New Zealand Law Society - Technology helping to overcome barriers at work

Technology helping to overcome barriers at work

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Simon Laurent
Simon Laurent

Auckland barrister sole Masumi Scherb has been “pretty much fully” blind since birth.

And like other blind lawyers he has found technology a massive boost to his ability to do his work.

“We’ve come a long way since I was admitted and I use a lot of Apple technology. I have an iPhone and an Apple Mac and they have voice output so whatever is on screen is spoken. And also there’s a lot of optical character recognition software, such as OCR software, so that I can convert text into pdf form and it can read it out to me.

“I’m just starting to get into converting hand writing, which is kinda like the last frontier; for example, a lot of police disclosure forms are in hand-written form and that’s the hardest for me to read. I still need help reading that and I rely on a colleague who is also a long-time friend to help me do that.

“They’re providing a lot more electronic disclosure these days so there’s been a huge improvement in access.”

Mr Scherb says while the technology is improving it isn’t always being taken up.

“Some of the acommodations or access to justice and the information we need is still on an ad hoc basis and that means people gaining the information off their own bat without assistance from the Ministry of Justice and central government.

“The ministry is providing more legislation online which is really good, but it’s very slow in being posted and there’s still a long way to go to make the system fully accessible.”

In court Mr Scherb relies on both his colleagues and court staff to get him around the buildings. “But there is more that could be done in terms of access, for example, some countries use an iPhone app that communicates with beacons so you know where doors are. More time could be looked into investigating such technology, for all court users who could benefit from improved technology.”

Auckland immigration lawyer Simon Laurent, who is completely blind in one eye and has just 6% vision in the other, uses some new technology but largely overcomes his disability in simple ways.

“I do read documents in the normal way, I don’t use braille, I never learned it. I just look closer. It probably takes me a bit longer to read through a document than most people. I find being able to use a PC where I can zoom in on things can be useful but I have to admit that there is nothing quite like having the physical thing in front of you to read it properly.”

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