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How simple adjustments can support self-employed Australians with disability

Commercial solicitor and Principal David Burns has been managing his law firm for nearly 30 years. Living with retinitis pigmentosa meant David was facing some workplace barriers.

That soon changed, with support from JobAccess.

As Principal at Burns and Associates Solicitors, David Burns has been running his Brisbane-based law firm specialising in commercial court litigation since 1992.

Their primary goal, he says, is to help people walk through the complex legal system without going to a court trial. “We are part of a trusted legal system to assist with disputes between people concerning money. Court trials can be stressful, time-consuming and costly, and we aim to resolve commercial matters outside court,” says David.

Due to its many diverse speciality areas, commercial litigation is one of the most complex and challenging in law. David shares, “I like the intellectual challenge of it. Each case is unique, having different versions, and nothing is black and white. As lawyers, we need to collect all the facts, work out multiple probabilities and provide support to our clients in resolving the matter.”

EAF funds workplace solutions

David experiences tunnel vision as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, causing a restricted field-of-view.

“The problem for me is that I am clinically blind and can’t read ordinary documents,” he explains.

For a commercial law solicitor, the ability to read, type and research printed and electronic information is an inherent requirement of the role. These include reading client briefs, accessing and amending contracts, drafting legal papers and other documentation.

“Reading is essential to practise law. If I can’t read without additional support and do my job, I would be unemployable,” adds David.

He learnt about JobAccess through Quantum – a provider of products and services for people with low vision – and went on to apply for the Employment Assistant Fund (EAF) through the JobAccess website.

After receiving the application, JobAccess organised a free worksite assessment for David. An independent assessor visited his workplace to review potential barriers at work and recommend disability-specific workplace solutions. Soon after, David received the funded supports at work.

Man smiling at the camera

Supports save time and stress

“[The supports] are helping me a great deal! One of them is the ZoomText screen magnifier which was critical. It allows me to read documents and emails and research information on the internet. Without this, I could not do the job,” shares David.

“Another remarkable technology is the Dragon NS dictation software that generates text almost as quickly as I speak,” he adds. The software allows David to write a document by speaking into the microphone, and the words appear on the PC screen. “It helps me save time and avoid any fumbling,” says David.

The assessor also recommended an optical character recognition (OCR) system so David can scan printed text and have it converted into audible speech, to help him review the heavy volume of printed documents with ease.

David appreciated the quick turnaround time from lodging the EAF application through JobAccess to receiving the equipment in the workplace.

“JobAccess is an excellent service for many reasons. First, they have a strong client focus. Second, nothing seems to be hard for them as nothing is bureaucratic. Third, the EAF application process was quick and easy, and finally, the JobAccess Adviser referred me on to other good people from external services to seek additional support,” says David.

“Because of this, I believe, JobAccess is one of the best organisations in the provision of government services in Australia as it targets the needs of the people.

It has helped me stay employable, while I continue to employ eight other people at my firm. JobAccess performs an essential social function by keeping people with disability employed,” he concludes.

To learn more about workplace adjustments and financial assistance available through the Employment Assistance Fund, contact a JobAccess Adviser on 1800 464 800 or submit an online enquiry.

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