As a senior IT systems engineer for an international employer, Stefan Kaiser has proven expertise in current technology and a personal interest in accessibility. We asked him about his experiences and what led him to choose and recommend SuperNova for himself and his colleagues.
How long have you worked for WACKER?
I have worked for WACKER since 1990. I started my career as a trainee. In Germany it is common to get an overview for 3 years, working in the different departments of a company. During this trainee phase I had a big 20 inch Monitor – it was very heavy – so around 25 kg. I was the first visually impaired employee at WACKER. So the company really supported me to start my job and have continued to support me during my whole career. After I finished the trainee program I worked for different departments in the human resource unit.
Computer stuff was always a hobby of mine, and colleagues in the HR department used to come to me to get support. In 1997 I got the chance to officially join the IT department and I’ve worked there ever since, starting with user support via phone or on-site. Later we standardized our IT life cycle processes and I became a member of this team. I took great interest in setting up these IT processes in both our main production site here in Burghausen, in upper Bavaria and in our headquarters in Munich. I have also visited Japan and China to help support colleagues there.
What is your role there?
Now I act as an IT System engineer in the client development team of the IT department. I have quite a few responsibilities. The main business currently is the global coordination of the W10 migration from our work place computers. I am part of a small team that do IT support for our board members and last but not least, I am responsible for the IT equipment and workplaces for our blind and visual impaired colleagues.
How big a part does your computer play in your job?
A funny question to an IT employee :) – without a computer it is not possible to do anything these days. Computers are everywhere in our life. There’s been a big change in technology development for blind and visual impaired people in recent years. That is great.
Can you tell me something about your eye condition?
I was born blind in 1973. My parents realised I didn’t recognize any light – so they took me to a specialised eye doctor. The diagnosis was Cataracts and Nystagmus on both eyes. At the age of 3 months my lenses were removed with an operation. I’ve worn glasses ever since. My sight level with glasses is between 5 to 10 percent. In 2003 I have Glaucoma too. When people ask me – how is your sight and what do you see – it’s simple to tell them … Take a spyglass and look through the wrong end of it. You see everything, but far away – I can see everything but not in detail. I see people, but not their faces, gestures and expressions.
You’ve invested time into researching computer solutions and become an expert – what do you advise people to consider when choosing their own solution?
In our company at first we try to find a solution with standard IT equipment. It makes it easier to service. And another thing is the price. There is a market for gadgets, tools and products for people with disabilities, not only blind or visual impaired. But I always find it hard that when it is made for “us”, the price is higher than for the rest. As an example in my case, the available solutions for a mobile workplace are a bulky, heavy 19 inch Notebook plus a bulky camera system. The camera itself costs around €4000. For me as an IT expert, that situation was not OK. So I started researching to find a way to help myself and my visual impaired colleagues.
Why did you choose SuperNova? Which SuperNova features do you find most useful?
Well – SuperNova has one outstanding element of functionality which is the intuitive touch control. On a mobile tablet or the all-in-one PC which we use, this gives us an extra option for control. Other competitors have this function, but not in the same easy and intuitive way which we are familiar with from Android and iOS tablets. It’s easy to pinch to zoom in and out. And to control the rest of SuperNova is easy too. Use the 3 finger gesture to turn it on or off. I never thought I would use the speech/reading function, but it is helpful for me too. With longer text, I let the computer read and I just listen. And not to forget SuperNova has the flexibility to customise your own keyboard combinations for controlling the different functions.
How do they help you do your job?
Since I started using SuperNova’s screen magnification I can sit in a normal relaxed position. For years before that I had a poor sitting and working position. My eyes aren't so tired now on hard business days. I also used to have problems with my cervical spine. Now it's gone – the distance between me and my monitor is the same as for colleagues with normal sight. I use the magnification to compensate for my poor eyesight instead of having to move my body. When I use text or mail editing tools, I like SuperNova’s “focus highlighting” function to find the cursor or the line where I am.
Your employer has been very supportive; what key advice would you give to other employers when they consider computer accommodations for their staff?
It is down to company culture that employees with restrictions are regarded as equivalent employees. When an employee is given not only personal opportunities, but also all the technical possibilities to fulfil his task, then he feels like an important part of the company, not the spare wheel. And in mine and my colleagues’ experience, I can say inclusion works at WACKER.
It is also up to each of us not to bury our heads in the sand, but to look ahead. Everyone has his strengths and they have to be found out and supported with the appropriate technical possibilities.
Maybe a standard solution with regular PC plus document camera and screen magnification. Or a special hardware solution with braille keyboard or one-handed keyboard and ScreenReader. The market is there and you can use the internet to get help if you don't have an expert in your company.
As a senior manager you may think that assistive technology is not necessary or is too expensive. In that case – do a test. What blind or visually impaired employees can actually achieve at their workstations can be demonstrated to colleagues by simple things. Get yourself a pair of simulation glasses and give it a try. With the illustration of the problem, some managers will then decide differently. A disability can affect any one of us, whether in top management or in a junior position. Is it worth it, to support your employee to achieve all of his/her potential? Yes it is. You can do it easily with a magnification solution plus a document camera.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying SuperNova for the first time?
First, consider what functions you will use. Magnification: –zoom in and zoom out, overview window, turn on and off magnification. I would start with these functions then check if the pre-configured keyboard shortcuts suit you. If not you can change them to your own requirements. I use CTRL and the mouse wheel for zoom in and out and CTRL + ENTER to turn magnification on and off.
Second is to find useful functions; like changing the colour in different applications - and to give them a try. I changed my keyboard settings a few times.
Third, use the Video tutorials on the Yourdolphin website to train yourself and get trained well.
Finally, what developments would you like to see in the future? What would you find useful?
Well I like the touch function – and I also use a touch stylus on my mobile workplace to make notes or create paintings; it would be great if this was supported in magnification mode too. The stability under the fast OS development from Windows 10 makes it sometimes hard for 3rd party software developers like Dolphin, so a closer collaboration between the companies to get rid of freeze problems would be useful. Users of this magnification solution need it for their daily work – I worked for 27 years without SuperNova, but now I use it every day. I need screen magnification on a reliable, stable basis. At home, I am a Macintosh user and I would love a similar solution on the Mac platform too. Highlighter in Text, different Mouse pointers or mouse highlighter – customizable like the Windows version ;) And I like the great support from the YourDolphin Team in UK.