The Sierra Group Disability and Employment Leaders

Sierra Client Success Stories - Questions? Call 800.973.7687

Thousands of people with disabilities of every sort have returned to work, retained a job, started home-based businesses, and pursued higher education because of The Sierra Group's ability to see solutions where others would see only obstacles. The Sierra Group has helped individuals who previously communicated only through single-syllable utterances and facial gestures learn to use technology to carry on conversations with those around them. We have helped others "locked in" with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) navigate a computer system using brain waves to communicate and create documents. The success of The Sierra Group's clients is proof that our methods work. Here are a few of their stories:

Eliot's Story:

An accident eight years ago left airline customer-service representative Eliot a quadriplegic at age 33. Ambulating with a power wheelchair because his neck is now permanently fused in an upright tilt, Eliot has no functional movement other than his abilities to speak, eat, and blink his eyes. Clearly his former job would no longer be feasible.

So Eliot began to reconstruct his life. After undergoing rehabilitation and with the support of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), Eliot decided to study computer programming. The initial software suggested was a light-activated system that was extremely expensive and required total darkness for use.

When The Sierra Group was called in to help, we implemented a multi-dimensional and user-friendly solution at half the cost--and we got Eliot out of the dark. Sierra used a highly customized combination of voice-activated software and equipped Eliot with a specially created, portable computer that he could use in classroom, work, and home study situations. More ruggedly constructed and expandable tha dressdown press down concert after feeling. n a standard laptop, his computer also incorporated color-coding and descriptive markings to guide instructors using the computer with Eliot. To adapt his environment to his limited functions, Sierra also designed a reconfiguration of Eliot's room, bringing all equipment within easy reach for his attendants and placing monitors strategically for his ease of viewing.

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Jaime's Story:

Jaime has been blind since age 7 and lost the use of her limbs at age 8. Yet as a college freshman, Jaime wrote a children's book of poems about color. Her accomplishment of this feat testifies to a strong spirit, a rich imagination, and the wonders of assistive technology.

When The Sierra Group was brought in by Jaime's high school, we found a teenager unable to communicate via writing. A talented young woman eager to experience life to its fullest, Jaime was unable to hold a pencil. Due to lack of feeling in her fingers, she could not read or write in Braille. But she could speak.

Sierra worked closely with Jaime to evaluate her needs, eventually implementing Dragon Dictate--a software program that writes what it hears onto the computer screen. The addition of Vocal Eyes and DecTalk software then allowed the computer to read the screen back to Jaime. After nine months in Sierra's assistive technology training program, Jaime had the ability to write for the first time in her life. She could also directly review and edit her thoughts.

Jaime's book is a collection of rhymes describing the essence of colors as she faintly remembers them, as others have described them, and as she senses them from associated sounds, shapes, and textures. Through the combination of specific assistive software and Sierra's technology training program, Jaime can now give literal form to the words and emotions she uses to express what she cannot see except in the imaginative world of her mind's eye.

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Pamela's Story:

Pamela was a top-ranking commercial sales account executive for AT&T. An aggressive go-getter with a vibrant personality and a keen business acumen, she handled the large monthly accounts in the company's commercial business products unit and was highly successful in her work.

Then an automobile collision left her with a traumatic brain injury. As a result, she found herself battling disorientation, diminished reading comprehension, forgetfulness, word-finding difficulties, and several lingering side-effects. Determined to carry on with her life and to take care of her family, Pamela returned to work.

She found, however, that AT&T seemed to share her growing frustration as she struggled to keep up with mounting paperwork, scheduling demands, and other aspects of the fast-paced job at which she had previously thrived. Placed on probation, Pamela turned to the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) for help reclaiming the skills impaired as a result of her injury. OVR turned to The Sierra Group.

Sierra enabled Pamela to increase her scheduling competency and productivity by using a custom-programmed Polytel keyboard to organize her work. Combined with the ACT! contact-management software program, the keyboard provided Pamela with visual and audio reminders of tasks she had to do as well as a means of monitoring her work. It was not long before Pamela's work and personal life were rejuvenated.

Today, Pamela is not only still with AT&T, but her sales quotas are up, and she continues to be recognized for her impressive performance with frequent bonuses and commendations.

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Colleen's Story:

Colleen, a woman with muscular dystrophy, had worked in the human resources department of US Healthcare for ten years when the company announced in 1996 that it would be merging with AETNA and restructuring its work force. Colleen feared that the company's downsizing would not only target her department but also eliminate her position as a claims processor due to her worsening muscular dystrophy.

A bright, determined young woman, Colleen forged ahead despite her decreasing keyboard speed and increasing fatigue. When her functional limitations eventually made her too weak to carry on with her job, Colleen and AETNA US Healthcare contacted The Sierra Group to discuss the technology available to help.

Sierra was able to work with her and AETNA US Healthcare to create a work-from-home setup that made it easier for her to cope with the fatigue and other symptoms of her ailment. Sierra equipped Colleen with several customized macro keypads that allow her to organize and monitor her work, as well as a device that enables her to increase her keyboard speed with the tap of her foot. Speech-recognition technology keeps her efficient and productive even when she is tired.

Today, Colleen ranks among the many successful employees of AETNA US Healthcare. AETNA US Healthcare was named Large Employer of the Year by the Governor's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities in 1998, thanks to Colleen and the company's visionary efforts to look beyond a person's disability and make the most of her potential and ability.

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INTERESTED? Please contact The Sierra Group via e-mail or by phone at 1.800.973.7687.