Paving the path to inclusion

6.19.18.ChristinaMChristina M. navigates her way through daily operations in Ireland with fierce efficiency and brilliant customer service.

What Christina doesn’t use, though, is her eyesight.

Christina is visually impaired but with the support of assistive technology, is quite successful in her position as an Administrative Representative in Ireland.

Determined to succeed

Christina joined Enterprise in January 2017 after a short time as an intern.

“We knew within two to three weeks after Christina started we wanted her full-time,” says Peter W., Operations Supervisor for the Group. “She’s exceptional with customers and speaks several languages. She has quite a unique skill set and is an invaluable asset in our busy retail branches.”

Christina discovered Enterprise through the company’s partnership with AHEAD, the Association of Higher Education, Access, and Disability. She completed her education at the prestigious Trinity College of Dublin with the next natural step to enter the workforce.

However, that progression isn’t so natural for visually impaired individuals in Ireland, where 86 percent of blind and visually impaired people of working age are unemployed.

Christina considers herself fortunate to be part of the other 14 percent. She credits her success to Enterprise embracing assistive technology and correctly assessing her needs.

A coordinated effort

After hiring Christina full-time, Group HR Manager Leslee O. approached Peter to begin the necessary steps that would allow Christina to use her braille display and screen readers with Enterprise’s systems.

“The full scope of the undertaking was somewhat unexpected,” says Peter, who worked with multiple parties to ensure success of the integration. “The U.K. infrastructure team, IT in St. Louis, and a coding company called Blazie were critical for installation.”

The Enterprise team worked with Blazie to allow recoding of several systems Christina would need daily. Given the vulnerability of cyber networks, information-sharing with Blazie –  while simultaneously ensuring safety of Enterprise systems – was a substantial task.

The full project took about six months to coordinate, but the outcome was well worth the wait.

“Once my PC was up and running I was able to interact with all applications using my braille display,” explains Christina. “This refreshes each time information on the computer screen changes, enabling me to read everything in braille without the need for speech output.”

While Ireland does not have equal opportunity laws in place, the Operating Group is proud to be pushing past what is legally required of them as employers. “We would be doing both Enterprise and Christina a disservice by not providing her the opportunity to succeed,” says Peter.

Although the Group was prepared to make the necessary adaptions without financial assistance, Enterprise did receive a grant through the Irish Department of Social Protection to offset the cost.

Lasting impact

Christina believes Enterprise has truly “walked the walk” when it comes to inclusion in the workplace, and she encourages other Operating Groups to continue that trend.

“Enterprise was very honest with me in that they hadn’t done this before, but my unique needs always felt respected,” says Christina. “They asked me what I needed and didn’t make assumptions, and that was music to my ears. That approach is how employers can create sustainable employment.”

Christina has publicly discussed the importance of assistive technology on a few occasions, acting as an advocate for those in similar situations. To hear firsthand what Christina says about her experience, check out this video from FreedomTech 2017.