25/11/2016 edited by Mike Taylor
Welcome to our second post by one of our analyst's, who takes us through a typical day. This post focuses on a typical work day at our offices.
After the school run it’s time for work, and getting there takes the form of a taxi under the Access to Work scheme. For those not aware of this scheme, it is government run and allows those with a disability to receive additional help such as equipment or transport that enables them to work. For me personally without Access to work, I wouldn’t be able to work as getting to the office would be an impossible challenge. I’m not the sort of person who can sit at home, I need to be working. It took me nearly a year after my law degree at university to find my position here at the Digital Accessibility Centre, and I can truthfully say it was one of the hardest times of my life. During that time I went crazy with boredom, but without Access to work and its transport the job that I love would be denied to me.
Once I’ve arrived at DAC, my day can take a variety of courses. I find my job as a screen reader analyst really fun as you never know what is around the corner, literally in my case as I can’t see round the corner! On some days it’s working with the computer and a variety of different screen readings software, while on others it’s with the phones. Still on others it can be talking to visitors which is always entertaining, because it gives me insight into other people’s lives and them into mine. Every blind person will do things in a different way, even if it’s the same task.
It is sadly true that many people are nervous of my sight, not through malice but because it’s something that they haven’t experienced before. A friend of mine from university who is one of the loudest people I have ever met, admitted to my mother-in-law that she hadn’t introduced herself earlier because she didn’t know how to talk to a blind man. This surprised my mother-in-law who told her just to say “Hello.” You’ll find that I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, and am usually willing to be open and talk about most topics! So my day at DAC can be different depending on what’s happening. I could spend a significant amount of time writing about what I test and look for on a day-to-day basis, however as this is likely discussed in detail elsewhere, either from other DAC blog posts and of course can be seen by those that visit I’ll move over this for the time being.
So what do I get up to in the few spare moments in the DAC office?
These are few and far between, as I’m constantly busy with one job or another, but of course I do have to eat and drink. Tea and coffee is reasonably simple to get hold of in the DAC office. We have both a kettle and a large heating urn for hot water, meaning that the user can take their pick of method. This may seem trivial to the reader, but when you’re blind a kettle with boiling water can be a dangerous thing. It is so simple to overfill the cup, or to miss the cup altogether meaning that it is easy to scold. There is an implement called a liquid level indicator. This has prongs that allow the device to be attached to the side of the cup with the prongs inside, which will then cause the device to bleep or vibrate when the liquid reaches the specific level. These can be useful, although I’ve found that as the prongs get wet and so vibrate early they are not good for multiple hot drinks! So I like many of my blind colleagues choose to use the urn, as this is safer and far less hazardous. When my soup is heated for lunch, I put another bowl beneath this to carry the soup and minimize the risk of injury to me or others. These are small tricks, but they do work and enable me to be independent. My colleagues of course are more than happy to help, but I do try to be independent where possible just for self-esteem.