It is with great sadness that we at IBM mark the passing of our colleague Dr. Brent Shiver. Brent joined the IBM Accessibility team in 2014 right after completing a PhD in Computer Science from DePaul University.
Creator and inventor
A talented developer, he worked on a wide range of projects, from a mobile app for requesting job accommodations to our automated accessibility test tools. Brent was also active in research, exploring ways to make automated captions more comprehensible, and publishing his work at international conferences like the ASSETS Conference on Computers and Accessibility [1,2,3]. His perspective as a Deaf person was an essential part of his impact: “Because of my deafness, I see the world differently from my colleagues and can make technical and innovative contributions from angles not usually considered.” Brent’s many patent inventions covered a broad range of topics from applying technology to directing service animals  to tailoring search results . He never let a good idea fall by the wayside.
Advocate with humor
Of all his many professional contributions, perhaps the most important was his advocacy for the Deaf and hard of hearing community, both within IBM and more broadly.
Brent was adept at using technology to overcome barriers, whether typing into a laptop to converse with a blind colleague during an informal gathering, or sharing a mobile speech recognition app to chat while traveling without access to sign language interpreters. He was truly inclusive, recognizing that different individuals’ communication choices may differ, but are all equally important. At all times, his strong sense of humor shone through. In meetings where audio problems interrupted the conversation, a person asking “Can everyone hear me now?” might find the interpreter translating Brent’s instant response of: “No, I still can’t hear you.” He loved to point out when we were having “hearing people’s problems.” ❤️
Teacher and role model
Brent published videos and blogged about the technologies and services that enabled him to be productive at work [6,7,8], always pushing for better inclusion. He taught us all so much about Deaf culture, sign language, and interpretation. He had a tenacity balanced with a sense of humor that was impossible to resist, and his boisterous laughter was contagious.
Brent also found time to give to the community in other ways. He was active in promoting STEM studies, and volunteered as a wrestling coach at the Texas School for the Deaf, drawing on his own experience as a wrestling champion. In 2007 he was inducted into the Georgia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. 🏆
Brent’s #ShiverStrong approach to fighting cancer was tenacious, brave and filled with grace. We are desperately sad to lose such a beloved member of our team and will miss him enormously. Our love and sympathies go out to his wife Shannon and their two sons Jax and Beckett.
Michael Gower, Brent Shiver, Charu Pandhi, and Shari Trewin. 2018. Leveraging Pauses to improve video captions. In Proceedings of the 20th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS ’18). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 414–416.
Positivity changes hearts and minds and culture. We still have a long way to go. But as we celebrate the 31st anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act, I wanted to step back and celebrate how far we’ve come.
IBM remembers Dr. Brent Shiver. His perspective as a Deaf person was an essential part of his impact: "Because of my deafness, I see the world differently from my colleagues and can make technical and innovative contributions from angles not usually considered."