Interview with Jibril Jaha
Jibril: My name is Jibril Jaha. I was born in London, UK and raised in St. Louis, MO. I have also lived abroad in both Saudi Arabia where my father was stationed as a pilot and Tanga, Tanzania. I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BS in Multidisciplinary studies with an concentration in biotechnology, certification in quality management, minor in Deaf studies. I also took couple courses and workshops at entrepreneurship and innovation, taking advantage of the new center.
Mary Pat: Wow, that all sounds very exciting! And what do you do now that you’ve graduated from RIT?
Jibril: I work at USDA as a biological scientist. I am also an entrepreneur who devotes his time to technology that targets the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community and beyond. It’s one of my passions, to help my community advance as far as they can. The product that I’ve been focusing my time and energy on is called, ISeeWhatYouSay.
Mary Pat: What got you involved in that project?
Jibril: It is my passion to develop new technologies so I’ve been keeping myself aware of any development out there and I created and moderate a google plus page called, Deaf and Hard of Hearing STEM Professionals Network that I had established for my peers. The CEO, Mike, posted in the group about developing technology for our community and that’s how we got connected.
Mary Pat: So if I understand this correctly, Deaf and Hard of Hearing STEM Professional Network is on Google Plus?
Jibril: It is across several social media platforms including LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Facebook. I wanted a place where all of us Deaf and Hard of Hearing STEM Professionals could share, ask for advice, and post about things in relation to STEM.
Mary Pat: OK and “ISeeWhatYouSay” is in the process of being developed, how are you involved with this product and the process?
Jibril: My contribution has been varied. I helped with business plan writing, marketing strategies, and had some help from Kendall Smith and Ryan Gregory (from RIT) right from the beginning of start up. Kendall focused on the business plan from the financial perspective and helped a lot with other parts as well. Ryan is the designer for our prototypes and for the next ISeeWhatYouSay versions. I also connected with a person from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing STEM Professionals Network page, Johnny Duong. He did couple cool projects for developing webpages at the beginning (not up anymore) but he's in the process of making one for our kickstarter campaign. So through my networking abilities, I helped spread awareness. I also spent a good amount of time working with the developers making sure they understood things from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing perspective.
Mary Pat: The developers were not really well versed with the community’s wants and needs, so what made you feel like this was an ideal project for you to be involved in?
Jibril: I was born Deaf, raised in hearing world, was taught how to talk until I went to RIT where there was strong community of Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals. With that experience, I know what it’s like to be able to speak very well but have difficulties lipreading or understanding what is being said to me. At this point, I no longer wear hearing aids as part of my Deaf identity but I believe strongly that there should be an alternative assistive technology out there for senior citizens and other deaf adults who lost hearing progressively as well as Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.
Mary Pat: And what is the price range you are saying this product is going to be in?
Jibril: We are planning on selling it for twenty dollars. This is an ultra cheap “companion” for your smartphone and is capable to do so much more than just voice to text. You don’t want to be giving somebody a 700 dollar phone, give them ISeeWhatYouSay instead for communication.
Mary Pat: Where can we find this product and how can we support your work with “ISeeWhatYouSay”?
Jibril: We have a kickstarter page and a website. Our website is much more detailed and connects you to our kickstarter page. We have a few days to go and we need to raise a lot more money so please come and help us! Check out our website at www.iseewhatyousay.com and even if people can’t donate, we really want to spread awareness of what we are doing. This is a wonderful product and I believe that it’s something that needs to be out there as an option.
Interviewed by Mary Pat Withem
Updated on July 7, 2014