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Home Turning point: The day when assistive technology came into my life

Turning point: The day when assistive technology came into my life

a lady working on a laptop. Turning point - The day when assistive technology came into my life.

From high to low 

I completed my degree, I secured a job, and all seemed to be going on smoothly. I was slowly but surely starting to achieve my goals and aspirations. However, unexpectedly and abruptly, life took a major turn. It came to a complete halt! 

You may be curious as to what transpired. My circumstances resembled that of an individual, soaring at great heights in the sky, only to plummet into a valley below. Let’s rewind. 

I graduated with a degree in computer science and engineering. I got a job at an on-campus interview and was ready to fly high with my dreams and career, but this is life! We do not know what will happen in the next moment. 

One day I was not feeling well and went to a doctor for treatment, and during the treatment, I lost my eyesight due to a drug reaction. Since I was born with normal vision and had no eyesight problems, nor did I ever wear glasses, it was very hard for me to digest the fact that I could no longer see and had lost my vision. 

Coping with vision loss 

My life came to a complete stop because as a computer technician, I was no longer able to see and work on the computer. I do not know what happened. Thousands of questions, and was not able to think of anything good, I was completely broken from the inside and did not know how to continue and what to do next. I was not able to use my phone, read any books, go outside, work on the computer, travel alone, and many other things and I felt like I was living in a nightmare. 

I was not aware of what lay ahead for me as there was no one to help me and guide me. My parents were also very sad and did not know what to do and tried to find a solution. 

Discovering Assistive Technology 

During the treatment, I visited one of the famous hospitals in India where a doctor suggested me a rehabilitation center and showed me how people with visual impairment live their lives, learn many things, and solve challenges. One of the staff took me to the computer lab and what I saw there amazed me. One of the instructors who was visually impaired, shared her knowledge and experience with computers and cell phones, how they use them and work with them. 

She turned on her computer, opened Gmail, quickly logged in, opened the inbox, composed a message, and sent it to me. I was shocked because within a split second she was doing all the tasks on one computer and as I watched it all happen, I was speechless and got goosebumps. I felt like OMG! I felt like fate has given me a new life and a new opportunity. 

The moment I experienced this and understood that life never ends, I found a new turning point in my life as 'Assistive Technology'. Technology that supports me to learn, grow and live my life like others. At a point where I had lost all my hopes and dreams, this technology became my guide and mentor and helped me get back to my life. 

At first, it took me some time to learn and understand how it works because I was a sighted computer user before I lost my vision and the transition to learning how to use computers with screen readers took some time, but I learned and now I can say with confidence that I can work on the computer, read newspapers, do online transactions and online shopping, and much more. 

After learning computers with JAWS (Job Access with Speech) and NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) and magnifier in Windows 10, I learned assistive technology in cell phones such as Talkback in Android and Voiceover in iOS, which made my life smoother and gives me back the confidence that "I CAN". 

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The power of assistive technology 

I am happy to share that this turning point of 'Assistive Technology' has changed my life and other people's views, even though I am a person with visual impairment - how I use computers, laptops and mobile devices and do my daily work and also help others when needed. It was like a boomerang for me. 

During my journey with assistive technology, I became acquainted with the term 'accessibility,' which was completely new to me. To learn more about it, I enrolled in a small course. There, I discovered that accessibility is a platform that can help me build a career and find employment, while also allowing me to contribute to making the digital world more accessible.  

Accessibility to the rescue 

Through my studies, I was fortunate enough to secure a job at BarrierBreak, one of the most reputable digital accessibility companies in India. Here, I have gained a deeper understanding of assistive technology and how it can be used to make digital products more accessible. In my role as an Associate Accessibility Tester, I test and suggest various remediation techniques to ensure that digital products like websites and mobile apps are more inclusive and accessible to individuals like me, who rely on screen readers to navigate their daily lives.  

BarrierBreak: a place of Inclusion, Growth, and Support

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work at BarrierBreak, a company that not only offers equal opportunities for growth and development but also emphasizes the importance of staying up-to-date with the latest technologies and best practices. Through both training and hands-on experience, I have gained a deeper understanding of web and mobile apps accessibility, WCAG, ARIA, and A11Y concepts, which has bolstered my confidence in my role. 

What makes BarrierBreak different is the feeling that everyone is part of a team and that everyone helps and supports each other. I have been fortunate to work alongside a team of the best mentors, who have consistently been available to help me grow and provide the best solutions to clients.

As a member of the BarrierBreak family, I have learned to embody the company's core values of I3ON - Inclusion, Innovative, Integrity, Ownership, and Nurture - which have served as a guiding force in both my professional and personal life. I am deeply grateful to assistive technology and to BarrierBreak for providing me with this opportunity, and I sincerely hope that it serves as a turning point for many others, enabling them to lead smoother, happier lives. 

This article by Gayatri Murthy is a part of our BB Geek series where BarrierBreak team members share their expertise on accessibility and inclusion, drawing from their extensive experience in the field.

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