Adam was born in Canberra and grew up blind, navigating a world not always designed for people with visual impairments. His early years were marked by significant challenges, from accessing education to participating in everyday activities. Despite these obstacles, Adam developed resilience and adaptability, qualities that would shape his journey. Today, he works as a Customer Service Call Centre Operator at Ability Options in New South Wales, where he is part of an inclusive and supportive team. This is his story, shared firsthand.

“From a young age, my life was marked by resilience and adaptability. Attending mainstream schools in Canberra, far from the specialised settings in Sydney, presented unique challenges. In the early 1970s, there were no itinerant teachers for the blind in Canberra, but my parents, along with others, lobbied the Education Department to provide one. This initiative allowed blind students like me to stay integrated with our peers.

High school brought new difficulties. I had to carry a cumbersome Braille machine and various folders from class to class. Most of my study materials were on cassette tapes, and I had to transcribe my answers in Braille, which a teacher would then translate into print. Later, I used a talking typewriter, though it came with its own set of challenges, especially when making corrections.

Despite the obstacles, my parents encouraged me to embrace life’s opportunities. I participated in mainstream activities such as waterskiing, snow skiing, and tandem bike riding. My social circle was inclusive, and I formed lasting friendships, notably through a non-denominational Christian group. Being the only blind student in high school fostered a spirit of independence and adaptability.

Upon leaving school, my primary goal was to secure a meaningful job. I wasn’t aiming for lofty corporate positions; I simply wanted to contribute and be valued in the workforce. Available positions often required tasks I couldn’t perform, such as map reading for taxi call centres. I did find work, albeit sporadically, with employers who thought creatively about how I could contribute. One such role was in a pizza shop, where I prepared vegetables for pizzas. My boss believed that if he could do a task blindfolded, so could I.

Eventually, I found work in call centres, enquiry lines, and switchboards, which suited my skills and preferences.

My journey with Disability Employment Services (DES) as a participant began when I moved to Sydney in 1998. Over the years, I was involved with several DES organisations, but with minimal success. When I relocated to the Mid-North Coast in 2012, the region’s job market had limited opportunities for my skill set.

By chance, I walked into Ability Options’ Woolgoolga office and met a Customer Employment Coordinator. My initial impression of Ability Options was extremely positive. They stood out for their inclusive hiring practices, unlike other organisations I had approached.

Through my experiences with Ability Options as a participant, I was encouraged to apply for a Customer Service Officer position due to my extensive background in call centres and customer service.

When the position for a Customer Service Call Centre Operator at Ability Options became available, I was fully supported by my consultant to apply. Given my previous experience in this type of work, I felt motivated and hopeful.

Receiving the job offer was a wonderful moment. It was the opportunity I had been seeking since moving to the Mid-North Coast. Ability Options provided the necessary accommodations to ensure I could perform my duties effectively. This included a wireless keyboard, specialised text-to-speech software (JAWS for Windows), and custom scripts to integrate JAWS with our call centre software.

In my role, I handle calls from DES, National Disability Insurance Scheme, and Workforce Australia clients, ensuring their inquiries are directed to the appropriate staff members. The work can be complex and demanding, requiring patience and composure. Starting as a casual employee, I have since progressed to a permanent full-time position, which is a significant achievement and a highlight of my career at Ability Options.

Working at Ability Options, I feel valued and included. I am genuinely part of a team. My presence has helped foster a more inclusive environment. Colleagues are more aware of accessibility features like alt text for screen readers and describing images in communications. They have also learned how I navigate my workspace using a white cane.

Having found the position I had long aspired to, my goals at Ability Options have largely been realised. I continue to focus on contributing effectively to the team and supporting our clients.

To individuals with disabilities seeking employment, my advice is simple: do not give up. There are employers who are willing to think outside the box and make the necessary adjustments to accommodate your needs. Persistence and resilience can open doors to meaningful opportunities.

My journey from a DES participant to a valued employee at Ability Options has been one of growth, adaptation, and triumph. I am grateful for the support and inclusivity at Ability Options, which has allowed me to thrive in my role and contribute to a more inclusive workplace for all.”

DES continues to be a great service that supports people to develop their skills as well as find and maintain valuable employment. If you are looking expand your skillset or find a role that suits you, get in touch with our friendly team at 1300 422 454 or visit our Employment Services page.

Do you know someone who could benefit from our services?

Refer them to Ability Options to help them get the support they want and deserve.

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