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There are No Excuses! Despite Being Blind, How Rhea Succeeded Online

November 28, 2016
by Jason Dulay 
Jason is the founder and CEO of Work from Home Roadmap and VA Bootcamp. Aside from teaching Filipinos how to succeed working from home, he likes traveling, playing board games, and drinking coffee.

Notable Quotes:

  • Actually the first thing is you must know your passion. You must know what you wanna do. First identify sa sarili mo what you really want to do, where you're good at, from there try to improve yourself.
  • You should be determined enough to set a goal for yourself and constantly make the effort to reach that goal.
  • And then of course along the way, it's very important to keep on finding ways to improve yourself. If you wanna do this make the effort na magbasa-basa, mag-research anything that you think would improve your skills

Rhea Guntalilib’s Journey to Freelancing

  • She was diagnosed with a very rare Retinal Disease and got totally blinded when she was 18 years old, a 2nd-year college student.
  • She had to stop her studies and stayed at home for 2 years.
  • She attended a  three-week computer training in Baguio for the blinds and saw the possibilities to finish her studies.
  • She enrolled in computer school for the blinds in Quezon City. Through this school, she was able to get a scholarship to a regular college and was able to finish her degree in Computer Science.
  • Despite being blind, she was able to work with Smart as a System Development Analyst and is currently connected to this company.
  • Being far from her family, she has to be assisted by her sighted helper in order to survive living in Manila ever since she was studying until she started to work. But then in 2014, her sighted helper has to leave her because of an opportunity to work abroad. That was the time she decided to work at home in their province still for the same company.
  • She explored other opportunities to work online while she was working from home and good enough, she was hired by a small IT company in Canada as Accessibility Tester.
  • She is still connected with Smart but is now looking for a full-time job online to let her work from home long-term.
  • She wants to totally  quit office work for a lot of reasons;
    • She wants to eliminate her expenses in renting her own apartment,  in paying for another sighted guide’s salary, transportation, and food allowance if ever she will be living in Manila again.
    • She couldn’t take risking her life anymore in everyday commute of going to office considering that she is blind.
    • She believes that she can achieve the same level of career growth in the online industry.

Q&A Highlights

If you were to give advice to other blind or partially blind people, what would you advise them to do?

Actually the first thing is you must know your passion. You must know what you wanna do. Kasi parang in my case, not all blind people are very passionate about accessibility. Parang it’s not right naman na ‘Oh this is in demand, the opportunity is here, you’ll jump right away’. Parang if you know to yourself, like for example parang you’re passionate sa writing, you’re passionate sa pagtuturo, first identify sa sarili mo what you really want to do. Where you’re good at tapos from there try to improve yourself. Constantly look for opportunities na may kinalaman or related to what you really want. Kasi honestly, job hunting online talaga can really be frustrating. Yeah katulad ng mga nababasa ko din it’s not something na kapag naghanap ka today mamaya maya nandyan na kasi ako it took me months even a year bago ko nahanap yung akin yung online work ko. For me if I’m not that passionate with accessibility, if I don’t really love what I’m doing, if I’m not really 100% devoted sa hinahanap it’s easier for me to just give up. Mas madali kang mawalan ng gana if you don’t like what looking or if you don’t like what you’re doing. So I guess yun muna. Try to figure out sa sarili ninyo what you really love to do.

What really, aside from your desire for, and your passion for usability was there another driving force that still kept you going? That’s still motivating you to continue.

Yeah, unang una sa lahat, of course you know, we came from an average type of family. Hindi kami mayaman. Yeah, both my parents are working pero typical. And then ako kasi yung eldest. Although dadalawa lang namin kami, parang ever since pa before I became sick, even before I lost my sight parang I’m determined talaga. I promised talaga sa parents ko na don’t worry mom, dad I’ll be the one to send my brother to college.

So parang pinanghawakan ko yung promise kong yon. So yun talaga, that’s one of my greatest driving force - my family. And then number two that’s why I went into the field of, well, digital accessibility, I’ve experienced kasi first hand how frustrating it is na, you know, parang mas marami pa sana akong magagawa. There are things na I can do pa sana online if not for all these accessibility issues. So parang that ignited the fire within me since alam na alam ko yung pakiramdam. Parang  I made it my personal advocacy talaga to promote accessibility. And I’m so blessed kasi ang goal ko lang talaga is to spread awareness pero yon nakahanap ako ng channel o ng means while promoting my advocacy sa accessibility tapos I’m earning at the same time.

