Lend Your Voice: How has accessible technology helped you or your employees succeed on the job?
My disability only limits me when technology is not accessible. As a professional with Retinitis Pigmentosa – a degenerative eye disorder that leaves me with significant vision loss – I often rely on technology to enhance my skills and equalize myself in “the real world.” As technology improves, I find fewer and fewer reasons to ask for help.
Initially, the accessible technology available to me to me was limited to basic optical magnifiers, lights, colored paper, and 80-pound Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTVs) that I used to accomplish things in school and on the job. Technology used to be as helpful as it was isolating. Now, accessibility is a feature built into many mainstream devices. Because of this, I’ve grown in my job over the past 10 years and continue to expand and enhance my own capacity as well as strengthen the organization that I work for. Accessible technology allows me to manage a full-time job, part-time graduate degree program, and still maintain a happy personal life with my family.
I live in Minnesota, teach college in Massachusetts, and work for an organization based in North Carolina that has people working in a dozen different states, so I use a lot of technology every day to communicate with people around the U.S. and the world. I have a few pieces of specialized technology, like a VideoPhone, but I think it’s just as important for people with disabilities to be creative in using technology that may have been developed for other purposes. For instance, I regularly use apps to call cabs or navigate subway systems. I turn on built-in captions in my phone, iPad, or laptop to watch videos. I use speech-to-text apps designed for dyslexic people to help me communicate with hearing people (they talk – I read). To me, “accessible” technology at work is any technology that is universally designed so I can use it to suit my purposes as a Deaf professional, and not just technology designed with Deaf people or ASL users in mind.