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Flexibility and Innovations: Don't Overlook Small Business

Editor's Note: From the editor: Small businesses should not be overlooked by blind job-seekers. If a small business wants to, it can make necessary changes quickly. Where there is the will to hire, there is the flexibility to develop workable alternative techniques. As the experience of Richard Marion demonstrates, changes made to help a blind employee can be a tremendous benefit to an entire organization.

Richard Marion wasn't at all sure he wanted to work in the family business. He entered Douglas College believing that a career in business was the career for him, but he thought he was headed for a job with a large corporation.

He spent a summer during high school working in the shop of Triple R Truck Repair, the Marion family business. "That convinced me I didn't want to be a truck mechanic, even though I'm fairly mechanical. I just didn't like the grease and grime and noise".

Part way through his business program at Douglas College Richard began questioning his choice. "I thought I might switch to computer programming. I like what the computer can do, but it didn't take long before I knew that programming one was not for me".

Student politics captured Richard's attention throughout his college career. He became president of the B.C. Education Association for Disabled Students. He was also elected Vice President of the Douglas College Student Society and served on the provincial board of student unions where he discovered that he really liked advocacy.

As his business administration training progressed, Richard found more and more ways he could apply what he had learned to help the family business. He began doing small projects to help his parents and brother. But he faced a significant obstacle. Most of the records for the company were hand-written. Richard has enough vision to read printed material for short periods of time using a CCTV. However, handwriting is often impossible for him to decipher. The more he worked with computerized speech, the more he began to realize what a powerful tool it could be.

Richard computerized the company payroll and other accounts. As he automated the system to make it more accessible to him, the advantages for the entire organization became apparent. Payroll, which had previously taken a day to complete, could now be done in a few hours.It was suddenly easy to gather statistics about past performance in order to project future needs.

Although he has computerized most things, there are still some documents which come to him in hand writing. "I simply have them read to me. If they are short documents, someone in the office can read them between other duties. I usually schedule reading assistance for a few hours once or twice a week to handle anything which has accumulated".

Richard has worked in the DOS environment using VERT, an older speech program. The company is currently converting everything to Windows, so Richard has switched to JAWS for Windows (JAWS stands for Job Access with Speech.) He believes that the time and expense invested in learning a new speech access system is justified because of the greater power of Windows programs.

During his final semester at college, Richard decided he preferred the flexibility and variety of a small business. He has been the business manager of Triple R Trucking ever since.

In addition to repairing trucks for others, the company also provides trucks and drivers as a sub-contractor for builders. At any given time Triple R trucks might be digging a foundation at one location, hauling waste from another, and ploughing snow from a parking lot in a third. Richard keeps track of the complex paperwork, prepares material for the tax accountant, dispatches drivers, develops business plans, and sees to it the bills are paid and the receivables are collected. He does much of his work on the computer. The telephone is also an indispensable business tool.

Richard's commitment to advocacy continues. Last July he was elected president of the lower mainland chapter of the NFB:AE. "In some ways I am between two worlds when it comes to business and advocacy. I could never go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting and support a speaker who says Canada's social programs should be eliminated. I also object to people who seem to think everyone in business is unthinking and uncaring. Our challenge is to build a business and social environment that gives people the skills and the incentive they need to be productive," says Richard. According to him, it's in everyone's best interest to have strong social programs that encourage independence.

It is certainly in the best interests of Triple R Trucking to have Richard Marion as its business manager.

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