How did you get started in your career and what drew you to J.P. Morgan?
As a student, my experience within the work place is still limited. However, I have had the opportunity to interact with J.P. Morgan as an intern at their Spring week internship program and have achieved a position at their summer internship.
My initial contact with JPM was at their annual Code For Good Challenge where students are given the chance to design solutions to real problems faced by charities. Following on from this I applied for a position on their Spring Week program as I felt it crucial that I advance my skills learned at university by using them within an industry environment. After a successful week with JPM, I applied for a place at their 2015 summer internship and am due to begin at the end of June.
How do you manage your disability at work?
I find that I am heavily reliant on technology to assist in my daily work routines. I am totally blind and have therefore found that one of the most essential programs to become acquainted with is a high quality screenreader. As well as the obvious benefits such as enabling the use of a computer to complete submissions for work, a portable and accessible laptop allows a blind person to carry out many other tasks essential to the workplace. These include taking notes at meetings, reading company memos and simply being able to read a slide as it is presented at a demonstration or seminar (for example).
The latter example relies on good communication between myself and colleagues as presentations are not instantly accessible. For example, there is a large difference in what a blind user can gain from a slide that contains a correctly formatted table accessible to a screenreader versus a screenshot/image of a table – which would render the slide useless for most screenreader users. On a more basic principle, a blind user who wishes to read a set of slides as they are presented would need access to the presentation file prior to the start of the presentation. This often can lead to issues when the speaker wishes to make last minute changes. For this reason, it is essential that staff are aware as to what makes an accessible presentation and what may need to be altered to make it visually impaired friendly.
There are other ways to overcome the above issues however, I find that technology can go a long way to making visually impaired people more independent within a work environment. There are of course many simple things often taken for granted that can require some time and thought such as simply learning a route to the nearest toilet or finding a way to independently use the vending machine. All of which can be done within an initial familiarisation phase.
How has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
I find that the most useful thing that organisations such as J.P. Morgan and the university I attend have done is begin investigating any changes that may be necessary to support myself prior to the start of my time at the organisation. It can take time to find out the level of support a person requires and simple actions such as J.P. Morgan giving me copies of the slides for the spring week presentations before hand go a long way. As well as this it was extremely useful when I was put in contact with an existing employee at JPM who had very similar disabilities. It provides some insight as to what issues to expect as well as reassurance that they have been handled in the past.
What advice or top tips would you offer?
My main advice would be to not under estimate the time that must be invested to fully support employees with a range of disabilities. I am referring more to the time prior to the start of someone’s time at an organisation rather than after. This is because once systems are in place it appears that for both the organisation and the employee the time required to make materials at the company as well as the company as a whole more accessible is minimal. This assumes that both the organisation and the employee communicate in advance to the employee’s first day of work. What if, for example, the employee finds that a particular software that is heavily dependant on by the company (email/calendar software, development environments, web tools) prove to be inaccessible. Overcoming these issues will take time and may require more investigation then simpler issues such as learning the layout of the workplace. It is usually not something that can just be solved on an ad-hoc basis during the employee’s first week. I always find that warnings should be flagged if a company takes the attitude of handling disability issues as they appear rather than actively identifying the changes that could be made to prevent the issues in the first place.
Lastly, in what may appear as a slight contradiction to the above, I believe that companies will find it much easier to support employees by simply asking them of their needs. People with a disability have the drive to be independent and have usually already developed effective solutions to their daily issues. This means that by simply interacting with the employee and requiring as to their specific needs and prior experiences of handling them should save the company a lot of time.