Val Kilmer is a Julliard trained actor, with many blockbuster films on his resume. Five years ago, he received a tracheotomy to treat throat cancer that left him unable to speak without the assistance of a voice box (read more about his story here). Ten years ago, this could have been the end of an actor’s career. But thanks to new artificial intelligence special effects technology, Kilmer was able to have his voice recreated by a computer for his appearance in the new film Top Gun: Maverick.
Besides being very cool—if a little “the future is now”, it got us thinking about what a great example it is as a creative, tech-forward job modification. Of course, we also recognize this solution is a very privileged one for someone in a unique situation. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lesson we all can take away from this story: Val Kilmer experienced side effects from cancer treatment, and in order to go back to work, he needed support and a workable solution. While most of us do not have access to state-of-the-art AI technology, there are creative ways to use common technology to help you with your job.
- If you are experiencing difficulty talking, like Mr. Kilmer, you might consider downloading a text to speech app on your smart phone. This would make it possible to type in something you want to say to a coworker, a customer, or a client, and have your phone read it aloud. It may take a little getting used to, but could be a great way to save your vocal strength and still be able to communicate when needed in the workplace.
- If you are experiencing memory loss/brain fog/”chemo brain”, perhaps project management software might help. You can keep track of deadlines, progress you’ve made on a project, or even just writing notes to remember later. Another option might be to make use of the reminders app or calendar built into your phone to set a reminder for deadlines, or to remember to go to an appointment or take medication.
- If you’re experiencing neuropathy in your hands, or other challenges with dexterity, it may be difficult to type on a computer all day. One option might be to use a dictation tool (built in on most smartphones, and also in (Microsoft Office programs) to speak aloud an email you want to write, or a Word document you need to draft. None of this technology is perfect, and you’ll want to watch out for typos/mistakes made, but it might provide some relief.
- If you are experiencing hot flashes, or changes in body temperature, and/or are unable to control the climate (whether you work outside, or have no control over a thermostat), you can purchase a cooling or warming vest. They are available at many different retailers, and can provide an effective solution, without getting in the way of most duties you might perform.
- These are just a few examples of using technology to help manage side effects at work. If you are eligible, some of these tools may qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or a state or local law. To learn more about this visit https://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/at-work/legal-and-financial and to explore additional ideas for accommodations visit https://askjan.org/soar.cfm.