Accommodating Visual Impairment at Work

I’m Patricia Elgersma. I’m
an Accessibility Analyst here at HSBC. I was brought in as a specialist
to look at accessibility, specifically
for people with disabilities. I’m currently looking
at visual-impairment accessibility, but, in the coming months, it will
encompass other disabilities, as well. Something that I’m also looking into would be maybe putting in
a little tactile strip. Having tactile strips to indicate when to turn left
to come into the entrance. Another thing that I’m looking at
for the entrance is to have a mat, so that a cane user is easily able
to tell when the door is coming up. This all came about
with a real simple thing – the organisation
put braille on my name cards and I made a connection
with an individual in the sight-impaired community
who referred me to Patricia. We got Patricia interviewed
by the organisation. She joined
and she has made an amazing impact on our organisation in Canada. She was able to come into this beautiful
new building in Vancouver, identify things that we were doing wrong
from an accessibility perspective, make suggestions and ultimately
affect change in this building. One of the challenges I also face
with the physical environment is when I’m trying to find
a meeting room and finding the braille to figure out which meeting room I’m at. Currently, the braille is at eye level, but it would be better
if it was at waist level, because then you just reach out
along the wall to figure out where the braille is
to determine what room you’re in. One of the things
that Patricia was able to do for us was stress-test all the systems and
procedures and processes that we have to ensure that our clients could
effectively interface with our company. Likewise, when Patricia
was hired into the organisation, she was able to go through
the induction process and was able to identify the areas
where there were weaknesses. I’ve been looking
at software accessibility, particularly the training modules,
which are not accessible to me. Because of the way
that the modules are currently coded, I can’t access them at all. I find not being able to do the training
extremely frustrating, not only because this is something
that I have to do to fulfil my work here at HSBC, but also because I want to have
the right to say to my colleagues that it’s boring or that it’s fun – to express my thoughts on the training,
as anyone else would do. I think the overall goal is really
to get more visually impaired people working within HSBC, particularly totally blind people, those of us who use braille
and screen readers. My life is going to be an uphill battle
educating everybody and it feels like it is a drop
in the bucket everywhere you go, but I’ve had a great reception
from colleagues. They’re really willing to learn
and to know how to help. HSBC is very, very willing
and working very, very hard to make this happen.

Paul Whisler

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