How did you start applying online, you said you’re focusing more on LinkedIn because they have more accessibility tools. Can you share your process of what you did in LinkedIn. How you found clients? How you found jobs?

Ah okay. Well, I joined groups and then I connected with people who are connected to the field of accessibility. So add lang ng add, connect ng connect, and then I sent them private messages. I let them know of my situation, telling them that I am totally blind and I’m looking for opportunities wherein I can exercise my skills in web accessibility. So siguro I’ve sent out hindi lang 100 or 200 private messages to different people. There are those who responded, of course, they gave me parang ano my network grew through referrals referrals referrals ganyan. Most people that I met hindi man nila nabigay siguro yung job opportunity na I’m looking for. Pero they connected me to people na makakatulong sakin until such time that eto nga I found yung current employer ko.

And what I know about LinkedIn, I’ve done messaging in LinkedIn not so much for looking for jobs but for other things. Weren’t you worried about being reported as spam if you kept on sending PMs.

I never considered that actually [laughs].  But thankfully hindi naman siya nangyari. And I think it’s important din how you phrase your message. Kasi sa akin naman noon, it’s more on I just want to expand my network in accessibility, or I didn’t say naman exactly na  ‘hey do you have a job opportunity I want to apply’. No it’s not like that. Sabi ko I have skills in like this, if you have opportunity wherein I can contribute, parang ganun. 

So right now you’re currently working with your client. Are you looking for a new client or you just looking to spend full time with this client.

Well if they would allow me to work full-time siyempre I would grab it but I’m still very open talaga to other opportunities. Naghahanap ako ng other Virtual Assistant jobs. Gusto ko i-try article writing or anything that I can do on my free time. Kasi I can say I still have a lot of free time sa maghapon kung gugustuhin ko lang. Kumabaga nasanay din naman ako sa routine before when I was still in Makati parang or in Manila I have to wake up talaga ng 4 in the morning tapos I’ll be home around 7 or 8. So this time parang yung time na yon I spend it sa other jobs ko or dito sa parang part-time job ko or for searching other opportunities pa that I can inject sa maghapon ko.

If you don’t mind, can I, I’m sure a lot of our listeners are wondering how you interface with the internet. Is it okay if we talk about that a little bit?

I have a screen reading tool. What I used is called Job Access With Speech (JAWS). So it’s a screen reading software. It makes my computer talk. So everything, all the textual elements in the screen my reader or my application reads it back to me. Everything that I key in via the keyboard it reads it back to me. So ganun.  It reads everything. Of course, ang limitation lang ng tool ko is when it comes to visual stuff, images, colors. But there are guidelines in accessibility that it helps users like me na ma-identify yung mga graphics na yon.

Kung hindi ako nagkakamali, I think there are braille keyboards nga yata but in my case I use a regular computer. So the thing is, of course, I have to memorize the keyboard yun lang talaga [laughs]. And since I don’t use the mouse, definitely we cannot use the mouse so we have to memorize all the windows commands, all the commands that goes with our application so yun lang.

It’s not in a lot of people think it’s impossible so it’s not somewhat think impossible.

No, and when it comes to web browsing there are hotkeys that are assigned dito sa JAWS. Say for example if I press letter H, I’ll move from one heading to the other. If I press letter D, I’ll move from one button to the other which makes it, web browsing easier for us.

So before, you know, we’ve gone over how you were able to succeed and how you persevered. Do you have any advice for newbie freelancers, blind and those who see as well.

Just keep on trying. You should be determined enough to, I mean set a goal for yourself and constantly make the effort to reach that goal. And then of course along the way, it’s very important na you know keep on finding ways to improve yourself. Parang not because you want to be an online worker parang feeling ko, ‘everyone is doing this sige try ko nga din’. If you wanna do this make the effort na magbasa basa, mag-research anything that you think would improve your skills. Parang i-grab mo ng i-grab yon. Just for me, the key is to keep on trying to improve yourself, yon. And siyempre frustration, hindi yan maiiwasan but just be patient, yon.

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by Jason Dulay 
Jason is the founder and CEO of Work from Home Roadmap and VA Bootcamp. Aside from teaching Filipinos how to succeed working from home, he likes traveling, playing board games, and drinking coffee.

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