Technology training and support
There's no point in getting technology that you can't use. Assistive technology and using the keyboard instead of the mouse can be hard areas to get started on. Apart from experimenting on your own, what options are there?
Most individual trainers are commercial - they make a living from it and have to charge accordingly. Some organisations are funded and therefore able to offer free or cheap training. While there is no list of trainers knowledgeable about any of the free software mentioned in this document, places you could try include:
- British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB) - provides courses hosted by local societies for blind and partially sighted people. These concentrate on ease of use and affordability. Contact by email email@example.com or phone 0845 643 9811.
- UK online centres provide support for people to start using computers, learn what the Internet can do, and start using email and the Internet. They do this through a network of nearly 4,000 centres nationwide. To find out where you nearest centre is, phone 0800 77 1234, text "online" and your post code to 80809 (texts cost 25p plus your standard network charge) or visit the UK online centre search page.
- UCanDoIT - offer a course of 11 two-hour sessions that covers basic computer and internet use. There is also an initial assessment and a refresher nine months after the course. Costs are means-tested but never more than a total of £160. They can fundraise for equipment for their learners. Contact by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7730 7760.
Although not a real substitute for training, getting help from other people who are or have been in the same situation as you is a useful way to learn. It's also surprising how quickly you can move on to giving back by offering the benefit of your own experience to others.
Once you've mastered the art of email - or even as a way to practise it - you can join a "mailing list". When you send a message to the list, all the members receive it and can reply to the list or to you privately. There are lists for all kinds of subjects, including people using specific assistive technologies, and these can be very useful for asking questions, or just reading about other people's experiences and ideas. Examples include:
Assistive technology will have help built into it in the form of documents or audio material. A good place to start looking is the Help menu of your application. It's always a good idea to familiarise yourself with this material.
A lot of general information is made available through websites, although of course you need to be able to access the web to get to these, or know someone who can do so on your behalf! Examples include:
- AbiltyNet have a number of factsheets available as Word or PDF downloads, including one called "Technical Support and Training Resources". Their online information about configuring a computer - My Computer My Way - may also be very useful. Contact them by email at email@example.com or by phone on 0800 26 95 45 (from home) or 01926 31 28 47 (from work).
- The BBC's My web my way provides advice and help on how to get the most of the accessibility features and assistive technologies available for your computer, so that you can view BBC Online and the rest of the web in a more accessible way.
- RNIB have created a number of Beginner's guides aimed at people new to technology.
- Two other sources of information and support aimed at blind or partially sighted people are the Whitestick website and Blind Geek zone.
We've also written a guide to getting online with computers and tablets and a short introduction to Windows 8, and gathered together some lists of keyboard shortcuts for popular programs for download:
- JAWS 15 keystrokes.pdf
This is the best place to go for official information. Both Microsoft and Apple have large amounts of information about accessibility on their websites:
Find local services and organisations that help blind and partially sighted people in the UK.Search Sightline