Amanda is highly qualified with an Arts/Law degree (with Honours) and a PhD in Criminology, and has a keen interest in policy development and research. She was also born totally blind.
In 2017, Amanda completed a graduate placement at Vision Australia, where she was involved in a range of Vision Australia’s systemic advocacy activities concerning education, employment, independence and social inclusion for people who are blind or have low vision. Drawing on both her lived experience of blindness and learnings from this recent advocacy work, Amanda undertook a work experience placement from May to July 2018 at the Public Service Commission (PSC), working with the Workforce Futures and Inclusion team on the Disability Confidence Project.
Amanda contributed to the implementation of the program by researching and developing sector-wide resources to educate and build disability confidence. She also advised on improvements to relevant mandatory government training and existing on-boarding practices to deliver quality outcomes and achieve a more diverse and inclusive workforce across the sector.
Broadly, the work Amanda undertook while on placement was desk/computer-based, consisting of research and developing resources. Amanda used JAWS for Windows screen reading software, which uses synthetic speech and allowed Amanda to access and use a computer, including answering emails, undertaking internet research and reading documents. Her electronic braille technology provided additional and essential access to information at work, and it enabled her to read, rather than listen to, information.
Working in partnership
Amanda’s work experience placement involved a partnership between the PSC and Vision Australia’s Employment Services arm. Vision Australia provided the infrastructure around the placement, including insurance, technology assessments, orientation and mobility.
It also involved a number of internal partnerships with:
- Public Service Commission Business Services
- Department of Premier and Cabinet IT Services
- 1 William St Concierge.
- As part of the on-boarding process a number of additional on-boarding considerations needed to occur:
- Liaison with IT Services to determine:
- what type of device Amanda would be issued, e.g. Surface Pro 3, 4. – to ensure the device was compatible to the assistive technology
- if there was existing access to the assistive technology Amanda required i.e. JAWS. If no licence was available decisions needed to be made in terms of using a JAWS USB device provided by Vision Australia or for the PSC to purchase a licence. (Note: because it is work experience, JobAccess funding was not available for the provision of Assistive Technology).
- A permanent desk for Amanda, with ease of access to lift wells and other communal areas where possible.
- A suitable time for access for a Vision Australia Access Technology Specialist to come on site to review the workspace and technology, which for Amanda included the installing of JAWS, refreshable braille display (electronic braille device) and determining the accessibility of relevant systems and databases that Amanda might need during her placement.
- A suitable time for access for a Vision Australia orientation and mobility specialist to undertake sessions with Amanda to teach her the most accessible way to independently travel to and from work, and to navigate the work environment.
- More accessible options for building access as the conventional card system meant that Amanda would not be able to identify the lift that would take her to her office, and also could not travel down to the ground floor to exit the building without assistance.
- A suitable time to provide an organisational awareness session to understand the barriers for Amanda and ways to assist.
As the purchase of a JAWS licence took much longer than anticipated, this impacted the commencement date, and had a flow-on impact:
- The Access Technology Specialist from Vision Australia discovered issues with the PSC’s security system and its compatibility with the drivers for Amanda’s refreshable braille display. This meant Amanda commenced before the issues resolved.
- The Orientation and Mobility Specialist needed to accompany Amanda to work on the first morning, to ensure she had retained all she had been taught in terms of entering and exiting the building, finding her desk, the kitchen, etc.
- The access card setup was arranged through the building managers to enable assisted access features for the lifts. These features included (1 William St Brisbane):
- prioritising the use of a specific lift when it is available (in this case, the lift closest to the ground entrance)
- the activation of audio alerts and prompts to notify you when the lift arrives, that the doors are closing/opening and when you have arrived at your floor
- automatically selecting either your home floor (level 27) or ground floor depending on the direction the lift is travelling.
The challenges faced from an IT perspective:
- The drivers for Amanda’s Brailliant refreshable braille display, which interacts with JAWS, would not install on the DPC domain (i.e. the departmental network and its systems). Neither the joined system nor JAWS recognised it as being installed correctly. Attempted steps to resolve this which experienced the same issue were:
- running JAWS as local admin
- removing and re-installing JAWS completely
- manually installing the drivers supplied with Brailliant tools.
- The Brailliant device driver is not digitally signed and therefore showed as in error after every restart because of Windows Digital Signature Protection. Consideration was given to turning off Digital Signature Protection but this would leave a domain joined system as a security risk on the network.
The final fix for the IT challenges:
- Display driver install on a test system running stock Windows 10 without any of the standard protection software off the domain. This means that either MalwareBytes, Carbon Black or any other standard security software may be used to block this driver.
- Using a Windows 10 system without all of the protection software, off the domain and with Digital Signature protection permanently disabled.