As we mentioned in our November blog (VIDA Insight No. 118. Employment and Technology – Your Views), Dave and I (Vicky), along with Gary Eady from Gary Eady Computer Training, are leading on phase 2 of TAVIP’s Inclusive Employment Project. In order to find out what current employment and technology experiences people with vision impairments have, we sent out a few questions via this insight, emails and social media and were pleased to receive over 30 responses. We thought we would use this blog to share some of these findings.
The questions we asked were:
1. If you are currently working, what is your role and which software packages do you use?
2. Have you received specific IT Training? If so, what was this for and who provided it? Was it helpful?
3. Who or where do you turn to for additional support regarding technology?
4. Who or where do you turn to for additional support relating to work issues?
It was positive to discover that people worked in a wide variety of roles, with some examples being Psychotherapist, Careers Adviser, Director of IT, Customer Service Assistant and Chief Executive of a charity.
Our survey informed us that the predominent software packages used both at work and at home were the Microsoft Office suite (particularly Word, Excel and Outlook), Google Chrome web browser and Zoom video conferencing software. In addition, many people told us that they have to use bespoke in house IT packages and databases. A couple of people used braille transcription software.
The majority of the people who responded to our survey used a Windows PC or laptop with a small number of people using a Mac.
Everyone that answered our questions used assistive technology software including:
Whilst some people had received previous training to use assistive technology people hadn’t received specific training to use in-house software in conjunction with this, mainly because their own in-house IT teams were not users of or aware of access technology and therefore were unable to assist.
However, people stated that they use a wide range of sources for IT support, including:
A recurring theme from our responses (and also mentioned in TAVIP’s previous survey) was that people had to be quite self-motivated and self-reliant when it came to managing to work, as well as developing a good rapport with colleagues and their managers. We thought we would share some of these quotes with you as they highlight people’s determination and perseverance.
“I have found most of these [in-house systems] to be quite accessible with the screen reader, because they will perform very similar functions in so it's just a case of finding the right button to perform the right action.”
“taught myself whilst on the job”
“if I do need something, I research it myself”
“Unfortunately, there was no one I could turn to to ask about technology I had to learn it all myself”
“I've done lots of research on my own”
“When I'm looking for a role, one of the important parts of the interviewing process for me involves actually meeting the person I'll be reporting to so I can get a sense of whether or not it's a good fit in this regard.”
“I am fortunate to have developed a bunch of friendships with some wise folks who are blind, and we often seek support from one another when deciding how to handle a situation if it's access related”.
Whilst the above showcases in a positive way the resourcefulness and resilience of these working individuals, it does put a lot of additional responsibility onto the person with the vision impairment, adding to their workload which other work colleagues don’t have within their working remit. This would not be so necessary if there was a greater understanding of assistive technology and if all systems were built with accessibility in mind.
We will therefore use one quote to end which we feel sums this up quite nicely:
“In summary, employee or job seeker targeted interventions are super important, but we don't have nearly enough interventions targeting employers, IT folks, policy-makers, etc.”
Although this phase of the TAVIP project is for us to design a pre-employment course for people with vision impairments to ensure they have the skills, resilience and support networks both when finding work and once employed, it is also hoped in the near future to run a symposium event for employers, highlighting the existing skill sets and capabilities of people with vision impairments (including resourcefulness and determination) but also improving employers’ general awareness and understanding of vision impairments in relation to recruitment and employment.
We’re always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these by commenting…
Interested to learn more about VIDA Training? We provide professional, bespoke Vision Impairment and Disability Training, Consultancy and Employment Services. Please contact us for further information.
Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.