A former SI360 fellow, mentor, and regional director, Adrian Rodriguez currently serves as CTO of YellowFinch, Inc., a smart-enterprise startup developing IoT load sensors to prevent snowfall-induced roof collapse. Adrian also leads interaction design at TouchRead Technologies, an assistive technology startup developing a tactile pixel standard for digitally rendering graphs and images to visually impaired consumers.
Adrian Rodriguez was born in postwar El Salvador with a profound visual disability. He interviewed with multiple private schools in the United States in an effort to get a robust education and all he visited determined he wouldn’t be able to succeed in the American school system. He ended up in a public school in Illinois that assisted him — including supplying magnifying glasses for reading — after months of searching.
This experience — and the fact that one out of three of visually-impaired adults in America live in poverty — inspired him to work to advance the resources and tools available for visually-impaired students. He started by founding a small organization at age 15 called Strikers.
The SI360 Connection
During college at Stanford and through his SI360 fellowship, Adrian realized that while immersion technology benefited the visually impaired, it also marginalized those populations.
An inventor from MIT visited his college as part of the SI360 program to share an invention that printed out adhesive strips of braille. Adrian recognized that this labeler didn’t actually address the underlying problem: Braille itself is stiff, takes up too much space, and does not express enough information for readers. He shared his ideas for a new kind of braille technology with his SI360 cohort at Stanford and ultimately collaborated with fellows and mentors to take printed technology in another direction. After receiving a Kenneth Cole AWEARNESS Grant, they applied Google glass technology to address the issue of misinformation in hospitals, particularly in remote regions with limited accessibility. The first software test was designed for hospitals that have patients in remote villages in Southeast Asia. They started to work with some of the villages to develop a hybrid of jewelry that contained a medical identifier with the capabilities to detect patient information.
Adrian also interned at Palantir Technologies, where he co-designed technology to enable California’s first Social Impact Bond.
Adrian now works with a company that is working to create camera technology that can not only recognize shapes and graphs and digitize them, it can also translate text to braille. He wants to take that a step further by creating a 2D grid with higher resolution and include shape recognition to display tactile multimedia, charts, and graphs.
Dedication to Social Impact
Adrian follows the philosophy of social impact that states “our society is only strong as its weakest link.” His endgame is to empower a new subset of people that currently can’t contribute to society to be able to engage, create, and innovate, by providing the visually-impaired with technology to educate and express themselves. He believes it is important to have diverse perspectives in society and that multiple perspectives lead to more democratic solutions and innovations.