I recently learned that John DeWitt passed away. He was the founder of DeWitt & Associates, an organization that provided technology assessment and training in New Jersey for persons who are blind or visually impaired. He also worked for the American Foundation for the Blind from 1978 to 1989 as a resource specialist. John's passing was a great loss to New Jersey, the blindness community, his family, and all of the people he touched through his work and volunteering.
I grew up in New Jersey and I also worked for the state for a period. I knew of John prior to my work, but I first had the opportunity to speak to him when he spoke at a "Circle of Bell Ringers" at the Joseph Kohn Training Center in New Brunswick, NJ. He had an impressive life story.
When I joined AFB in 2009, I found out that he was the first mentor for CTIB, which was the original name for AFB CareerConnect when it started as a database of mentors. In our database, he is mentor number one out of a couple thousand mentors from the United States and abroad. I can remember him calling me a few years ago; he wanted to connect about a possible project. I was in awe, as he was a bit of a celebrity to me. He was genuine and straightforward, which is something I truly value in communication. Friends who are blind from around the state of New Jersey have echoed this sentiment. He was a wonderful person who served as a mentor to many.
After hearing the news and discussing this loss with others, I wanted to commemorate John Dewitt's life. You will find quotes from a number of people about his impact on them and their impressions. If you want to share your own, please add a comment.
"John was a member of the AFB family and an excellent mentor to people with vision loss. His many contributions live on today through AFB CareerConnect and our work with technology. We will always be grateful for his tremendous work to make the world a better place for people with vision loss. Our hearts go out to John's family and friends."—Carl Augusto, AFB president and CEO
"I spoke with John a few weeks ago, and as always, he sounded great—upbeat and thinking about the future. Of course, he was also working to right a wrong. John set so many fine examples, especially for how to live life to the fullest. It's no wonder that he was an extraordinary mentor for CareerConnect, because he was such a great teacher and role model. Thanks, John, for all you did to better lives for people with vision loss." —Paul Schroeder AFB vice president, Programs and Policy
"I met John when I was 22 years of age. I loved technology, we connected immediately. He was a possibility thinker that encouraged me to "always think solutions." He helped me believe in myself and the technology I was using. He told me the "technology would work if I worked the technology." I was privileged to learn from such a kind, intelligent, and giving person. The world of assistive technology is a better place because of Mr. John DeWitt."—David J. De Notaris, director of the Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services, State of Pennsylvania
"John was a good man who wanted to reach as many people as possible who could benefit from the technology available to those who are low vision or blind. His business decisions were not always universally loved, but his desire to provide accessibility to others was what was always on his mind. Working for him provided me the opportunity to learn and gain experience with assistive technology so that I can help others and I will always be thankful to him for that."—Colleen Faupel, teacher of the Visually Impaired (former employee of John DeWitt)
"In March 2002, I became AFB CareerConnect's program specialist. This was the time when the Careers & Technology Information Bank (CTIB) was being transitioned to an online career education and exploration program, highlighting assistive technology and mentors. As Joe mentioned above, John was Mentor #1 and I, too, was impressed by him all of the time. He was kind and always took a moment to chat before getting into business. Being that one of my main responsibilities at the time was to connect users with mentors, I really appreciated how willing John was to mentor anyone I connected him with. Sometimes we marveled at how far we had come with this program and how everything was becoming interactive, where users and mentors could find and connect with each other without an intermediary. But back in those days, we did not have all of the many features we now have and I did a lot of telephone calling to mentors and users and John was one of my favorites to call on. He never turned down the opportunity to mentor others in this program. I'm very glad I had the special privilege of getting to know John DeWitt in this manner. And AFB CareerConnect is very proud to have had him as Mentor #1."—Detra Bannister, AFB CareerConnect employment specialist
You can read more details about John Dewitt's life from his obituary.