Guest blog: How Technology Is Helping People With Disabilities Advance Their Careers

The evolution of technology is helping people find ways to accomplish many different tasks. The development of the tech world is also creating new assistive technologies for people living with disabilities. Whether it’s applications on a phone or upgraded versions of older technologies, people with disabilities are contributing to the workforce more than ever.

Technology for Visually Impaired Employees

Screen readers such as JAWS, Non-Visual Desktop Access, COBRA, Cake Talking, and BRLTTY are making it possible for people with vision loss to absorb information from computers. These programs read the output on computer screens and also provide Braille output. Thanks to these programs, people with visual disabilities can take online classes and improve their skills and also hunt for jobs on the internet.

Other software such as Zoom and Magic support magnification of text and images for more comfortable viewing. Orcam has also produced one of the most advanced AI technologies for people with visual disabilities. The device features a set of glasses with a small camera that can read text, identify people, identify products, and connect to Bluetooth devices. There is also a bevy of color identification apps available online for both Android and iOS devices for color-blind individuals.

Technology for People with Hearing Impairments

Employees with hearing impairments also benefit from assistive technologies. For example, Ava is a software that converts audio into text for people with hearing impairments. The software picks words through the phone’s microphone and then turns them into text available on the listener’s phone or tablet. With this technology, you can share a live conversation even without sign language. A simple upgrade to the latest smartphones, you can enjoy access to conversations in real time. As people speak, you can also respond through text that can be projected through speakers for everyone to hear.

Video relay services (VRS) in workplaces are also on the rise. With VRS, people with hearing disabilities can communicate with sign language with hearing individuals through video equipment rather than text. This type of communication is faster than text-based communication and is especially ideal for conference calls, interviews, and online classes.

Thanks to improved cameras on mobile phones such as the iPhone 11, using sign language during calls is now more accessible than ever before. This phone features a triple-camera system and has a fast operating system to handle video.

Technology for Employees With Motor Skills Impairment

Assistive technologies for people with temporary or permanent motor skills impairment are also necessary. For example, Dragon Naturally Speaking is software that translates voice commands into actions. If you cannot type on a keyboard or use a mouse, this software listens to your voice commands and can do anything, including developing spreadsheets and reports. In cases where a person has no control over their hand movements, adaptive keyboards come in handy. These keyboards have raised areas between keys to allow users to slide their hand to the correct keys. There are also keyboard overlays on the market to adapt conventional keyboards.

Expanding Your Knowledge Base

It’s worth noting that while these are all great methods for helping people with disabilities succeed, all the technology in the world isn’t going to help if you feel stalled in your career. If your ultimate goal is a management position or a higher-paying job, it’s important to help yourself stand out from the competition. Put that technology you’ve harnessed to work for you by boosting your skill set or knowledge to make yourself a more attractive candidate. You can achieve this through additional certifications, returning to school for a master’s program or even training courses on leadership. Having those extra credentials on your resume will go a long way when it comes to moving up.

The creation of technologies to assist people with disabilities will provide an equal chance for employment and contribution to the workforce. There are numerous technologies for different disabilities. By finding the right fit and improving your credentials when necessary, any person with a disability can land the job of their dreams.

Thanks for Patrick Young @

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You want to help Syrian refugees? 3 important ways to help in the MENA region

As Director at NGOabroad: International Careers and Volunteering, daily I have many conversations with people who would like to volunteer in our Syrian refugee programs in Lebanon or Jordan.

I am heartened by the multitude of people who would like to help…by the Europeans especially who have welcomed Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis into their communities; the Germans who share dinners; the Danes, the Dutch, the French, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Swedes,, the Finns, the Brits…the many Europeans who have opened their hearts and have helped refugees in their community. I am heartened by the Pennsylvania high schooler who I talked to who scurries around gathering houseware and bedding for incoming refugees.

I am grateful that as a world, we are beginning to learn about Islam and the Muslim world. There is a giant uptick in students studying the Middle East and Arabic.  But from my bird’s eye perch, there are some important targets most people are totally missing regarding the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

1. Disempowering autocrats like Bashir Assad
Five million Syrians fleeing Bashir Assad’s barrel bombs indeed was a crisis. But I believe where our focus needs to be is making sure there are no more Bashir Assads. It was a Kenyan human rights colleague who taught me this: “Yes, all the Kenyan human rights activists were jailed and tortured under Moi. In prison, we planned: “When we get out, we must push for a new constitution that devolves power from Nairobi so there is not so much power in one person’s hands.”

If we do not prevent authoritarian leaders all over the world, we are consigned to play whack-a-mole. We need to build a world where people power disempowers autocrats. We need more political science majors and activists. But do NOT go to dangerous countries!  I recommend reading Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reports. Learn about Giulio Regeni. In countries where critics and the opposition are jailed or killed this is a delicate line to walk.  We must be cautious.

2. What were the people fighting for in Arab Spring?

85% of the people coming to me to volunteer with Syrian refugees do not know what the Arab Spring was.  The Arab Spring birthed the Syrian revolution which Assad brutally suppressed.  The Arab Spring was both political – a fight against corruption and human rights abuses e.g. Egypt is a police state – and a fight for economic justice.

The Arab Spring was ignited in Tunisia when Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in protest against government harassment for selling fruit to feed his mom, uncle and six siblings on US$140 per month. (His dad had died when Mohamed was three so he was the bread-winner.) Mohamed had a university degree but unemployment in his town was 30% thus selling fruit on the street was his best option. Protests spread to Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain to overthrow oppressive rulers who did nothing to improve the standard of living or economy.  

In 2011 when the Arab Spring spread, Egypt had an unemployment rate of 11.85%. When I talked to Karim the other day, he totally got it.  His family, as Coptic Christians, fled Egypt in 1995. “Yeah, my cousin in Egypt feels so hopeless. He has a university degree in Computer Sciencebut there are no jobs. He is an Uber driver.”

If we could take the passion directed towards Syrian refugees and direct it toward generating jobs, the entire MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region would cheer, as would the entire world. We need more people to mentor grassroots, scrappy entrepreneurship not glitzy, corporate entrepreneurship aimed at working in technology or Silicon Valley.  We need jobs generators….everywhere in the world.

“It’s the economy stupid” is the slogan that makes or breaks elections in the US… and everywhere because feeding your family is THE most important issue all over the world.

3. Don’t take someone’s job

Studying the Middle East and Arabic? Where are you thinking of getting a job after college -the MENA region? Given the high unemployment rates, please leave those jobs for the people there. At NGOabroad, I also do international career counseling. Let’s talk about where your skills are needed.

4. Conclusion: so what to do?

I thank the many people who have helped refugees, either in the Middle East or in your home country.  I just want us to take this to the next step:  more than studying Arabic or the Middle East.

a. I propose that people study entrepreneurship or economics so they can help generate jobs or mentor people in the MENA region on small business skills.

b. I propose that people study political science and activism – but do not even think of doing such organizing in-country – but at a distance due to safety concerns.

Let’s build a world where there are not leaders dropping barrel bombs and where everyone is prospering.  Then people will not be fleeing their homes. Let’s move to prevent refugees.

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