A Personal Perspective on Assistive Technology
Assistive technology has given people with disabilities the opportunity to excel in the workplace alongside their able-bodied counterparts. Gone are the days where employers had the perception that workers with disabilities couldn’t keep up with the work flow. Whether it be a screen reader for the blind, magnified screens for the visually impaired, or a hands-free mouse for individuals living with ALS, there are assistive technologies for people with various types of conditions and ability levels and they’re making the workforce more accessible than ever before. I know this from first-hand experience.
Technology has personally given me the opportunity to advance in my career. The three things I use in the professional setting are my phone, my laptop, and my mini globe magnifier. Microsoft has developed a baked-in screen magnifier into the Windows 10 software, making my laptop much easier to use. This feature is available on all Windows 10 laptops and desktops. I use it every day. It has made me more efficient and I’m able to get my work done quickly. Whether it’s typing away on a Word document, crunching numbers in Excel, or creating a deck in PowerPoint, I can do it all. Making little visual mistakes are a thing of the past. The screen magnifier has helped me tremendously. I couldn’t ever imagine not having such an option now. It’s great seeing a juggernaut like Microsoft give people with disabilities a leg up.
Reading text from a physical source has always been quite a challenge for me, as I’m near sighted. So, I got myself a mini globe magnifier and I never leave home without it. Not everything in the work place is completely digital. I have always had to deal with print-based text, whether it be reading a brief for a meeting or doing some hand-written work for my boss. My mini magnifier is always within arm’s reach of me.
Lastly, I utilize my smartphone for professional purposes at work. I use it to zoom into emails and take screenshots of anything I can’t see. I also use the cameras zoom feature to read any text that may be too far away for me to see. Every employer I have worked for has luckily been super accommodating. I just tell them anything I may need and they do their best to make it happen. Most employers are becoming more and more inclusive. Asking what an employee needs is imperative when hiring employees with disabilities.
Embrace Your Inner Techie
Technology helps workers with disabilities become fully-enabled. Every person has the power to do good work and elevate the company’s brand. I believe, eventually, accessible technology will be commonplace for all workers with disabilities in the professional space. Companies like Microsoft and Apple are making big strides towards making their laptop operating systems more user-friendly for people with needs.
There are a bunch of YouTube channels that also teach people with needs on how to be efficient & productive in a professional setting. While not everything is perfect, there is still a lot of discrimination towards those who are disabled, myself included. I’ve dealt with employers that didn’t want to accommodate me or hire me when they found out I had a visual impairment. Discriminatory practices are still very much alive today. But together we as individuals can show what we are capable of. I had to work twice as hard as my able-bodied colleagues when I landed my first big internship in the city. I was fully transparent with my employer and used all the resources I had on me to be as efficient and productive as possible and was lucky to have a great boss that helped me along the way.
I also understand that adopting assistive technology for any individual(s) is quite costly for the employer, but at the end of the day that one employee could truly help elevate the brand if he/she has the proper tools to do so. I truly believe one of the best ways to help integrate workers with disabilities into the professional space is to raise awareness of people’s needs and to invest in training. According to the HR People + Strategy, “Sensitizing training and etiquette classes will help full-bodied employees gain more insight into how to best deal with disabled coworkers. Some employees may be consciously or unconsciously biased about their disabled counterparts. Quality training from the part of the company will help dispel these notions. Employees should also be given basic information on how they can help their disabled colleagues in cases of emergency.” A workforce that is fully aware of what an individual may need in order to succeed is a truly powerful workforce.
I was always lucky because someone in HR was always willing to at least listen to my issues and did their best to give me the tools I needed in order to succeed. But I also understand that many others don’t get the same treatment. I think this notion needs to change. This shouldn’t differ from job to job but be a norm to uphold everywhere. I see a bright future for individuals with disabilities. Technology is improving more and more every year. We need to raise our voices as loud as possible. Keep advocating for people with needs. Especially now, since we can voice our concerns over the internet. Companies are listening and responding. We as individuals are more than capable of adding value, despite the cards handed to us in life. I will always advocate for a more inclusive tomorrow.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ishaan Rastogi graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He is currently an aspiring PR professional, hoping to make a positive impact in the workplace. He strongly believe in advocating for all people with disabilities in the professional space. “Creative and industry changing ideas can come from anyone. I want voices to be heard and perceptions to change.”