Lori Fry has a sunny disposition, strong connection to her community, and is all business when it comes to reflecting on life and how technology has helped her serve others.
Lori is a client of Technology@Work, a government-funded program delivered by the Neil Squire Society. The program provides assistive technology to eligible British Columbians with disabilities to help them achieve their employment and volunteer goals. Lori is unequivocal in how she feels about the program. For her, it’s been a game changer.
Now 55, Lori has been living with deteriorating vision for 40 years. Born with a genetic condition affecting her retinas, by 16 she had lost sight in one eye. Today she has about one per cent of her vision left in the remaining eye and it is foggy at best. She also bears constant visual interruptions like “little strobe lights flashing,” regardless of whether her eyes are opened or closed.
Nonetheless, Lori is still grateful for what little vision she has. “Many who have made the transition say being on the cusp of blindness is more difficult than being totally blind,” Lori explained. “They say becoming blind brings relief because you are not trying to live in two worlds. But I still say even a little is a ton compared to none.”
Lori recalls back in the 1980s when her employers did their best to accommodate her vision loss with a massive 4’x4’ computer screen and a hand-held magnifier. But that only got her so far, and eventually she had to leave the workforce. “If I had had access to today’s technology back then,” she reflected, “I would probably just be retiring with my full pension now!”
But Lori does not get stuck in “what ifs.” As technology has progressed over the past 34 years, she has used whatever equipment she could get her hands on to log significant volunteer hours. Today she spends most of those hours for the Canadian Council of the Blind and she credits the Technology@Work program and Neil Squire Society for making her current work possible.
As soon as the Technology@Work program was funded, Lori said word “spread like wildfire in the disability community” and she was quick to apply for an assessment. “I want to applaud Neil Squire Society,” she said. “Not only were they extremely professional, showing me respect and understanding with how they processed my application, but they took extra steps I would not have even thought of.” For example, Lori thought she had a great work station set-up, but when Neil Squire staff saw photos of her hunched over her desk, nose-to-nose with the monitor, they provided ergonomic upgrades she had not been expecting, referred her to an occupational therapist and offered her vision enhancement technology.
Today, Lori uses multiple platforms provided through Technology@Work, including magnification technology software, a screen reader, text-to-speech scanning software and a portable electronic magnifier tablet. “This program has provided me with not only assistive technology, but portability as well. Guaranteed I could not afford the equipment without the program and would not be a contributing member of society. The equipment helps me, but it also helps me help others.”
Since launching in May 2015, the Technology@Work program has served more than 1,114 people throughout B.C. and educated more than 1,900 employers on how to make their workplaces more accessible. Technology@Work supports Accessibility 2024, government’s action plan for becoming the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities.
- The government launched the Technology@Work assistive technology program in 2015 to give people streamlined access to tools and devices they need for employment.
- The disability community helped design Technology@Work and it is delivered by Neil Squire Society, an agency that has been providing assistive technologies to people with disabilities in B.C. and across Canada for over 30 years.
- As part of Accessibility 2024, the government committed $9 million over three years for Technology@Work.
- WorkBC has also invested $3.22 million since April 2012 in assistive technology to help people with disabilities find and secure work.
Technology@Work program: www.neilsquire.ca/bctechatwork
PHOTOS – Check out Lori Fry at her desk before and after she received equipment upgrades and support through Technology@Work: https://flic.kr/p/RxRiww
Accessibility 2024 and the Two Year Progress Update: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/accessibility/report-library/two-year-progress-update
Find WorkBC resources and information about hiring people with disabilities: www.workbc.ca/EmployDiversity