Step by Step: A Journey into Accessibility and Assistive Technology
The year was 2004 and I just secured a position at a large company. This was the beginning of a new journey for me. But not the journey that I expected. This is an article about my personal experiences as I began to lose my sight. It will discuss my journey from being a person who had good eyesight to a person who now has low vision. I remain unaware if my eyes will continue to deteriorate or if they will stabilize. I will also discuss my views on the importance of accessibility and assistive technology.
Long story short, I was diagnosed with Cone-Rod Dystrophy in 2004. This was a confusing time for me. At the time, I knew very little about accessibility and I felt like my world was crashing down around me. I became depressed, angry, fearful, and lost. It was only once I received a proper diagnosis and became acquainted with assistive technology that I felt hope again. I saw a CCTV magnifier and used screen reader/magnification software like ZoomText. Finally, I felt I could potentially live a normal life and do things I used to be able to do.
Now if you had known me prior to 2004, you would describe me as a hard worker with a sense of humor. But also knew next to nothing about accessibility and accommodation. Don’t get me wrong: I knew about ramps, braille, automatic doors and other ways to make the lives of people with disabilities more inclusive. But I did not really understand what inclusiveness was – or let alone, how it related to me and others in my life.
As my eyes worsened, I was introduced to the idea of using a white cane. This was not something that interested me. I was proud and did not want to be associated with a cane. The idea that people were continuously watching me and that I stood out because I had a white cane was real to me. I soon learned that these thoughts were not the case. With much convincing I decided to give it a try and things became easier for me. I was able to go places where there were lots of people and if I happened to walk in front of them and cut them off, they usually understood. My confidence grew as well. I began doing things that I used to do.
Accessibility and assistive technology
Over the years, I returned to school twice. Each time was an amazing experience. I learned even more about accessibility and became involved in the community and an advocate of accessibility and accommodation. Inclusion was now something I was truly beginning to understand.
I became an expert user of ZoomText Magnifier/Reader and learned how to use other assistive technology along the way. From the first time that I was introduced to various assistive technologies I was excited about them and the possibilities I now had in front of me. This technology opened new doors for me, and it opens doors for people around the world each day.
Okay. Here it is. Sixteen years after my diagnosis, I am all about inclusiveness, accessibility, and accommodating those who need it. I joined the Fable Community in the first quarter of 2020. I came to know what Fable was all about. I began doing compatibility tests and later moved on to user interviews. What I specifically noted about Fable is that we pay our community of testers a competitive and fair wage. It stands in stark contrast to the many organizations that offer gift cards to people with disabilities to test their product. Gift cards are great – but they don’t pay the bills. A fair wage is far more valuable and appreciated by testers with this expertise.
We all want to be included and we should strive to make the world a place where we all have access to the same opportunities whenever possible. Of course, I can not become a brain surgeon but there are many careers I can do. With an inclusive world the possibilities are endless.
The path ahead
Over the years and since I began to lose my sight, I received a college diploma in Human Resources and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Honours Psychology. I gained employment in the fields of Human Resources and became an entrepreneur. I later gained employment in the accessibility field and volunteered in many different positions. And now I write for this blog.
Assistive technology has played a huge role in my success. Although, that does not mean it is not possible to achieve an education or work without assistive technology. But this technology levels the playing field and makes the world a more inclusive place.
I hope to help change the world to one where everyone has access to technology, and the assistive technologies they need to prosper. And that’s why I work at Fable.