"It took me 50 years to read a children's book."
Paula Boegheim has been an after-school care worker at St Pius’s Catholic School, Salisbury in Brisbane for the last 19 years. She has been a valued member of the staff for so long, despite having an “invisible” disability; at just 6 weeks old Paula suffered a brain injury that has affected her whole life.
Paula does not have a vision problem.
Paula’s early brain injury and continuous seizures growing up left her unable to read or write. When she left school, her determined mother Ann supported her to find employment. Due to the system at the time, Paula fell between the cracks and was not eligible for government support because she did not have a physical disability, and employers could not accommodate someone who could not read.
It was only because a friend of the family suggested that St Pius’ would welcome someone with Paula’s talents that she was able to begin work in the child-care industry and contribute so much for so many years.
Not being able to read is a serious difficulty in the workplace.
Memorising the significant volume of print information including rosters, brochures, signage and much more, required daily management and support from her colleagues.
So, it was a bit of a “Eureka” moment when she discovered Quantum via an Occupational Therapist who had heard about the OrCam Read, a text-to-speech device the size of a marker pen that can instantly read out loud any text it is aimed at. When Paula came to our Brisbane Sight Support Centre, she was blown away by how easy the OrCam Read was to use, and what a powerful tool it would be.
Funding the OrCam
Though many people have obtained OrCams with NDIS funding, Paula couldn’t apply for one purely on the grounds of not being able to read – she needed to have one of six recognised physical, sensory, neurological or psychological disabilities. NDIS-funded equipment is mainly for home use, not for the workplace. So, Paula made enquiries with JobAccess, which funds adjustments to the workplace to enable people with disabilities to move into employment, retain employment or advance their careers.
Getting the right advice
After discussing her situation, the experienced advisor at JobAccess suggested Paula go to her GP to confirm a diagnosis of Acquired Brain Injury. Finally, with a recognised name for her disability, Paula unlocked doors that had been closed to her for so many decades. Within two weeks she was approved for an OrCam Read, and she is now also able to construct an NDIS plan to support her other needs.
When we delivered the device to Paula in her workplace, she picked up one of the children’s reader books called “The Heart of Winter” and used OrCam to read page after page, with a transfixed look on her face. Struggling to restrain her emotions, Paula went to her supervisor and said “That is the first book I have ever read!”