Donovan Tildesley has a shelf full of swimming medals, three world records and has travelled the world as a Paralympian.
Out of the pool and away from competitive athletics, however, the transition back to civilian life wasn't always easy - particularly where work was concerned.
After being flag bearer at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Tildesley landed a job as a broker with a Vancouver-based insurance agency. He quickly realized that he didn't have all the tools he needed to do his job as well as he could.
Blind since birth, Tildesley, now 28, has Leber's amaurosis, a condition that left him without retinas.
"Within a couple of weeks of work at Buntain Insurance, I realized things could be simpler," Tildesley said.
The young salesman was already equipped with JAWS, a software program that reads what's on his computer screen and translates it into synthesized speech. But he needed other supports.
Tildesley contacted a provincial employment program for people with disabilities - now part of the Employment Program of B.C.
The employment centre connected him with Assistive Technology British Columbia (ATBC), an organization that provides technology for people with disabilities throughout B.C. for learning and work environments. ATBC was able to set him up with a PAC Mate braille display.
The hardware complemented his JAWS screen reader, allowing him to read in two different ways.
"Let's just call it a third leg or training wheels. Now I feel somewhat naked without the braille display," Tildesley said.
"I could do my job without a braille display, but I would be slower, working at about 60 per cent capacity."
He's grateful to the employment program for getting him access to the technology he needs to do his job to the best of his abilities.
"Everything is just a keystroke away. It allows me to be more self-sufficient and have a cleaner workspace," Tildesley said.
As an athlete and an employee, Tildes-ley is an inspiration to people of all stripes, including those with disabilities. He doesn't see it that way, though.
"I don't think of myself as disabled. I'm just Donovan and I do all these things. I just happen to be blind."
- Job seekers who are working with the Employment Program of B.C. may be eligible for assistive technology to prepare for a job and to get or keep a job.
- The Employment Program of B.C.'s goal is to serve all British Columbians who are seeking employment and are eligible to work in Canada, including people with disabilities.
- The Employment Program of B.C. was launched in April 2012.
- The employment program is offered through 85 WorkBC Employment Services Centres and over 100 mobile, satellite and outreach services throughout the province. For more information, please visit www.WorkBCCentres.ca.
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