Blog Post

October Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month


As many of you know, I was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease a couple of years ago. Since then, I have 9 made it a personal mission to write about my continued journey to continue working while the disease progresses. (You can follow my personal story on our Caring Bridge site.) For example, this post will be included in my Working with ALS content that highlights the methods I use to continue working through the various stages of the disease.

Supportive Tools

Tools and Software Presented at Kentucky ALS Resource Meeting

After becoming part of the disabled community, I wanted to learn more about the tools that support accessibility and how I could use those tools to keep working. I am truly thankful to companies like Microsoft who make accessibility a key part of their overall mission with their tools. I am an avid user of Voice Access including using it to write and edit this post. I have also used some of their adaptive tools such as buttons that allow me to do more work with my feet. I share about these tools because I want others to know that having a disability should not prevent you from working.

Supportive Employers

I really must give a shout out 3Cloud who have really supported me in the transition to being disabled in the workforce. I find some irony in the wording that I just used, as I would insist that I am still able to work though I have lost certain physical functionality along the way. It is their belief in my ability to continue to work while doing it differently that has made the transition easier. They continue to work with me to find great ways to work together. Sometimes this includes specific hardware or software to make my job easier. Other times this includes patience during meetings and supporting specific collaboration needs I might have. The support from leadership to my peers has been great.

Working Through Difficulties

It is not always easy to keep working. There are days when I am frustrated because I am unable to work as quickly as I used to work. My mind works faster than my body in most cases. Because I use voice for most of my work from controlling my mouse to typing up documents, what used to be a single click, now takes me multiple commands which can often result in a weird type of context switching.

While the tools are great, they are not perfect. Some tools are downright hard to use because they are 100 percent designed for mouse usage. For example, whiteboarding tools assume you can easily drag and drop and make connections between objects. Many times, this simply cannot be done with the tools that I use. I have relied on others for help when trying to use tools that are difficult to control the voice. Two of the biggest examples for me include Lucid which we use for charting and collaborating with whiteboards. The other example is PowerPoint. PowerPoint assumes you can work within boxes, move them around, and is not very good to use with dictation.

I often need help from family and friends to make these tools work. For me one of the most difficult parts of this is trying to explain what I am thinking in terms easy enough for someone to translate and produce something on the screen. In some cases, this is not that difficult but in brainstorming sessions it is very difficult as a thought poorly formed is not easy to express.

A Hope and a Future

Those of us that have physical limitations can and do continue to work and be productive in the workplace. Employers who support us are highly valued and appreciated. Often what we think in our minds outpaces what we can express with our bodies. As we look at future tools such as CoPilot from Microsoft which use AI to support a variety of tasks in our day-to-day work, there is a lot of promise to make us more productive in the workplace. Thank you to all the companies who support us through tools and employment. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Original post (opens in new tab)
View comments in original post (opens in new tab)


You rated this post out of 5. Change rating




You rated this post out of 5. Change rating