Lighthouse Employees with Vision Impairments Adapt to Remote Work

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, many in the workforce are continuing to work from home in order to maintain their health and safety. Here at The Chicago Lighthouse, more than 100 of our employees from various departments are working remotely, many of whom have disabilities. Hear from three of our employees who are blind or visually impaired about their experiences of working remotely.

Jose Martinez, Lead DAX Analyst
As a leading member of our Digital Accessibility Experience (DAX) team, Jose is responsible for conducting tests and audits on websites and mobile apps to make sure they are accessible to other individuals who are blind or visually impaired like himself. He also manages a team of three fellow analysts, each of whom are also blind or visually impaired. Jose shares that one of the positive things that has come out of this time working remotely is that he’s had the opportunity to learn new software and applications to manage his work and delegate tasks. In the past two months, he has learned how to use platforms including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, and Trello and explore their accessibility settings. To employers who are unsure whether their employees or future hires who are blind or visually impaired are capable of working from home, Jose shares this message: “It can be done. My team and I can make it happen. Much of the leading software used by businesses is becoming accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired.”

Nikki Lopez, Special Education Teacher in our Children’s Development Center
During this time of social distancing, our educational staff is continuing to provide high-quality learning experiences and support to our students and their families. Nikki Lopez, Special Education teacher in our Children’s Development Center, is currently working remotely with her students who have multiple disabilities. As she has adapted to teaching remotely, she recognizes that it is also an adjustment for parents who now have to manage their own work on top of helping their children with schoolwork. To make it easier for everyone, Nikki creates weekly lesson plans, modified to fit each student’s Individualized Education Plan.  Weekly lessons contain links to adapted video activities,  audio stories, and songs to help students maintain their classroom routines. “I’ve received several messages from parents saying that as soon as they start playing the videos, they can see that their child is listening and engaged,” Nikki says. “I’ve also gotten texts from parents who tell me ‘thank you, you’ve made my child smile today.’” In addition to creating lessons, Nikki also calls and FaceTimes her students and their families on a bi-weekly basis along with Lidia Hernandez, classroom Paraprofessional . “I’m really trying to give my students more real-face time rather than video time. I have a few parents who especially need that. They’re going through their own anxieties during this stay-at-home order, so it is important for me to provide emotional and mental support.”

Kalari Girtley, UI Health Customer Care Representative
“My first day of remote work was a lot of fun. I woke up and my office was right downstairs!” says Kalari. At the beginning of the Stay-at-Home order, our IT team worked diligently to provide more than 100 of our Customer Care Representatives, like Kalari, with the tools and software necessary to work from home. Kalari now has screen reading software including JAWS installed on her laptop so she is able to do her work. As a mother of three, Kalari is enjoying the extra time she is able to spend with her family while working remotely. “With my husband also working from home and my children participating in eLearning, we’ve had a lot of family bonding time,” she says.  “We also recently moved to a new house, so it’s been nice to have this time in our new space.” While Kalari is enjoying her remote work, she also looks forward to returning to her office and seeing her colleagues. “I miss the routine of getting up and going to work – it makes you feel good to have a job to go to. Still, I am making the most of this experience now.”

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