Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Learning JAWS at Hull College

November 21, 2009

JAWS is software designed to enable the blind or visually impaired to use virtually any function of a computer. I think it stands for “jobs achieved with sound”. Although I still have some usable vision, it is likely to degrade over time, so I thought I would look into these assistive tools while I still can.

I am lucky enough to live near Hull College which has  wwhat it calls a Sight Centre.. It is a resource centre within the College, dedicated to help those with sight loss learn computer skills. I cannot fault the staff and facilities. The centre is a relaxed and welcoming, with good access to refreshments in a vibrant FE college atmosphere. The only downside for me has been the actual location of the College. It is in one of the most awkward parts of Hull and it is taking a lot of getting used to in getting to and from my sessions. I chose a Friday as my wife is usually able to drive me there and pick me up. However, yesterday I needed to find my own way back to the city centre in order to get my usualbus home. One of the carers had to take time out to get me to a locationI was familiar with and I then had one of those palm sweating trips along an unfamiliar route into the centre. So, along with learning to use JAWS, I am having to learn new names, voices and routes. Challenges that left me feeling pretty tired yesterday. However, I think it’s important to keep challenging oneself rather than wither into a smaller and smaller bubble of familiarity. With a little planning and a willingness to ask for help when needed, I believe most of us can cope. I will be looking into bus routes, taxis and other options so that I am more prepared next time my regular chauffeur is unavailable!

Back to JAWS – In order to get the most out of it you need to know how to use a computer, its keyboard and programmes like word processing email and internet browsers. Don’t let that put you off, though, as the Sight Centre can train you in all the skills you need to use a computer.  Everyone is assessed and you can move through a well structured ttraining programme at a pace that suits the individual. My JAWS tutor had never used a computer before losing his sight and he now has impressive computer skills.

My progress has been good and the programme apppears to be very effective. You wouldn’t even need a monitor to use any function of a computer. A downside is that learning to use email or browse the internet is difficult as the college network prevents access to such facilities. So I am not able to assess how well these options work yet. However, my typing skills are improving and I can do it in the confidence that I will be easily able to correct mistakes or find out where I left off if interrupted. I am looking forward to seeing how well it helps me to browse and shop online, email friends and workmates, organise my music, audiobooks and use programmes such as Skype for phoning friends overseas.

 

JAWS is, however, very expensive. I hear quoted in the region of 600 pounds – and I think it only works on Windows machines. I will be blogging later on some of the alternatives I have found so far and hopefully provide links to some useful resources. JAWS is an excellent product, but I am not sure I can afford it. I find this a recurring theme in the area of technology for the blind and I will be airing my thoughts on that as well. feel free to join in.

WordPress for the blind

November 19, 2009

It seems I am up and running now.

I am registered blind, but should say that I can still use a computer with the help of magnifiers and text readers. I am not yet totally reliant on audio feedback to contril my computer, however long sessions tend to tireand degrade vision. I think it is important to say all this as thre are so many different levelsand types of sight loss and I find myself constantly needing to explain what my limits are.

I am involved in projects aiming to improve the quality of access to information for the blind. For my own sake  I have recently signed up at Hull College to learn how to use JAWS – more on that in a different article – and have been asked to learn how to use a blog to record my progress. Learning how to blog with visual impairment has also become part of the exercise.

so, here goes on my initial thoughts on WordPress –

I was advised that WordPress was one of the more accessible blogging tools. As I am now here, that proves it can be done without sighted assistance, which is great.

I was initially confused by WordPress the programme that IT people use and the blogging site that can be used by us regular folk. I am lucky that I was already reasonably literate on a computer before losing my sight 9 years ago, but blogs weren’t around then. If you don’t know how to use a computer blogging is a non starter. I know that is obvious, but this is one example of how blind people are denied something the sighted can have if they want it.

I will be writing other articles on training the blind to use computers to enable them to communicate their own views if they wish to.

The layout of WordPress when you sign up for a blog is really straightforward and uncluttered. Big tick there.

There is a huge helpguide, which probably contains everything I need to know. However, I think a quickstart guide just for bloggers would be good as the main guide is full of computer jargon that is not essential for beginners. Fighting through some of the jargon and techical specs nearly put me off completely. this would be the same for sighted or unsighted bloggers.

when you get into the posting page there are problemswhen you try to magnify certaina areas. Blocks or areas start to overlaap at certain levels of magnification. Most areas worked well with my text/screenreader – anonother big tick.

Overall, I am pleased that it has only taken me a few hours to get to this stage. it would be quicker for the sighted, but I think there could be some benefit to both sections receiving or having access to tutorials. I guess it is not an essential tool, but I hope to make my blog a signpost for all things useful for the visually impaired. It is helping me feel useful and reduces bordom levels.

I now need to learn how to ensure other people with similar interests or needs can easily find my blog.

cheers,

Ian

Let me try again!

November 19, 2009

I thought I had posted my first message yesterday – clearly not.

I am starting this blog as a visually impaired person with a keen interest in accessibility for the blind and the use of technology in particular.

This blog will start by recording my experiences of learning to blog using WordPress and my experiences of going to my local college to learn how to use JAWS – software that enables the blind to use a computer.

If this initial statement gets published I know I am at least over the starting line.

I hope followers of this blog will be encouraged to use technology to improve their quality of life and promote the cause of accessibility for the blind inall walks of life.