Friday, February 18, 2011

Mike Hanson FInds a New Job While Hiking

Mike hikes in the snow as well as during summer months!
Last June I wrote a post about Mike Hanson, a blind man from Minnesota who was through-hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise awareness about the abilities of blind people. He was testing a method of using GPS (global positioning system) to aid navigation for blind users in challenging terrain. Mike was recently featured in local Minnesota news for his ongoing achievements.

Mike completed 1700 miles of the 2174 mile trek, hiking from March into October, enduring all the hardships every hiker takes on - steep grades, narrow rocky paths, dropoffs, mosquitoes, bears, wind, extreme weather, thunderstorms. His GPS system, which he spent two years designing, worked fairly well on the trail, but also slowed down his time relative to the pace of sighted hikers. He and Gary Steffens, his trail companion who filmed the journey, also relied on a conventional map to navigate. Though the prototype technology was not fully reliable for the complexities of mountain trails, the two men discovered that they had a unique tool in hand for overcoming significant navigational challenges that blind people face everyday in ordinary life.

While on the trail, Mike received a phone call from a businessman in Minnesota, who offered him a job - to develop real time navigation for people with visual impairments. Mike accepted the offer, ending his hike short of his original goal, but fully succeeding in his mission to raise awareness of the capabilities of blind people and adaptive technology. His patron is now seeking funding to make Mike the CEO of a brand new company.

You can read more about Mike's story in greater detail here, including further description of his time on the trail and the navigational system he plans to develop. Go Mike!

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