Johny Cassidy
Producer at BBC Business News

Johny’s Bio – Guest-blogger Johny Cassidy is a producer at BBC Business News and masterminded the BBC Disability Works week earlier this year. He tells us how using the latest technology enables him to do his job as a journalist – Johny is blind, so technology is an essential tool. He goes on to say that with greater understanding from employers, disability shouldn’t exclude anyone from the workplace.

“It’s fair to say that technology and the fast pace at which it’s developing has been pivotal to me in my job as a BBC journalist. It’s also not an exaggeration to say, that without it, I simply wouldn’t be able to do my job to the standard expected.

I began losing my eyesight when I was in my teens. The things that the majority of people take for granted slowly began to be taken from me. The simple pleasure of reading a book or accessing information became difficult, and then impossible. That’s when I began looking around to see how technology might be able to bridge that gap, which thankfully it has been able to do.

It’s vital for me as a business and economics journalist to have access to the same information as other people. A normal day will usually start and end with Twitter, which is all accessible for me on my iPhone through the voiceover function, which reads things on the screen out loud through headphones. Apple really changed the landscape for the majority of blind people when it first introduced the iPhone with this access technology built into the operating system as standard. Up until then I had to pay for a separate piece of software which was then integrated into the phone I was using. This was, whilst a useful tool to read texts and to access simple functions on the phone, a clunky solution which wasn’t really fit for purpose. The fact it cost over £600 also meant it was out of reach for a lot of people. Apple changed all that by levelling the playing field and by understanding the need for accessibility in their devices.

By using Twitter I’ve got a direct feed into the financial markets and business publications. I follow thousands of different feeds to ensure the information I’m getting is up to date and accurate. The fact as well that the majority of newspapers and magazines are also available to me on my phone means that, by the time my train to work gets into London, I am usually up to speed with the overnight developments in the business world. 

Once I’m in the office the phone is replaced by my laptop. Again this has a voiceover function which allows me to read the hundreds of emails waiting for me. I could of course do this on the train as well, but that time is usually set aside for gathering information.

Once emails have been waded through and either answered or deleted, I then start to look at what stories might be around for the next few days. As a forward planning producer I need to know what’s coming up in order to make sure the dozens of BBC programmes and outlets know what business stories they should be looking at. All these stories are held on a news diary which is, after a lot of collaboration with the developers, also accessible to me with the voiceover function on my laptop. This is perhaps one of the biggest problems I face at work. The myriad of different BBC applications, for news production, both TV and radio and online, all need to be accessible, which means it’s vital that I feed back into the developer teams if I come across any accessibility issues. All sounds pretty straightforward, but for an organisation as big as the BBC and with so many different points of contact, the process doesn’t always go as smoothly as perhaps it should.

Once stories have been identified for the next few days, it’s time to begin the meetings in order to explain to other producers and editors what they should be doing businesswise. My phone is again a really useful tool to take notes and have information I need at these meetings.

The BBC is a fantastic employer of disabled people. The fact that attitudes are finally beginning to change and that more employers are realising that disability isn’t a barrier to work means that the need for technology and solutions to problems will continue to be an ongoing battle. The biggest battle though is still trying to ensure that hiring managers understand that these solutions exist. Many disabled people have dozens of their own workarounds and socalled hacks they use every day in order to work or to simply live. The more people who know what technology as a tool can do in order to push more disabled people into employment the better.

I read a statistic recently which said that around 65% of the jobs our children will be doing when they reach working age don’t even exist yet. That’s a huge concept to try and understand, but it proves how fast technology is moving and the fact that we can’t stand still. We need to be constantly looking around for more innovative ways of harnessing technology in order to be able to do our jobs, whatever they may be.” 

Image credit: BBC News

Twitter: @johnycassidy

‘Disability Works: Breaking down barriers in business’ – article by Johny:

‘Tech Tent: Making tech work for everyone’ – article featuring Johny:

‘Disability Works Special’ – Tech Tent radio programme featuring Johny:

JAWS screen reader software:

‘Sit Down with Johny Cassidy’ – article featuring Johny: