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Global Accessibility Awareness Day: How Kaare DeHard uses accessibility tools and technology for both work and play

2021 marks the tenth anniversary of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, a day that takes place on the third Thursday of May to increase awareness of digital accessibility and inclusion for peoples with disabilities.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.2 billion people across the globe have a near or distance vision impairment – and Kaare DeHard is one of those people. A team member on Customer Care, Kaare was born blind, and in honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Kaare shared some details on his work and home life, and some assistive technologies that support him on a day-to-day basis.

Question: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Rogers.

Answer: I am Kaare Dehard and work here at Rogers as a performance and insights analyst. I currently support our survey dashboard project, organizing customer feedback and providing that data to other teams to gather a unique perspective about how we interact with our customers.

Question: Can you share with us any accessibility features you use during your work and home life?

Answer: Because I was born blind, I made some modifications to our otherwise traditional in-office set up. JAWS for Windows is a screen reader which speaks information on the screen to help navigate the windows environment – essentially, it allows blind and low vision users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or a Braille display. I also use the keyboard as I can’t use a mouse to navigate the computer. Through this program, I can use Windows to navigate through web pages, read emails and use accessible productivity tools, such as Word and JARVIS,  a tool that was actually developed by a team member here at Rogers! JARVIS is a program that allows data, such as surveys (what I work on), to be loaded into it, and outputs the information in an accessible format that JAWS can read – – it’s super helpful, and a very versatile tool to have for our for our employees with low vision or blindness!” 

I have to say that Rogers is enthusiastic about accessibility, and is working hard to ensure that this is extended to our customers. My favourite thing is one that really opened the world of television access and the ability to binge recordings like is done in a lot of the world – Ignite TV.

Ignite is a product that, through its voice guidance, allows me the same freedoms as others have to browse the TV guide, set up recordings to be captured and to make them available whenever I like. With prior products, this was not possible, and I was reluctant to subscribe for a service I could not fully or even mostly use.

Question: COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work. How has working from home changed your day-to-day?

Answer: I work from home and have done so for some time prior to the pandemic SO COVID-19 has not affected my work, as for several years, my home office has become familiar as a workplace. As someone who is blind, the home office has been a blessing. When the weather is particularly unpleasant, with that comes increased difficulties with navigation and commuting, staying where it is warm and comfortable is something that I enjoy.

Rogers has been progressive in the way that multiple visible and invisible disabilities are accommodated. The handcrafting of Jarvis to sort out the data provided to me in my day-to-day work, with its emphasis on accessibility of both it’s content and functionality for someone who uses a screen reader and keyboard, has given me challenging and interesting work that I truly enjoy.

The ability to both maintain a job and be financially self-reliant is something that cannot be underestimated. Part of what provides me with meaning and purpose is the ability to contribute to a team and interact with peers knowing that I am making a financial and social contribution.