Jim Bliss was part of the group of electrical engineers at Stanford University that launched the modern assistive technology era by developing the Optacon, the first print-reading device for the blind. With his senior partner, Jim Linvill, Bliss founded Telesensory Systems, Inc., later Telesensory, a company devoted to inventing, manufacturing, and marketing products for blind people. Among its innovations, Telesensory developed the Speech Plus calculator, the first talking calculator; the VersaBraille, a computer with a braille keyboard and braille display; the Vantage, a black-and-white closed-circuit television system; the PowerBraillle, a 40-cell braille display; and numerous software and screen reading products.
He founded JBliss Imaging Systems in 1994 to develop assistive products and software for personal computers; he headed the company until his retirement in 2005. In 2007 he received the Migel Medal—the highest honor in the blindness field—from the American Foundation for the Blind.
On January 24, 2012, he died after a long battle with multiple myeloma.