron will talk about in his interview. The transcript follows, then below that is another interview Ron recently did. Enjoy! ~Steph
Introducing The Grandfather of Possibilities
Welcome to Bold Blind Beauty and our Cane EnAbled segment, which is found in Beyond Sight Magazine, which is an online community. In addition to celebrating all things related to the white cane, including safety and usage, personalization, this monthly series focuses on sharing broad perspectives from those in the field. Also parents of blind and visually impaired children, advocates, and exciting news on the technology front. Cane EnAbled is published on the fourth Monday of each month.
This month, technology will be our focus, and we are going to be featuring this month the grandfather of possibilities, Ron Klein, who is an ordinary man, but accomplishes extraordinary things. He’s a problem solver. His innovative ideas have changed the world, and he’s very well known for a great invention, which you all out there have probably seen and used many, many times. And that is the magnetic strip that’s found on the back of your credit cards. And he’s also designed and invented a few other nifty inventions out there, including a handy dandy invention for the disabled community, which is the programmable QR codes known as the ELI Technology project. And you can find and read up more about this at www.envisioneli.com. That’s E-N-V-I-S-I-O-N-E-L-i.com. So let’s give a big welcome to our featured guest this morning, Ron, how are you?
I’m fine. And thank you for that intro. That was very, very nice. And I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Oh, you’re welcome. You’re welcome. So the grandfather of possibilities, where’d that come from, Ron?
Well, a lot of it came from when I was a young boy. My grandfather was a great inventor, my mother’s father, and my dad was just a postal worker, and my mom worked in a department store. But they were very supportive, but my grandfather very early in his lifespan, he invented the steam propulsion mechanism for steam ships. And then during the first world war, he invented the torpedo detector for submarines. And then he invented the pressing machine for the tailor shops that press your clothing. And then when the television first came out, he invented the rabbit ears that sat on top of the television that were the antennas.
Oh, wow. I think I had a pair of those, at some point.
Yeah, and he was a great inspiration to me, and he was my mentor. I stayed by him all the time, and I loved him. So I followed him, and I guess most of my talent came through him.
So you have these programmable QR code in the ELI technology. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about this?
Well, actually I did invent the magnetic strip on the credit card, and during my younger years, I developed the MLS, multiple listing for real estate, and voice response for the banking. And then I automated the New York Stock Exchange and created the bond trading system. And then as I got older in my years, I have a great interest, I always had a great interest to help the blind. And I happened to have an impediment myself where I’m partially blind. So I was having breakfast with one of my people one day and I asked what was on their wishlist. And they said, “It would be great if you could come up with something that would be simple, that could help us identify everything we come in contact within our daily lives.”
And I thought about that for a few weeks. And I was very familiar with the QR code, which really wasn’t used to the ultimate, and I figured if I can do a little modification there and write an app, a free app that could be used on a cell phone that everybody carries around, and it’s so prevalent with blind too because they use it for so many things. And the little programmable QR code would be programmable to the point where you don’t have to throw it away. You can change what it says. So let’s say if you take a little code, it’s the size of your thumbnail, and it’s an adhesive, little adhesive book that I make, and you pull one out and paste it on your medication, the things that you keep in your pantry, your peanut butter, your jelly, and you always put it in the same place and then put your finger on top of the code. Then put the camera portion of your cell phone on top of your finger, slide your finger away slightly, and then start raising the phone.
It actually beeps on the QR code and you can tell it what it is. For instance, once you bring your medication home from the drug store, you can say, “This is my heart medication,” and the date that I ordered it. And now every time you turn your cell phone on and sweep it through your medicine chest, you’re not going to take your aspirins instead of your heart medication or your other medications because it’ll tell you what it is. And then the nice thing is, as it gets close to expiration, you can go back and change the code for that. And say, “By the way, this has to be reordered in 30 days because it expires,” anything to that point. So it’s very, very helpful. It can help you identify your clothes, what’s on your hanger, your CDs, your peanut butter jar from your jelly jar.
And what’s so nice about it is that once you download the free app, you never need the internet again. So it’s not internet sensitive. It’s just the iPhone or the Android phone and the little labels. And we were providing the little labels in a little package that you can carry in your purse or your pocket. And you just peel one off, paste it in a familiar spot where you always know you’re going to look, and that’s how it works. For instance, if you’re going to identify your books, it’ll be on the front cover in the upper left hand corner, and you know that’s where it’s going to be. You feel the label, put your phone on top of your finger, pull your finger away, just raise it, and it tells you what it is. And it’s always in your language because it’s in your voice. So that was the latest ELI invention. And then it carries on further than that. I hope I wasn’t too wordy.
No, that’s fantastic. I think our listeners will really get a good, really deep dive into this technology and to kind of understand how to use it. And I love how you explained the day to day.
I have a suggestion, Nasreen. If they go on the website and click on where it says low vision or low vision tab, there’s actually a point that you can download the app, the free app on your phone. By the way, the logo for the free app is a green ‘eye’ with the braille characters inside of it that say ELI, E-L-I. So you know you’ve got the right one.
Oh, fantastic. Fantastic.
Then once they download the free app, on that same website is a sample label and they can just use that label to record and try it and play with it. And it’s great. So there’s a perfect example. What I feel is so important is how people should constantly be smart, daring, and different. And being smart means not a PhD from Harvard. It means pay attention, learn something new every day, listen to everyone and filter that out and use that as knowledge. And then to be daring, don’t be afraid to make mistakes because if you painted something the wrong color the first time, paint it a different color. And then the last thing, whatever you do must provide a benefit. And if it doesn’t provide a benefit, it’s no more than a hobby. So I’d like to leave them with that message. And also I’d like to inspire them that at 85, I’m a senior Olympian, senior Olympian in cycling, and I did take the gold medal in the Sarasota County Olympics.
Wow, Ron. Those are some amazing words of wisdom for our listeners. I mean, hats off to you and kudos, being so sharp and still going at it at 85. I wish for all of us to kind of be at that sort of longevity and strive when we’re at your age. So I love those words of wisdom. Thanks so much, Ron, for being here with us today and sharing of yourself and your technology with us today. If you want to learn more about Ron and his segments, you can find this feature and many other great articles and innovative information. You can visit the Cane EnAbled page in the Beyond Sight Community at boldblindbeauty.com. Thanks for listening, everyone.
Innovative Problem Solver
Connecting With Ron:
- Website: www.thegrandfatherofpossibilities.com
- Website: www.envisioneli.com
- Facebook: @envisioneli
- LinkedIn: @envision-eli
Featured Image Description:
- Featured image is the Beyond Sight Magazine cover. A headshot of Ron is on the cover, he is wearing a jacket over a light shirt. The masthead is teal with “Beyond Sight Magazine” in black text. The dot on the ‘i’ in ‘sight’ is the eye used for our 2020 Year of Vision Campaign (described HERE). There are 2 lines of black text that say “The Blind Guide.” In the bottom right corner is a teal circle with an illustration of Abby Bold Blind Beauty’s fashion icon who is walking with her white cane in one hand and handbag in the other. She is wearing heels and a stylish dress made of panels resembling overlapping banana leaves. The dress panels gently curve from her nipped-in waist to just above the knee. She’s also sporting her signature explosive hairstyle and “Cane EnAbled” is in yellow text under the circle.
- A clear light bulb with two green leaves inside representing innovation.
- Cover by Daniel Lubiner
- Interviewer Nasreen Bhutta
- Audio edits by Michael Moran, www.clearvisionnetwork.com