Daily life

Accessibility plays a fundamental role in the day-to-day lives of individuals with disabilities

People with disabilities live successful lives by adapting existing circumstances to suit their unique needs. The following stories do not come from real individuals with disabilities, but they tell common experiences with accessibility and represent how real disabled individuals navigate accessibility.

Kari, 25, totally blind

Kari is an undergraduate student, single mother, and a totally blind writer for an online technology news website. When Kari needs to complete her school studies or work on an article, she uses speech-recognition and screen-reading software to interact with her computer. She also uses braille and audio books to supplement her research and other schoolwork. Although drastic changes in her environment can be a big challenge for her, Kari gets around by using a cane to feel out her environment and detect obstacles or changes in terrain.

Darlene, 41, stroke victim

Darlene is a manager of a university support center. The stroke she suffered last year left her with some oral communication challenges and only partial use of her left arm and hand. Meanwhile, however, Darlene has discovered a love for interior decorating as a personal hobby. In both of her roles, she uses a specialized keyboard that addresses her impairment, and the “sticky keys” accessibility feature of her computer also helps her operate the machine effectively.

Trulanni, 32, totally deaf

Since birth, Trulanni has been totally deaf. He found success as a computer programmer and analyst and has since become a project manager for his university. Trulanni writes short fiction novels in his personal time, which gives him a break from his highly technical work. He communicates with colleagues by text-based computer technology and uses a signing translator in-person. When consuming multimedia presentations or audio/video files, however, Trulanni needs text captions to access all the information conveyed.

Osman, 28, paralyzed below his waist

Osman is a web designer at the university where he received his undergraduate degree. Several years ago, an accident left Osman paralyzed below the waist. He uses a wheelchair for transportation, which means ramps and elevators are necessary for him to access buildings and their rooms. The time it takes Osman to get from place to place affects the time he spends on every task. He must calculate and plan his movements every day, and anyone who works with Osman must also consider the effect of his mobility in their encounters.

Eden, 37, diabetic

Eden has been diabetic since she was six years old. Now she is a graduate student and college teaching assistant, but also a wife of 12 years and mother of four children. In addition to managing her diet, she must inject medication at each meal, at least twice a day. Sometimes her ability to focus or endure lengthy meetings can be affected. With such dietary demands, Eden sometimes requires extra patience or flexible timing to function in her numerous roles as wife, mother, student, and teaching assistant. Family, colleagues, and students give Eden extra attention for these circumstances.

Siraj, 20, epileptic

Since Siraj arrived from Calcutta, he has been an active student, musician, and ambassador. Siraj has epilepsy, but he maintains a 4.0 GPA through his sophomore year as a philosophy major. This year, he also became a cultural ambassador to the student body for Indian culture. Siraj’s epilepsy requires an environment with no flashing lights or strobe effects in lighting. He is accommodated with extra time during tests and by classrooms with instructors trained to respond to seizure events.

D’Schehl, 49, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

D’Schehl has simple PTSD from her career in the police department hostage team. Now she works with students at the counselling services center of a university, assisting students with coping skills and decision-making. Focusing on others’ needs helps D’Schehl divert attention from her own mental and emotional state. Sometimes, D’Schehl relives some of her previous experiences without warning, and those situations can create high emotions and sudden outward reactions. Her PTSD requires that she remove herself from activities at times to recompose herself. D’Schehl adapts by taking breaks, preparing key people at work or events to respond to her symptoms, and participating in psychiatric treatment for herself.

Giancarlo, 42, allergy disorder

Giancarlo is a professor of horticulture who suffers from mast cell activation disorder, which essentially causes him to encounter allergens in virtually any and all settings. Giancarlo, also an Italian citizen, overcomes his potentially isolating condition with a pharmaceutical pump implant. Without it, Giancarlo would have an overwhelming allergic reaction to every scent, particle, and fiber he encounters. Sometimes he needs to break away and lie down to let a reaction pass. He has a team of capable teacher’s assistants and understanding superiors. His students sympathize with their favorite professor and often accommodate him in any way they can.