Coffee With Kalari: An Epic Breakthrough!

All of my life, I prided myself on exceeding expectations. In college, I planned to stop at a Bachelor’s degree. However, I soon realized that having a Master’s would put me in a better position to be employed. So, I went for it.

My lifelong dream has been to get a degree, work in my field, and make a substantial living. As a blind individual, I was always told that because of my disability, I would always have to work harder and stay ahead. Having this mindset, I was prepared to work hard in order to achieve my goals. I just viewed this as another hurdle in my path that I will surpass.

Still, I struggled to find employment. I had been offered jobs but could not take them because my screen-reader was not compatible with the employer’s equipment. It doesn’t matter how many degrees I have. If my screen-reader doesn’t work, I can’t work either.

With so many jobs being inaccessible, it has been a battle to get into the few jobs that are. I was fortunate that The Chicago Lighthouse was able to give me a job that was compatible with my screen reader several years ago. Even though it was not in my field of study, I knew this was my first step into the workforce.

Still, there were hurdles. The software we used in the UI Health Call Center was not fully compatible with my screen-reader. I could only handle the most basic of jobs. When it was time to schedule or confirm appointments or take a patient’s medical history, I had to pass the call off to my sighted coworkers.

As you can imagine, this was extremely frustrating, not just for me but for many of my colleagues who are also visually impaired. Unless the software was updated, we had few opportunities for advancement.

Earlier this year, the stars finally aligned. The Chicago Lighthouse’s client, UI Health, was switching to use Epic software for medical scheduling. As a long-time partner of The Chicago Lighthouse, UI Health recognizes the value I bring to the workforce, and they, along with The Chicago Lighthouse, made sure the software would be accessible enough to open up opportunities for all of us who are blind or visually impaired.

On March 1, 2021, I changed my title to “Medical Scheduler.” Thanks to these efforts, I finally had a promotion, and it felt life-changing.
 

Kalari is pictured working at her desk.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to advance my career.

The joy I felt was overwhelming, and tears came to my eyes. My life-long dream has come true. I wanted to be a tax-paying citizen, and not only that, I wanted to grow in my life and in my career. I now have that chance, and so do the countless individuals who are blind or visual impaired who use Epic software throughout the world.

I feel like a brand-new world has been opened up. My career is growing, thanks to the necessary steps The Chicago Lighthouse and UI Health took to make sure the opportunities were there.  I, and so many others, have worked hard for this, and I am extremely happy that it is paying off.  I am so happy that software developers have caught up to my vision.

What has been your journey to employment? What are some of the challenges you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them? I would love to hear your stories. Please comment below!

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