Service Consultant Christopher Sims has been with ANZ for four years. An avid concert-goer and aviation geek, he enjoys following YouTube videos from experienced pilots, describing the experience as “It’s as if I am sitting in the aircraft with them.”
With a penchant for playing around with technology, his contribution to user acceptance testing of new technology at ANZ gives a strong voice to people with disability.
Christopher is blind and uses a cane to help him get around. At work, he relies on a range of assistive technologies to navigate desktop programs and internet content using only his keyboard and audio feedback.
Christopher caught up with Anna Spiteri to chat about his recent experience as he works in the contact centre to help our customers during this difficult time.
Anna: How have your working arrangements changed since we started working differently during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve been at home for six weeks, working from home for the last two after the contact centre was split between three buildings due to social distancing restrictions. I rely on knowing my way to the floor and my desk, so given the restrictions, I had to go straight to working from home.
While it took some time to get me up and running from home, my manager checked in with me regularly over that time and kept me updated and I am thankful for the good working relationship we have; however, I was going crazy. I wanted to go back to work as soon as possible.
I was really excited to receive a call when I was told ‘get ready to go, get everything set up.’ I always thought at some point they’ll get me back to work, I wouldn’t have allowed them not to. I drove pretty hard to get back and I’m proud that my own perseverance has paid off.
While I was excited, I admit I was also a little nervous. I had never worked from home for this role and was very used to the office set up. I’ve had to get used to the home set up and everything is now on a laptop rather than my desktop at work. I’ve had to start using some software I hadn’t used previously. I initially felt some trepidation over the new piece of software but it’s fine now, I’m used to it.
Anna: What hardware and software do you use on a day-to-day basis?
Christopher: I use my laptop and a standard headset that feeds from my phone. So I can access the information on my laptop, I use Jaws screen-reading software which is part of the Fusion suite, which also has screen enlargement capability.”
Standard software mostly connects okay with Fusion/Jaws, but there are issues with software update cycles where accessibility updates are not necessarily being applied or prioritised. This is not ideal, however where software is not available, we cope and we work around it.
Anna: What’s it like for you taking calls and working in your team environment?
Christopher: At times it gets challenging - I’ve gotten really good at listening!
My current headset set up means I have both audio feedback and customer calls coming in the same ear. In addition, there is often extra noise on the line at the customer end. It is challenging and I do get tired. I have come to really appreciate my breaks - it’s always good to take a breather - that applies to everyone!
Customers rarely pick up that I’m blind. Occasionally I disclose this to customers if they’ve revealed to me they are a person with disability.
For the most part, being blind doesn’t affect me too much in the team environment, my sighted colleagues will guide me to meetings and if miss out on information when someone sends a screenshot or picture, I’m comfortable calling that out and asking for more information.
Anna: What tends to be the most problematic document format for you in terms of accessibility?
Christopher: Any document can potentially cause a problem with screen readers, however screenshots are by far the most problematic – they need a description of the image. On our company internal social network, screenshots are the norm given the nature of social networks. I generally let people know they need to image describe screen shots. People are apologetic and appreciate the insight – it’s about consistent education and awareness.
Christopher’s accessibility tip
All Microsoft office applications have an 'Accessibility Checker.'Use it to improve the accessibility of your documents. To find the checker in your Office applications, type ‘Accessibility Checker’ into the ‘Tell me what you want to do’ search box above the toolbar.
Anna: What do you think will change in the future in terms of your work environment?
Christopher: I’ve had a conversation with my boss about potentially doing a hybrid set up in future, where I work from home a couple of days a week. Working from home has a great vibe in its own right, although I miss my colleagues. I like having weekly team meetings and catching up with everyone.
For me, it would be great to be in the office a couple of days but also be able to work from home – a great balance.