Laurie was born blind in both eyes. She has had surgeries to give her some vision and she currently has minimal vision in her right eye, which is “enough to get around”. In her early 20s, she developed a neuromotor disease called dystonia (new window).
It was during her Bachelor of Social Work program that she learned of the Neil Squire Society. “I needed to upgrade my computer system. There was a program at the time which I applied to and got funding for a new computer system.” At that time, the Society had an office on the North Shore, which Laurie visited for an assessment of her needs.
When Laurie began her Master of Social Work program, she had another brush with the Society when she realized one of her fellow students worked there. In March of 1995, she was working for a non-profit organization when she was asked to sit on the board of the Neil Squire Society. She hopped on board.
Laurie has now been on the Neil Squire Society’s board for 23 years and counting. “On our board, I like to think I bring the perspective of a disabled woman. There’s always the challenge of being a woman in a man’s world – that’s how it was when I started. Of course, that’s changed and it’s ever evolving. But that drove me to wanting to see people succeed.”
Over the years, Laurie has seen the impact technology can make in the lives of people with disabilities, whether for employment, social life, skills development, or simply enjoyment. She says, “At first, technology scared me – still scares me to this day – but the people here really know what they’re talking about in terms of assessing people for technology, getting them the right equipment and getting them started.
“Technology levels the playing field. People with severe disabilities can come into the workplace and do a job as well as an able-bodied person. They just need the right types of technology to aid them.”
Technology has certainly made a difference in her life. “They say you learn something new every day. Well, I learn probably four or five new things every day! I think access to technology and the internet can make you a more critical thinker.”
The Neil Squire Society has benefited greatly from Laurie’s insight and vision. She says, “I think that the Neil Squire Society does some really valuable work. And I think we have the potential to really make a difference.”