Through the Power of Authorship, Bookshare Challenges Adversity: Meet Jack Chen

By Shareef Phillips, posted on
A social graphic post: Text: Through the power of Authorship, Bookshare Challenges Adversity: Meet Jack Chen. Jack Chen, Author, Assistant, General Counsel at Meta (Facebook) Bookshare member. Photo(s): Headshot of Jack Chen. Benetech Logo.

Benetech’s CEO Ayan Kishore had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Jack Chen, an author and long-time Bookshare member at a conference. Both parties sat down to discuss Jack’s discovery of Bookshare and how he leveraged it as a resource for his upcoming novel. Learn more about his interview below.

Tragedy to Triumph

As a child, Jack had low vision, able to see colors and objects, but not distinguish them clearly. A large part of his childhood was spent using the contrast of colors to navigate his way, whether it was while cycling or exploring other activities that were part of his everyday routine. Upon entering the 10th grade, Jack underwent eye surgery to improve his vision, but it did more harm than good, resulting in the loss of his sight. During this moment in Jack’s life, he describes it as if a bucket of ice was poured into the deepest parts of his soul. Jack faced a difficult decision; would he succumb to his present circumstances? Was he going to confront his challenges and/or adversities head-on? His choice and his faith as a Christian ultimately led to a life of triumph following the tragedy of his vision loss at the height of his high school career. Despite his low Braille proficiency, Jack excelled on his school’s SAT tests and was accepted early to Harvard University, from which he graduated with honors. Consequently, Jack became an inventor, patent holder, and lawyer for Google and Facebook, and worked for startups and law firms.

Open New Worlds with Bookshare

During his college career, Jack primarily used recordings for the blind and Braille, which he was not well versed in, resulting in low usage of these resources. Due to a lack of easy access to audiobooks and a lack of awareness of other audiobook sources, Jack fell out of reading for a while. Jack was first introduced to a Bookshare user more than ten years ago through his own field research of exploration of accessible learning tools/platforms. “Bookshare’s collection was current and up to date, as well as very easy to use. Thanks to Bookshare, I have access to all the books I wanted to read but did not have access to before” Jack explains.

The Impact of Bookshare & Jack’s New Novel

Jack’s experience living with a disability, led to a desire to learn from and understand the generations of people living with disabilities before him. He was interested in what techniques, habits, attitudes, and practices others used to achieve success despite hindrances. He dove into the genre of autobiography and fell in love with the deep level of insight it offered. Among the first autobiographies he read was Marla Runyan, who was the first visually impaired person to represent the United States at the Olympics, placing highest among women in her event. During his reading journey, he was able to discover common themes and characteristics among people who live with disabilities and are successful.

Jack realized that there were no works that captured the lived experience, and his excitement about bringing these people’s stories to life inspired him to write, despite his lack of confidence in his writing abilities.

Taking advantage of his data/tech proclivities, he began to chart out his observations, which grew into a large database of prominent portrayals of the lives of these individuals. It was only through Bookshare that he had access to this material, which allowed him to read and digest these books more quickly and efficiently. He found that most of the books he needed for research were available through Bookshare.

It has taken Jack 10 years to complete his book, which portrays a variety of professions, visibility spectrums, and achievements based on the figures from his research. With Bookshare, Jack was able to download Word versions of research books, as well as organize his book’s structure by adding his personal notes and citations. “As I put this together, Bookshare has been an invaluable resource. I could not have done this work without it.”, says Jack.

“I want to create a resource that will be useful in the academic setting.”

Jack Chen

Embracing Adversity

Jack plans to create a series of books featuring the stories of as many people with disabilities as possible so that everyone feels represented and can learn about people who are like them and their journeys.

“You must embrace your adversity, if you wish to achieve success,” says Jack. “Though the book is written from the perspective of those with disabilities, the success factors mentioned in the book can be applied to anyone who is faced with any type of adversity or challenge in life.”, says Jack. Jack hopes that his book will have a dramatic impact on society and the world as it relates to a better understanding of the adversities faced.

Our sincere gratitude goes out to Jack Chen for sharing his experience using Bookshare’s accessible online library and we thank him for his advocacy for inclusion:

Jack Chen graduated from Fordham Law School and began his career at Google as an associate patent counsel in 2010. A graduate of Harvard and Berkeley, Jack became Google’s Chrome product counsel in 2014. He is known as the “quarterback or general counsel for the product” from a legal perspective. Chen holds degrees in computer science from both Harvard and Berkeley. Prior to law school, Jack interned at AT&T and worked for Xanboo Inc., an internet-based home automation and security company. Additionally, he worked as a patent and trademark attorney for Kenyon & Kenyon in New York for two years, and at Baker Botts for three years. Jack currently holds the title of assistant general counsel at Meta (Facebook), where he leads the product legal team that supports the core advertising operations of Facebook. As part of his athletic career, Jack has participated in five triathlons, including two Iron Man triathlons. These triathlons consist of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles of running. Learn more about the author, Jack Chen visit Linkedn.

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