National AccessAbility Week: Small Changes for Big Impacts – Jeevan’s Story
To honour National AccessAbility Week, we spoke with Accessibility Manager, Jeevan Bains, on how accessibility creates an inclusive environment for all and how she overcomes accessibility barriers.
This is her story:
I am the Accessibility Manager at Rogers; a new role that I am the first to fill. This role has been brought to our team as part of Rogers commitment to inclusion and diversity. In this position, I support our accessibility journey by bringing accessible tools and practises to life across the company. I am also an individual who is blind, after having low vision up to the age of 11. I am so grateful for my changing vision as it has shifted my perspective, leading me to my passion for increasing accessibility.
Growing up, I attended elementary school in England, and when I first lost my vision, I didn’t want to use a white cane as it would make me stand out as someone who is different. I was picked on in school because of my disability which made me feel isolated and lonely. Even today when I encounter accessibility barriers, I feel devalued, stressed and excluded. However, expressing the impacts that these barriers have on me and brainstorming with my leaders and peers on how to maneuver the situation has been very helpful.
I am thankful for the members of Rogers AccessAbility Network (RAAN), an Employee Resource Group, that empowers team members with visible and invisible disabilities to achieve both professional and personal growth. Members of RAAN include those with lived experiences and allies, both of which have helped me feel supported. Now I embrace my uniqueness and realize that we all experience situations where we feel excluded or uncomfortable fitting in, and that it is likely due to the unconscious biases of others.
My lack of vision has never been the ‘issue’, but rather,the challenges I face are because of the mismatch between myself as a user, and the design of the product, service or environment. For example, I use Siri on my iPhone to dictate texts or Microsoft Teams messages as it is quicker than typing. I also use a screen reader, a form of assistive technology, which speaks information to help me navigate a computer. If a document, website or software is designed following accessibility guidelines, then it will work well with the assistive technology I use, enabling me to be independent. Screen readers are now integrated into mainstream products, such as Voice Over on the iPhone, GPS and Google Home as companies have realized how these accessibility features could benefit everyone.
Increasing accessibility is designing with the differences in the human condition, like vision, hearing, speech, mobility and neuro diversity, in mind. It creates a welcoming environment that will diversify our workforce and expand our market reach. Let’s not leave anyone behind.