Assistive Technologies for the Workplace
Whether you have been living with a disability for many years or recovering from a recent accident, there will come a time when you will need to assess your current working environment and seek advice on how to best optimise it. A functional assessment with an occupational therapist is a great way to start the process and to maximise your working potential, however your needs may change rapidly as technologies evolve and develop. Over the past 25 years of working as a C5 quadriplegic, I have come to realise that technology often moves faster than its requirement. As I just get comfortable working where I’m at, I stumble across new technologies that will enrich my working environment. As I go about making change, the clock keeps ticking, I slowly adapt and before I know it, I’m back in a comfortable place needing to update my technology.
In recent years I have found cloud technology (the delivery of computing services including servers, storage, databases etc over the internet) to be a game changer. When confined to a wheelchair, simple daily tasks can seem overwhelming and the thought of adopting new technologies and processes can cause a feeling of anxiety. I have tried to simplify my technology use across both my personal and working life. For business I use the Microsoft platform and utilise the power of the cloud to access information and connect applications across platforms and devices. Having structure on the cloud platforms enables me to enjoy a smooth-running digital environment and provides peace of mind knowing that everything is in the right place and easily accessible.
I have tried to simplify my technology use across both my personal and working life.
There are five necessary pieces of equipment that support my working environment, living with limited hand function and mobility challenges.
1. Mobile phone with stylus - I currently use a Samsung Note 10 and find the voice control and stylus is a great combination for me to be functional and mobile.
2. Microsoft Surface book – This laptop-come-tablet has great agility and can be used in many forms. I can find myself sitting up in bed having access to a powerful computer in the form of a tablet. This enables me to continue working on complex applications or performing the most simple tasks working within productivity apps and searching the web.
3. Dragon Voice Recognition - Voice recognition has come a long way over the past decade. Dragon has always been the leader in this space and continues to provide a product that is floorless in execution. A little time is required to train yourself and understand the technology but once you’re up to speed it is a great piece of technology for your toolbox. I’m currently dictating this blog using voice control.
4. Plantronics 5200 Ear Piece - I only started using a Bluetooth ear piece three years ago and it has changed my life. Living with low function, no balance and difficulty reaching for a phone, I now put on an ear piece in the morning when I get dressed and I take it off when I’m ready for dinner. I have trialled a variety of different brands and the Plantronics 5200 is by far the most effective. The noise cancelling technology enables me to drive in my car, with the ramp rattling around in the back and people think I am sitting on my couch.
5. Microsoft Surface Studio - This is not a must have yet I have found this computer fantastic to use in my office.The Surface Studio is a 28”touch screen PC with the ability to lay almost flat on the desk or any position ranging from 90° to 15°. This enables me to use Dragon Voice when dictating directly in Outlook, Gmail and any office productivity applications and use a pen to write directly on to the screen when marking up documents or getting thoughts out of my head.
There are many changes you can make to your working environment and assistive technology can remove barriers for you to become more independent. It’s important to break down your barriers in your mind as much as it’s important to break down and recognise your barriers physically. Living with disability has its challenges at the best of times and any opportunity to remove a barrier to gain independence is a great step.
We are fortunate to be living in a time when the Government has recognised people with disability need considerable support to enable them to live a somewhat normal life.This support comes in many forms - there is the physical daily living support that enables people like myself to get ready for the day and assistive technologies that allow me to continue my involvement in work and family environments. Job Access is a government funding body that supports people with disability within the workplace offering equipment and modifications to remove barriers of independence. Learning how to use technology is almost as important as the implementation. It takes many hours to train voice recognition mission software and there needs to be a real commitment to know how to best adapt your technology before maximising your potential. The online learning available to us today is greater than ever and being able to use communication platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams enables us to share screens and interact effectively. There have been incredible steps made towards accessing technologies that will help many people with disabilities live a more fruitful and full life.
April 14, 2020