Sometimes Ya Just Never Know, Do You?–Introducing Sharon Hughey to the APH ConnectCenter Team

Image of a cell phone with the number 800-232-5463 showing on the dial screen

In the APH ConnectCenter we field all types of calls and questions.  They range from “how do I learn to cope with my blindness?”; to “what type of technology might work best to help me?”; to “how do I maintain my independence?”; to questions about careers and employment. When the phone rings, I’m reminded of a popular quote from the movie Forrest Gump. “…life is like a box of chocolates. You just never know what you’re going to get.”  

Seeking Help on Using Captcha Systems

On one particular day a while back, I answered a call from someone who was in the process of applying for jobs on line. She was calling for advice on an accessibility issue. The challenge is one that we have encountered before here in the ConnectCenter: website verification or captcha systems. Many medium and large organizations having stringent security measures in place to prevent bots and scammers from fishing and accessing human resources data records.  To that end, many electronic applications use a picture-based captcha system requiring the user to “select the…” from a picture divided into a grid. Many, if not most of these systems do not play well with assistive technology used by people who are blind or visually impaired such as JAWS, Job Access, NVDA, and others. If you happen to have vision loss, and have ever had to navigate your way through a captcha image verification field in order to become registered to a new online account, you understand how frustrating this process can be. In most cases, the security measures are designed for the sighted world without much consideration given to the barrier presented by asking someone with a visual impairment to navigate a grid of pictures they cannot see.  Or any idea of the subsequent frustration that person would experience having to find and ask someone for sighted assistance. So, our caller of the month got a hold of us to ask for help with this very issue.  

Since one of the main components of the APH ConnectCenter is the APHCareerConnect website, which features many resources to help job seekers on their quest for employment, she figured we may have a solution for her. In our conversation together, while commiserating over the shared frustration at hand, she kept dropping tidbits of information about herself such as, “Well I’ve worked for and with the blind for many years” and “I’m blind myself.” She told me things like, “I’m a retired clinical psychologist having worked with families, children, and other individuals of all ages for over 25 years.” She went on to explain that while this part of her life was over, she found that retirement left an opening in her life. She shared that she really wanted a job, if only part-time, that she could use to fill that void in her left by retiring from what had been a successful and fulfilling career. She didn’t want just any job.  She was hoping to find a job that was suited for her, one where she felt like she could help others, and perhaps even work from home.   

Caller of the Week Fills the Bill for ConnectCenter Information & Referral Specialist Position

Sharon Hughey sitting at a computer with a headset on
Sharon Hughey

As she spoke, it occurred to me that she possesses many of the skills and life experiences that the APH ConnectCenter was looking for to fill a recently posted position for an “Information and Referral Specialist” answering phone calls and emails that come into the ConnectCenter with questions related to blindness and visual impairment. Responding to social media posts, contributing content for our suite of informational resources, and participating in webinars, basically being my sidekick here in the Information and Referral Center. Realizing the opportunity, I interrupted her at some point and said, “My goodness! Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’d like you to submit your resume for a position that we just happen to have here in the ConnectCenter.” I went on to explain a bit more about the job, and how to apply, which, ultimately, she did. After receiving resumes, we put each through a stringent process for narrowing the playing field and interviewed the top candidates. And guess what? Have you figured out where I’m going with this? I’m thrilled to tell you that our caller of the week, Ms. Sharon Hughey, is our new Information and Referral Specialist!  

Now Working Remotely

Like many employers during the COVID pandemic, the APH ConnectCenter has recognized the feasibility of remote work which allowed us to broaden our search to find the best talent and the best match for the right job. Although the American Printing House for the Blind and the APH ConnectCenter are based in Louisville Kentucky, Sharon, like several other APH ConnectCenter staff, will be working remotely from her home. 

Sharon started with us on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. She and I have been working closely with each other in order to get her up to speed with internal processes, the systems we use, and how we operate. After only a couple of days, she was responding to email and social media requests for information and resources. We are excited to have Sharon join the APH ConnectCenter team, and look forward to learning from her. For her part, Sharon is excited to have an opportunity to apply her life experiences as a blind person and psychologist who has spent many years in the field of blindness in a role where she can help educate and assist those who need a knowledgeable and empathetic ear 

Welcome to the APH ConnectCenter Sharon Hughey! Let’s do this!