Life at work as a blind person and guide dog owner.

  dogs_uniteI joined Apple Training Academy at the end of October 2013, following a long period of searching for work in mainstream employment.  I had worked for an organisation which employs blind and disabled people to work in a factory environment.  Due to my skills, I was fortunate to work in an administrative role, where I assisted in general duties and covering on reception when required.  Despite this, it was not secure employment, and I wanted to work for a company who would employ me on my ability as opposed to my disability.  Job searching was not easy, however I was able to upload my CV on to various job sites and was offered several interviews which did not materialise, and I was given a variety of reasons and excuses for why they could not employ me; these ranged from health and safety issues, to concerns about how I would negotiate my office surroundings; none of these reasons were justified and obviously caused me to develop issues with confidence and self-belief. Following months of endless searching, I received an E-mail from Apple Training Academy, explaining that they were very interested in my CV, and enquired whether I had considered applying for the advertised position.  I attended an interview, and immediately became aware of the difference in attitudes towards my disability from those expressed at previous interviews.  At Apple, their interest was how I could grow with them by using my existing skills as well as learning about the company and experiencing new challenges and undertaking different duties. mandywoodman Another bonus, was obviously my main assistant and key part of my life, my guide dog Vesper; a golden retriever who has been my best friend and companion for six years and is now eight years old.  He is loved by everyone who meets him, and can sometimes be an obvious distraction in the office. Throughout his working life, Vesper has enabled me to sustain full independence from travelling to work in London by train and underground, to working at Apple where I am able to assist with post office and banking duties.  As the Receptionist/Administrator, my duties, as well as dealing with telephone and face to face enquiries, also include using my computer for E-mail and other Microsoft applications.  As someone with no sight, I have several clever pieces of equipment which help me to undertake these tasks; the first, is my screen reading software, called “JAWS” which is loaded on to the computer, and speaks everything displayed on the screen including E-mails, letters and spreadsheets.  I also have a Braille note-taker, which I use for taking messages or storing information, contacts and telephone numbers; it has no screen, and allows me to both read and write in Braille.  The final item of equipment I use, is called a “Read Easy Move” which can take images of printed material and read them out loud to me, which means I can effectively read post, sort information packs and filing when necessary.  Having this equipment, as well as having Vesper,  have enabled me to enter into a job role with confidence and have the ability to demonstrate how possible it is for those without sight, to overcome any difficulties and challenges which are faced. Since working at Apple Training Academy, my confidence has returned, and I now feel as though I have a proper job at last, and responsibilities and opportunities I feel privileged to be given.  I very much hope, in the future, that perspectives and attitudes of employers will change towards recruiting blind people, and that this article is proof of how life-changing and beneficial it is for us to be given the opportunity to demonstrate our ability, not our disability. Mandy Woodman.