Former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason spent his 36th birthday Tuesday hosting the "Gleason Challenge" at Gallier Hall in New Orleans for New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW).
Gleason challenged inventors, entrepreneurs, investors and scientists to create technology that provides solutions for people with disabilities in New Orleans.
Gleason, who suffers from ALS, eventually lost the use of his voice due to the disease. Gleason speaks through a synthetic voice on a computer connected to his wheelchair. He writes his words using his eyes.
In his opening speech, Gleason stressed with more support and technology, people with disabilities can be more productive for years, even decades.
"Most of what ALS takes away, technology can give back," Gleason said. "The technology I use is very beneficial. I am able to type, speak and navigate my computer as you would. I can text, tweet and even pull up any song I want on Spotify."
Gleason spent time Monday night and Tuesday morning writing his opening speech for the Gleason Challenge event. He is able to type about 15 words a minute with his eyes. Gleason believes that technology will be able to speed up the process for speaking through a computer.
"I believe it's possible for me to have a live conversation with someone and not have to make them wait for me to type my thoughts," he said. "I want to help make this happen."
Along with Gleason, Jim Marggraff (Entrepreneur and founder of Eyefluence), Lars Gilbertson (Professor at Tulane Department of Biomedical Engineering) and Hugh Evans (Angel Investor; Board Member of V-LINC) spoke at the event.
With the Gleason Challenge and Steve's foundation Team Gleason's "No White Flags" movement, the goal is to use NOEW as a platform to inspire innovative local ideas to solve a global problem, striving to make New Orleans a hub and destination for breakthrough medical technology.