Disabled people
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Anyone experienced in disability issues in academia, or research work?

kellyj17kellyj17 Member Posts: 8 Listener
I went back into education as a reaction partially to my condition, which stops me doing much manual work (I was a gardener/tree surgeon). (initially it was thought to be carpal tunnel but after unsuccessful surgery and a myriad of tests of all sorts, I still have no clue. basically pain and loss of sensation in hands affecting function and dexterity)
Unfortunately my condition has got worse, and I'm having a lot of trouble with typing notetaking etc. However I have excelled academically, and am halfway through a masters degree.

I love research and I'm good at it, but the sheer amount of data processing, does cause me concern for future employment. I can't really work set hours, my own schedule i'm able to accommodate breakingup tasks etc. Plus as a disabled student I get extensions when necessary.
That won't apply in a work environment though!

Also due to having IBS and a strictly controlled diet scheduled, I have problems attending events, and conferences etc. I'm worried about my career regarding this, as the networking side seems to be the way to get ahead at the moment.

I wonder if anyone can give me any advice?


  • StayceStayce Member Posts: 406 Pioneering
    edited May 2017
    Hi @kellyj17
    I understand your concerns. I work in a research and development role with a disability.

    What I would say is if you "love research and are good at it" there are solutions to consider. The key is to think about new ways of working (that will work for you)

    - use of voice recognition software will cut down on manual data processing
    - digital  recorders can be used with this software which will help with note taking
    - Networking doesn't have to be just through live events - I use Skype, and LinkedIn to do this too.
    - Look at conferences which may offer webcam or dial in facilities (I do this a lot through GoToMeeting) - if the organisers don't offer it - ask them if there is any way to join digitally 

    Hope this helps
    Best wishes 

  • kellyj17kellyj17 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    Thanks @Stayce

    I have got some hardware (recorder and keyboard) and software (dragon, notetaker), and have found them helpful. My main problem is working in excel and R. I've found no way to get around the repetitive clicking. The ergonomic sideways mouse that I was provided with via DSA proved worse than my normal one, so if anyone has recommendations on this I'd be grateful!

    That's fantastic advice about the networking and conferences. Hopefully those sorts of access will be increasingly popular! I shall certainly look into where it is available.

    I know this is quite a vague question, and it would depend heavily on your condition, field and employer- but do you find difficulties in deadlines and teamwork with regard to your disability?  These are the aspects that I worry about in the workplace.

    At the moment, so long as I get things done to my standard, there is not a problem. But if it comes to working last minute, and to other people's schedules, I think I will encounter difficulties.

    Thanks- Kelly
  • StayceStayce Member Posts: 406 Pioneering
    edited May 2017
    Hi @kellyj17
    What version of Dragon have you got? Is it the home edition?

    You need the advanced package to be able to do some of the things you are describing 
    The professional version will allow you to navigate cells, workbooks, menus etc in Excel by voice which will reduce repetitive clicking. In the professional version you can also set custom step by step commands to reduce this further

    Regarding mouse - I would recommend a trackball. The Kensington model I use is below. You can also download software (for free) to customise the buttons 
    Trackball mouses are the preferred choice for any RSI type condition as they use a totally different set of muscle groups

    If this mouse or another similar trackball mouse doesn't work. Have you thought about using click less software? See below 
    You can get this from the manufacturer on a free 30 day trial - so might be worth testing out to see if helpful to you

    I think deadlines and teamwork can be a problem for anyone in the workplace these days with or without a disability- so don't lose sight of that. In my experience finding the 'right employer' for you is the key and being honest about your disability and how it affects you in the workplace is important. Remember you have something to offer in terms of your skill set. Just because you might have to achieve goals set in a different way to others doesn't make you as an employee less effective - in my experience it actually makes us more resourceful and better at problem solving than others in the workplace 

    Hope this helps
    Best wishes
  • kellyj17kellyj17 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    Wow, thanks so much @Stayce !

    I shall certainly get a trackball mouse, and will look into the software (I am on somewhat of a budget and DSA doesn't seem very keen to provide further funding). I have the dragon student edition so I will check, but I'm sure that would include those features, as any student is sure to use excel at some point.

    As regarding the workplace advice, you've really made me feel a lot better. I often forget that I have so much to offer besides my limitations, and that these have in fact taught me to be more efficient!

    Really very grateful, thankyou!
  • kellyj17kellyj17 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    update @Stayce - Thankyou so much for your recommendation- I have the trackball mouse you linked to now, and after just a week I can notice a real difference! Can't believe I never knew about these before, they're a real revelation!

  • StayceStayce Member Posts: 406 Pioneering

    I was wondering how you were getting on, thanks for letting me know That is really great news - awesome
  • forgoodnesssakeforgoodnesssake Member Posts: 364 Pioneering
    Currently having issues with how DSA supports (or doesn;t) the need for a range of assistive technologies so I read this with interest.  My son uses a range of things and we certainly found in his assessment, last week,  that the assessor had very superficial and limited knowledge of what is available (and a little shelf with half a dozen random things on it!)  There is a newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Assistive Technology and I am currently finding out a bit more about it and its remit.  Scope?  Are you involved?  If not you should be...
  • kellyj17kellyj17 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    yes @forgoodnesssake, I cannot believe that I was not recommended this equipment at my assessment. My friend who works for a city council told me it is common knowledge in his office environment that trackballs can be useful for rsi type problems. If I had this sooner I would have been spared quite a bit of pain!
    I appreciate that assessment centres have to deal with a range of problems and so cannot cater for all, but I did find the process somewhat lacking, and the funding did not stretch to all I needed. I also asked for funding under it for this new mouse, but was told I would be unlikely to get it since it couldn't have guarantee results? what support really can!

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