Access to assistive technology is helping people with disabilities succeed at work and in volunteer roles in the community.
The Technology@Work program, operated by the Neil Squire Society, launched just over a year ago to support employment for people with disabilities. Since then it has helped people like Rahul, Michael and Lori overcome barriers and meet their goals at work.
Rahul Ray is the principal at Springboard Strategies Ltd., a Victoria company that provides environmental planning services. Rahul travels a lot for work, visiting different communities to consult on new projects. He was experiencing difficulty using his vehicle due to “drop foot” – a condition associated with multiple sclerosis, which Rahul was diagnosed with 10 years ago. Technology@Work provided an assessment and then purchased and installed custom-fitted hand controls on Rahul’s vehicle. They also provided training sessions that helped him learn how to use the hand controls to operate his vehicle. He is now able to travel freely for work.
Michael Drechsler is a jewellery designer and the owner of an online jewellery retailer, 3Djeweler.com, which sells products to customers around the world. Technology@Work helped Michael acquire a new wheelchair that is allowing him to get around more easily – for example, to visit suppliers locally and to attend gem shows and conventions, all things that were a challenge before.
The Technology@Work program also provides support to people with disabilities who are doing volunteer work and are experiencing barriers in their volunteer jobs.
Lori Fry is the national first vice-president of Canadian Council for the Blind – a volunteer role that recently earned her a 2015 Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award. She received support through Technology@Work to assess and upgrade her computer work station and access assistive technology devices like screen reading software and a video magnifier – tools that are helping her do valuable work to support the blind community.
The Technology@Work program has also been reaching out to employers. It has partnered with organizations including Small Business BC, chambers of commerce and boards of trade to increase awareness of the program among B.C. employers – all part of an effort to help people with disabilities access the assistive technology they need to succeed at work.
This September, British Columbia will celebrate inclusive employers and the contributions of people with disabilities in the workplace with the third annual Disability Employment Month.
This recognition of meaningful employment for people with disabilities is an integral part of Accessibility 2024, the 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities.
Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –
“Government is proud to be working in partnership with the Neil Squire Society to provide assistive technology through Technology@Work. The program is truly making a difference by helping people with disabilities overcome barriers and achieve success in the workplace and in their communities.”
Darryl Plecas, parliamentary secretary for seniors and accessibility –
“The Technology@Work program is making it easier for people with disabilities to meet their goals at work, as well as in volunteer jobs in the community. It's an invaluable resource and it is inspiring to see how assistive technology is helping people with disabilities contribute to the workforce.”
Richard T. Lee, MLA for Burnaby-North –
“We are so pleased to work with the Neil Squire Society through the Technology@Work program – they are doing so much to help people with disabilities find success in the workplace and help businesses hire people with disabilities.”
Dr. Gary Birch, executive director, Neil Squire Society –
“The Technology@Work program is going phenomenally well – we've helped a lot of people already. I think what it's doing is allowing them to stay in the workforce. I encourage everyone to think about people in their workforce and whether they might be experiencing any kind of workplace barrier to contact us and see if we can help them, because in the end, it's good for the individual and it's good for business.”
Rahul Ray, Technology@Work participant –
“Neil Squire Society has the Technology@Work program that allows you to gain funding to keep you employed. That was the funding they provided, so I could use my vehicle for work purposes. It's absolute freedom. Instead of thinking about, no, I don't want to drive there because potentially I might get tired and I don't want to take any risks, I can drive anywhere I want.”
Michael Drechsler, Technology@Work participant –
“They’ve (the Neil Squire Society and Technology@Work program) made a huge difference through their commitment to me, and they've made a big difference to my ability to stay in business.”
Lori Fry, Technology@Work participant –
“It is common knowledge that technology has exploded and has become extremely vital in today’s modern society. This is especially true in the blind community, and without assistive technology my access to the outside world would be extremely limited. Access to adaptive equipment for those with disabilities is crucial , but so is access to financial resources that allow individuals to acquire the technology that will contribute to improving and/or sustaining their quality of life. It is only because of Technology@Work that I am able to do the extent of volunteer work that I do for the Canadian Council of the Blind.”
- Government, business and the disability community are working together to reduce barriers and champion employment opportunities for people with disabilities through Accessibility 2024, government’s 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive province for people with disabilities in Canada.
- Government is investing $9 million over three years in the Technology@Work program.
- Since the program launched in May 2015, Technology@Work has provided over 250 people with assistive technology products or services that have helped them overcome barriers to employment.
- Technology@Work has also reached out to almost 350 employers with presentations, assistive technology demonstrations and worksite visits to provide information on improving accessibility in the workplace.
- Employers and people with disabilities who are interested in learning more about the program can contact the Neil Squire Society at 1 844 453-5506 (toll-free) or at: firstname.lastname@example.org
View a video about Technology@Work: https://youtu.be/4rHLfgYiSck
September is Disability Employment Month: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016SDSI0047-001575
Neil Squire Society: www.neilsquire.ca
Resources for job seekers with disabilities: www.WorkBC.ca/Accessibility
Find a local WorkBC Employment Services Centre: www.workbccentres.ca
Accessibility 2024: www.gov.bc.ca/Accessibility