Richard is an inventor, advocate, and father. His work in the field of disabilities ranges from creating the Tango, a Speech Device that helped redefine how individuals without speech could communicate, to working with NYC officials to improve inclusion and understanding of students with disabilities, to creating advertising campaigns that help change perceptions of disabilites for us all.
The Tango has been shown at New York’s Liberty Science Museum and Vienna’s Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art. And He and his son have been noted as ABC World News Persons of the Year and as honorees at the New York Yankees HOPE Week. Richard has served on many boards, including the NIH National Center for Deafness and Communication Disorders.
Richard lives in New York City with his wife and two children, Thomas and Taite, both of whom are very special.
Richard Ellenson is a leading known figure in the world of Assistive Technology. His work has helped innumerable individuals with disabilities better reach their potential and, importantly, helped the world at large better understand disabilities, by fostering a vibrant spirit of inclusion, innovation, and aspiration across many diverse environments.
Richard began his career in advertising, creating high profile work for clients like American Express, Remy Martin and HBO. His line “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.” remains one of the industry’s most enduring. However, in 1997 when his son was born with severe Cerebral Palsy, Richard began thinking about the issues facing individuals with his son’s challenges.
In 2004, Richard founded Blink Twice, a company that brought innovation and fresh energy to the world of Assistive Technology. The company’s Speech Generating Device, the Tango, helped redefine how individuals without speech could communicate. Said Ed Donnelly, the CEO of DynaVox, which acquired Blink Twice in 2009, “Blink Twice’s innovative approach to AAC forever changed the way speech-generating devices are viewed by the special needs community and the general public.” For this work, Richard and his son Thomas were honored as 2006 Persons of the Year by ABC World News Tonight.
Richard is also a tireless voice for bringing change to the way society perceives and interacts with individuals with disabilities. His efforts to include his son and children with disabilities in the New York City Public School System was a cover story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His work has been covered in diverse media, such as CBS and Fox News, “Innovators Week” on CNN Squawk Box, and many newspapers and magazines. And RIchard and Thomas son have also been celebrated by the New York Yankees as part of their 2009 HOPE Week.
Richard has been honored as a Caregiver of the Year by United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, and by numerous organizations within the world of disabilities. He has served on the Boards of the Center on Disabilities at California State University at Northridge, the United States Society for Alternative and Augmentative Communication, and the Assistive Technology Industry Association. He currently serves on the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
After serving as CEO/President of Blink Twice for 5 years and as Chief Vision Officer at DynaVox for 1 year after the companies merged, Richard chose to take a sabbatical to focus on the more immediate needs of improving his son’s education within the New York City school system.
To that end, he spends one day a week with his son in class, not only supporting Thomas, but also gaining a more detailed understanding of the systemic challenges encountered by students with disabilities. He serves with two key advocacy Groups in New York City: ARISE (Advocates for Reform in Special Education) and PIE (Parents for Inclusive Education) and in this capacity meets frequently with the key members of the NYC Department of Education.
Richard is also in the process of founding a new company whose mission is to leverage the huge advances being driven by apps and new mass-market hardware in order to lower the barriers to inclusion and adaptation for a much wider group of individuals with disabilities.