“In The Arena, the Jonathan Mosen Story”, with Glen Gordon

A note from Jonathan Mosen


Over the years that I operated Mosen Consulting, people would suggest books and audio tutorials they thought I should produce.
The most popular suggestion I didn’t deliver was the one I personally had the least appetite for. People asked if I would ever tell my story, perhaps in the form of a written or audio autobiography. I wondered how many people would really want to read it. But in 2019, I realised that the time was probably right. I’d just turned 50, had been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list that year, and although I have changed jobs before, exiting the assistive technology industry and going back to a domestic role here in New Zealand represented a big shift for me.

So, I decided that if I could find the right person to ask insightful, probing questions, who would pick up on something I might say and tease it out, challenge it, and go deeper, then that’s a format that might work.

After giving it some thought, I approached Glen Gordon, who has become a friend over the years and has a background as an excellent broadcast interviewer. He agreed to take it on.
The result is a nine-part series called “In The Arena, the Jonathan Mosen Story”.

This project took a lot of time to produce. Glen conducted his research well. He asked great questions, then gave me the time to give comprehensive answers.


On this page, you’ll find a summary of each episodes contents, then you can download the entire series as a single zip file.


Episode summaries


Episode 1


Glen Gordon begins this 9-part exploration of Jonathan Mosen’s life by asking about his childhood. We learn about Jonathan’s family, and the impact of radio from a very early age including his being well-known on radio in Auckland from the age of four. You’ll hear a rare extract of one of Jonathan’s Christmas shows which he co-hosted aged eight.

We learn how, as a teenager, Jonathan took control of his radio career by audaciously starting a radio station of his own.

But no one’s life is without trouble or struggle. Jonathan candidly discusses abuse at the school for the blind he attended, the roots of his interest
in advocacy, and we begin a discussion of a mental health crisis he suffered and overcame as a young adult.


Episode 2


Jonathan describes picking himself up from the depths of despair using a formula that had worked so well for him before. This time, it earned him his first full-time commercial radio gig.

We learn about his first after-school job.

Like many other blind people, Jonathan was fascinated by telephones and the phone system. We learn about some of his phone escapades.

Jonathan talks about moving to mainstream schools with resource rooms, and interactions with blind and sighted peers.

When he wasn’t studying or doing his after-school job, he was also in a theatre group.

We learn about Jonathan becoming a Christian, and how and why he is now a confident, comfortable atheist.

Jonathan meets the young woman who would become the mother of his four children.


Episode 3


We learn about Jonathan the undergraduate at the University of Auckland, and some of his early technology use including the VersaBraille from TSI, the Apple 2 E, the Keynote XL and its companion KeyTerm program that connected him to dial-up bulletin board systems and the CompuServe Information Service with the aid of a modem.

He discusses finding NFB literature on CompuServe and the positive impact it had both on his life and thinking about blindness.

We learn about the beginning of Jonathan’s blindness activism in New Zealand.

Radio opportunity came knocking for Jonathan while still at University. He describes putting his studies on temporary hold, then his crazy final year of
grueling work and study.

We look at some of the equipment and techniques that allowed Jonathan to do what he did, including Braille.


Episode 4

We begin by talking about why it was necessary for Jonathan to quit full-time radio in the interests of starting a family. But attempts to start a family began tragically.

Jonathan talks candidly about his then lack of domestic skills and what that did for balance in his relationship.

He says being a dad is the single most important thing he’s done in his life. We hear some memories from his children; Heidi, Richard, David and Nicola.

In 1994, Jonathan trains with his first and only guide dog to date.

We learn how Jonathan’s view of blindness and its impact expanded thanks to his role as a service advisor for the Foundation for the Blind.

We begin exploring Jonathan’s role as the Foundation for the Blind’s Manager, Government Relations. Jonathan talks about how it was not expected he would be appointed to the role, and the happenstance that helped him land the job.

Jonathan’s first campaign was to advocate successfully for a Copyright Act that was to enshrine a principle in New Zealand law that would ultimately be
adopted in other countries and form the basis of the Marrakesh Treaty.

He led a successful campaign to change the Juries Act in New Zealand, amid considerable controversy.

Episode 5


Jonathan details the epic struggle for governance reform of the Blind Foundation in New Zealand, another initiative that was to attract international interest. Jonathan was instrumental in ensuring blind New Zealanders took ultimate control of how the Board of the agency was put there. We learn how he became the only person to have led the consumer movement in New Zealand, and chaired the board of the agency, although of course not at the same time.

Jonathan discusses some of the things he is most proud of from his four years as President of New Zealand’s blindness consumer organisation.

As well as advocating to politicians, Jonathan has stood unsuccessfully for New Zealand’s Parliament twice. We learn the story behind those campaigns.

The cause of Jonathan’s blindness, Norrie Disease, also results in progressive hearing loss. Jonathan discusses this journey and its impact on his life.


Episode 6


We learn about the origins, operation and expansion of ACB Radio, which Jonathan founded in
1999. You’ll hear a few rare recordings from the period.


Episode 7


We begin this episode by talking about Jonathan’s Internet radio activities outside ACB Radio, including the founding, phenomenal growth, operation, closure and resurrection of Mushroom Fm.

We learn about Jonathan’s best and worst interviews, and the Internet radio station he established to protest the second Gulf War.

In 2003, Jonathan began working full-time in the assistive technology industry when he became the Blindness Products Manager at Pulse Data International/HumanWare.
As a precursor to looking at this role, we look at Jonathan’s history with assistive technology.


Episode 8


We begin this episode talking about Jonathan’s use of assistive technology. He remembers the real sense of concern that Windows may represent a huge step backwards for the blind, and his first use of JAWS for Windows.

We learn about the first website Jonathan set up in 1996 and its ambitious goals.

Jonathan remembers the first cell phone he bought in 1989, how much it cost, and how little it did.

Glen asks Jonathan about his involvement with using and creating assistive technology, including his work with Pulse Data/HumanWare and the creation of BrailleNote mPower.

At the time of mPower’s release, it was a period of turbulence in Jonathan’s personal life. He talks about why he wrote his most famous and controversial
blog post about the end of his marriage and the start of a new relationship.

The following year, Jonathan resigned his position at HumanWare to work for a competitor, Freedom Scientific. He reveals reasons for that decision that
he hasn’t talked about publicly before.

We learn about the starting of FSCast, and his reaction to the arrival of VoiceOver on iPhone in 2009.


Episode 9


We learn about the events that led to the formation of Mosen Consulting, the redefining of his role at Freedom Scientific, his major self-improvement drive which has included adopting a ketogenic lifestyle and embracing a meditation practice. He talks about the impact of the arrival of his wife Bonnie in his life.

In late 2018, Jonathan began working with Aira. He explains why he joined the company and why he left.

As Jonathan takes up a new CEO role at Workbridge, we conclude by looking to the future, and posing some lightning round questions.


Download “In The Arena”


“In The Arena” is available as a zip file containing all 9 episodes as MP3 files. The file is around 450 megabytes, so depending on the speed of your connection it may take some time to download.


Download “In The Arena, the Jonathan Mosen Story“.