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Promoting assistive technologies
How AT supports working

How AT supports working

Author: David Banes, Chief Executive Officer, Mada - Qatar Assistive Technology Center. Edited by James Thurston, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Group.

Case studies of users by AbilityNet

Barbara Howard
Director of Leicester-based charity, Mosaic.

After an un-diagnosed, minor stroke, Barbara was left with photosensitive epilepsy. In a digital world of flash and flicker, adverts, logos and icons, Barbara found using a PC was virtually impossible.

For her work, this was a huge obstacle:

"Funders always want to send things by e-mail and many funding applications have to be completed online," she explains. With the help of her assistant, she was able to continue to work, but she felt the loss of independence very keenly:

"I had no confidentiality and was dependent on someone else's time and their understanding of the importance, or lack of importance of information; I was dependent on someone else's timescale and contributing to the speedy destruction of the Brazilian Rain Forest.

"Access to work," (the UK government scheme providing support for employment for disabled people) "tried to help and introduced me to a consultancy for assessment. However, their experience was with people with visual and physical impairments which prevented them from using a mouse for example. The exposure to the PC necessitated by the assessment made me ill for days afterwards. Their recommendations were - variously - switching off the screen (impractical) or using voice recognition software. The latter still involved me looking at the screen, and besides, I didn't have a problem using the computer physically.

"It seemed inconceivable to everyone that I couldn't use a computer because of an ‘invisible' impairment. But 4% of people who have epilepsy have my condition - that's up to 18,000 people in Britain.

"What I needed was control. Following an assessment on the phone, I was  convinced me that a remote assessment at home would help. I didn't understand how the remote technology worked, but within an hour and a half they had changed my life!

"They made a load of suggestions that I'd never thought of and didn't understand the importance of, but they worked! The color of my screen was one of them. We tried khaki. It made an incredible difference. We removed all images - no photos, no flash photography and, best of all, no flashing cursor! My computer is also much faster as a result, as there are no pictures to download.

"I can e-mail, I can tender for funding bids, I have my world back plus some."

Remote and home working
New technologies are enabling users to take part in employment whilst remaining at home.

Susan is an advisor on technology for people with a disability. She finds it difficult to leave her home, but through the use of Voice over IP, screen sharing and collaboration tools she is able to work effectively and efficiently from her own home. Her ability to work as part of a team is enhanced through a web based CRM system that allows her to enter live data and share that with other members of her team.