Vision impairment no barrier for Ebony

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Since first coming to EPIC Assist (EPIC) through a school-based traineeship over three years ago, Ebony has become a highly valued member of the team at EPIC Strathpine in North Brisbane, proving her visual impairment is nothing but a barrier that can be broken down.

“I have Septo Optic Nerve Dysplasia. My optic nerve didn’t develop properly so it means I can see, but not long distances,” Ebony explained.

“I also have another condition called Nystagmus which means I can’t control my eyes and where they look.”

In her role as receptionist, Ebony greets clients, answers the phone, and completes any general tasks that the office requires.

ZoomText, a screen reader on her computer, magnifies her two screens and can read to her if her eyes become tired.

“One of the downsides of my condition is that after a while of looking at a computer screen I get visual fatigue. If I’m tired, my Nystagmus is also worse, so having a program that can read aloud to me is a huge support,” Ebony said.

She also uses her phone for magnifying hard copies of documents.

“I take a photo of a business card and then can enlarge it so I can read it. I love how accessible phones have become,” Ebony explains.

Ebony is passionate about educating people about the difference between blindness and visual impairment and increasing the level of understanding around how people with vision impairment do things.

“The one thing that I really want to say is blindness and visual impairment are two completely different things. Blindness you cannot see at all, whereas visual impairment you still have some type of vision.”

To celebrate World Sight Day in October last year, Ebony organised an event at EPIC to share her knowledge and show the group the tools she uses to complete daily tasks. She also shared myths and facts about vision impairment and blindness.

“People always assume that because I’m visually impaired that I can’t do the things that everyone else can,” Ebony said.

“But I can still do things like everyone else, it just might be in slightly different ways.”

Misconceptions have followed Ebony around her entire life.

“I was once at a LEGO convention volunteering and my mum explained to the organiser that I’m vision impaired and that I might need some help,” Ebony explained.

“The lady started signing at me as if I was deaf and pointing at things to show me what to do. I kept trying to tell her that I am visually impaired, I’m not deaf, I can hear you!”

Ebony credits her time with EPIC for building her confidence and has enjoyed the opportunity to get into the workforce and try new things.

“Work is important because it gives people socialisation and the opportunity to have different experiences,” Ebony said.

Ebony wants to reduce the stigma around employing a person with vision impairment.

“At home, we don’t like to use the word disability, instead we call it barriers. When we’re talking, we would say ‘What barrier do you have?’”

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