In the decades it has taken for Paul Horgen’s sight to decline, he’s had a successful 35-year teaching career at the University of Toronto, travelled abroad and authored a book.
Now 73 years of age, retired and living in Comox, Paul credits Technology@Work for keeping him active in his community.
Technology@Work is a government-funded program delivered by the Neil Squire Society. It helps Paul and other British Columbians with disabilities achieve their employment and volunteer goals by providing them with assistive technology. Paul wants people to know how important this program is. He said, “Government support for these technologies is hugely beneficial to younger and older people. It allows them to carry out productive lives, contribute to and stay in the workforce, be productive in their communities and provide community services.”
For Paul that means – among many other roles – chairing the board of the Comox Valley Watershed Society and sitting on the board of the Vancouver Island chapter of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
He also offers workshops to seniors with vision impairments on the benefits of assistive technology. He wants to help his peers enrich their lives as he had. He explained, “Many people, seniors especially, are reluctant to learn the technology. They may not have much experience with computers to begin with, and they don’t know how it can change their lives.”
About a year ago, Paul applied to the Technology@Work program and was equipped with a Victor Reader and Window-Eyes. Window-Eyes allows Paul to use special keystroke commands instead of a mouse to navigate computer programs and use the Internet. A Victor Reader, as Paul described, “is kind of like a very powerful iPod. You can input Word documents and have them read aloud to you through an ear piece.” When Paul chairs his board meetings, he can call out agenda items as he hears them through his device.
Paul was a teenager when his vision troubles began. In his early 20s, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. This slow-acting degenerative disease attacks the eye cells that respond to light. At first, his night and peripheral vision diminished. Gradually, over time, his central vision went, too.
Paul’s slow loss of vision, combined with his early computer use and interest in developing technology helped him through his long career as a professor. He recently used assistive technology to write his children’s book, Tales of Kona the Guide Dog.
Since launching in May 2015, the Technology@Work program has provided assistive technologies to more than 345 people. The program 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 or volunteer opportunities.
- 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
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