Most of us take for granted the access that we have to technology, resources, products and services. This is not the case for everyone and, for those with a disability; the world can be a very different place. Imagine going to a restaurant and having to choose your dinner by the pictures because you cannot read the menu. Imagine the challenge of trying to write down the details for an upcoming interview or applying for a job online in a timed format. In a competitive job market, a certain level of literacy is required and even those with passion, skills, personality and a post-secondary education can be left behind if the proper resources are not available.
When Erin Niedermayer inquired about Employment Ontario services, she had been experiencing difficulties trying to find work on her own. Dealing with the challenges associated with having a reading and writing disability, Erin struggled with technical elements of everyday living and job search. Challenges reading signs, menus, emails, computer screens and online application forms limited Erin’s access to information, services and opportunities.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Erin regarding her experience with EPC. As soon as she met with an Employment Counsellor, she stated that “things got rolling right away”. She was soon referred to a Job Developer and appreciated that she applied for jobs on Erin’s behalf. Following a one day trial, Erin was able to get a job right away at Stewart Homes where she works as a Direct Care Worker. Having attained her short term career goal of working with persons with disabilities, she now works in a residential care program supporting handicapped children and youth. She highlighted that it is “great to have a job and make money”.
Yet due to challenges with low literacy, Erin was concerned regarding her ability to read reports in her job. Further research and advocacy lead to the purchase of OrCam glasses, a unique and progressive device that attaches to glasses and can both read text and describe objects. While this device was designed for persons who are blind or visually impaired, the benefits to persons with a reading disability is staggering. Erin and her Job Developer were given a two hour presentation in her home for the OrCam glasses and it was clear for everyone to see that the accommodation would be life changing for her.
As you can well imagine this type of technology comes with a hefty price tag and a cost of $3,200.00 would be daunting to most of us. With the support and advocacy from her Job Developer, she was able to access support through the March of Dimes Toronto Opportunities Fund program. As a result, 62 percent of her glasses were subsidized. Further applications for funding have been submitted to local service groups as well.
Finding technology that would help Erin was pivotal and, as a Recreation and Leisure Services graduate, she is now able to pursue a career-related position with confidence.