As a working individual who is blind and who uses a power wheelchair with limited motor skills, I’ve encountered a variety of challenges at the workplace. Fortunately, with the help of modern and assistive technology, those challenges have become fewer and far between.
I rely heavily on assistive technology to perform my work responsibilities at WeCo. I have a screen readersoftware on my desktop computer and use a Braille display device. The screen reader on my computer literally speaks (in a quite pleasant voice which I can control) what is on the screen. I am able to type, with some functional limitations, though. I have my computer set up like a laptop so I can more easily press the necessary keyboard keys to instruct my screen reader to spell the last word, read the previous line or paragraph, etc. There are many commands with screen readers that use the number pad in conjunction with other keys but are difficult for me to do because of my limited right hand function. Even with this, it takes me longer to type certain things because in order to reach the “k”, “l”, “;”, and some of the upper keys, I have to take my hand totally off of the home row to press these keys.
In addition to my screen reader, I also have a Braille display. Inputting information into my brain works so much better for me when it is in Braille rather than being verbalized to me audibly. Often times I turn my screen reader speech off and just read what is on the Braille display. I do this especially when I’m not typing, but rather when I’m reading a document, web page or something on the screen.
I have the newest technology in Braille displays that I use with my desktop. The Active Braille display puts whatever is on the computer screen into Braille. It’s also wonderful for filling out forms because with a push of a button, the cursor can automatically be routed to wherever you need to write. You can really get a hands on look at the page, something that is not truly possible with screen readers. Speech is still important, but for me, there is nothing more wonderful than the use of Braille in reading and gathering information.
So that is the basic nuts and bolts of the assistive technology that I use, but how to do the work, that is another matter.
I answer client inquiries via phone or email correspondence. I use Outlook 2016 in conjunction with Microsoft Office 365 using the keyboard commands to send, reply, add attachments and use the calendar.
When I meet with clients over the phone I try to obtain their email address beforehand through past correspondences or their website contact information. In order to type I have to put the phone on speaker. I’ve found that with my screen reader on, this is problematic so I try to avoid having to do as much data entry while on the phone as possible.
It’s all of these accommodations that make it possible for me to do my work successfully at WeCo.