If you’d like to hear the full story, check out the 9 part audio series hosted by Glen Gordon called “In The Arena, the Jonathan Mosen Story”.
Radio in the blood
Blind since birth, I became known to many radio listeners in Auckland, New Zealand from an early age, having featured on talkback radio with popular talk show host Geoff Sinclair from before the age of five. I became a regular, and I must confess precocious, voice on the air, and was particularly well known for my annual appearances just before Christmas, where I would talk to young callers, sharing the excitement and anticipation that comes with the season.
Having continued my regular appearances on Radio Pacific until my mid-teens, and while still at high school, I wanted a career in radio so much that I decided I needed to have a go at creating my own opportunity. With help and support from my friends, I started my own short-term radio station broadcasting to the South Auckland area. I set up Radio Enterprise to prove to the industry and the world in general that blindness was no barrier to working in broadcasting. The station was fully funded by advertising, and all announcing staff were blind. The project was national news and the high standard of presentation was commented upon by those in the industry.
While still at the University of Auckland attaining my Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Studies, I began my commercial broadcasting career with my work for Counties Radio, which served the Counties/Manukau area. I later hosted a breakfast current affairs show on Auckland 1476 where I interviewed the politicians and other newsmakers of the day. I also worked on Today FM, South City radio, and Q96 FM where I was Programme Director.
Advocacy and Government relations
I’ve been pointing out injustice since I was a kid, which didn’t always make me popular with teachers. In 1994 I was appointed Manager Government Relations by the organisation then known as the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind. I’m proud of the advocacy victories we achieved during this time including world-leading changes to the Copyright Act which have been emulated in the USA and other countries, securing the right of blind people to serve on a jury, recognition of the needs of blind people during reviews of social security provisions and saving the free postage of Braille and talking books.
In 1999 I graduated from the Victoria University of Wellington with a master’s degree in Public Policy (MPP). My thesis on public policy benchmarks for equality of opportunity for disabled people challenges many fundamental foundations upon which public policy on disability has been based.
I was elected twice as national president of the consumer organisation, the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand, the youngest person to have ever been elected to this position. As President I played a crucial role in forging significant constitutional change to the structure of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, giving blind people a greater say in the Foundation’s governance.
In 2002 I was elected Chairman of the Board of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind. As Chairman of the organisation, which employed 400 staff, operated a $20 million budget and worked with a national team of volunteers, I oversaw the implementation of a new Constitution for the organisation that saw a move to a self-determination-based model. I was elected as the first Chairman of the reconstituted organisation in 2003.
I have served as Treasurer of the World Blind Union Asia Pacific Region and as one of new Zealand’s delegates to the WBU General Assembly.
You never get rid of the radio bug
As Internet radio became possible, it occurred to me that while terrestrial radio stations focus on local communities, Internet radio could focus on global communities that have common interests and challenges such as the blind community.
In 1998 I began broadcasting on my own Internet radio station, MBSFM, which had been running as a low power FM (LPFM) station in Wellington. On MBSFM, I started the first global call-in show exclusively for the blind community, called Blind Line.
In 1999 I founded and directed the on-line Internet radio service ACB Radio, on behalf of the American Council of the Blind. At the time of my departure in 2003, the network had grown to include four concurrent streams featuring work from over 70 volunteer staff in nine countries, and listeners in over 70 countries. You can read my ACB Radio story.
The fusion of geekdom, broadcasting and management
In 2003 I became the Blindness Product Manager at Pulse Data International, latterly renamed HumanWare. At the time, the company was one of New Zealand’s most successful technology exporters. In this role, I oversaw an overhaul of the BrailleNote product line, including the design and roll-out of BrailleNote mPower. I facilitated partnerships with other companies in the blindness space including Baum and Code Factory to expand HumanWare’s offerings.
In 2006, I became Vice president of blindness hardware product Management at Florida-based Freedom Scientific, producers of the world-leading JAWS for Windows screen reader, and the largest and most influential company in the blindness technology space. Working predominantly from my home in New Zealand but also travelling the world extensively, I was responsible for blindness hardware products such as the PAC mate Accessible Pocket PC and its related software, and the Focus line of Braille displays which allow blind people to read in Braille what is on a computer screen. I also devised and hosted FSCast, a monthly podcast from Freedom Scientific.
In 2010, I returned to managing Internet radio, when I established Mushroom FM. This voluntary Internet radio project quickly took off and comprised over 40 staff with listeners in 115 countries. With a high degree of professionalism and clever use of social media, Mushroom FM quickly became an Internet phenomenon with a loyal and growing listener base.
In 2013, Alongside my wife Bonnie, I founded my own company, Mosen Consulting. It provided assistive technology training, produced eBooks and audiobooks including the popular iOS Without the Eye series, and offered advice to companies and developers who wanted to make their websites and apps accessible. I continued to host Freedom Scientific’s podcast and created their social media and blog.
In October 2018, I became Vice President, Australasia and Explorer Communications at Aira, the visual interpreter service. During my six-months there, I oversaw the rolling out of full Aira service to Australia and New Zealand, produced audio training material on how to use the service, established an Aira podcast and revamped global communications.
Making it to the top
I became the CEO of Workbridge in 2019. Workbridge is the largest employment agency for disabled people in New Zealand, with 22 offices and 120 staff across New Zealand.
You can frequently hear me in global media offering commentary on assistive technology and its impact on disabled people or other disability issues.
While not producing technology anymore, I still beta test a wide range of software for Windows and iOS.
I have been humbled and honoured to receive the Vernon Henley media Award from the American Council of the Blind for my positive representation of blind people through the media.
I was also awarded the Association of Blind Citizens of new Zealand’s Beamish Memorial medal in 2003, their most prestigious award, for my services to the blind of New Zealand.
In 2019, New Zealand recognised my services to the blind community by making me a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, MNZM.
Interests and family
I live in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, with my best friend and wonderful wife Bonnie.
I have four children, two boys and two girls, only one of whom is still at high school. I even now have a wonder son-in-law.
As you may be able to tell, I’m enthralled by technology, both as a geek and because of the difference it can make to the lives of disabled people.
I’m a veracious reader, mostly of biographies and books about leadership or personal growth, but I also read a wide range of fiction and am particularly fond of political fiction and sci fi.
Music plays a big part in my life. In particular, I’m a Beatles collector.
I’m passionate about ketogenic living, having lost a lot of weight and improved my mood immensely since adopting the lifestyle.
I meditate daily and try to avoid preaching about it too much like some sort of evangelist, but it really has changed my life. I also believe in the power of gratitude and keep a gratitude journal.
I’m also hearing impaired and enjoy geeking out to make the most of my hearing.
The assistive technologies I use most are JAWS for Windows which offers me the power I need to keep productive in my busy life, my Focus 40 Blue Braille display, and VoiceOver on iOS.