It’s an exciting time of year for digital inclusion projects, as lots of people will have received their first laptop, smart phone, iPad or similar for Christmas and will now be looking for advice and inspiration to get online and make the most of their new gadget. Judging by the increased activity flowing into my Twitter account, people, who have been online for a bit longer, have made New Year’s resolutions to Tweet more, or start blogging, or join an online weight loss/fitness community.
I was especially excited to hear that one of my learners, who came along to several drop-in sessions on the Isle of Skye last year, has now got a brand new desktop PC in her sitting room. Just a few months ago, she was what I refer to as a “never ever” – she had never touched a computer, and didn’t think she ever would. What makes it even more special is that she has macular degeneration which affects her central vision, and is registered blind. It was a challenge for both of us to get her started as her vision is quite limited. Usually it is the person teaching that needs to have patience, but in this case I have to give the credit to her for being patient with me while I constantly messed around with the “accessibility” settings to find the best option for her visual impairment. (How anyone who actually needs to use the accessibility settings on a device manages to navigate through the options is a mystery to me as they are a minefield of technical choices which are even trickier to reverse!)
Once we had the big screen at the correct resolution and contrast, we were off and running and she had a whole list of things she wanted to search for. She was quick to develop her mouse skills, and we used a keyboard with high contrast stickers on the keys that made a huge difference – she now has them on her home computer (available from the RNIB if you know someone who might find them useful). She has great support from her family who are delighted that she is developing new interests. They are helping her to use Skype to speak to family further away, and she is building a digital library of audio books.
It has been a real motivation to start off the New Year with news of the positive impact that introducing someone to technology can have – I’m not an expert in assisting blind people to get online, but I had a go, and we worked together to find the right solutions. If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, then make your resolution to help someone get online – it’s a lot more fun, and far more rewarding, than giving up chocolate!