Regaining confidence and independence with IT training
Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Former army man Dennis Sarginson is using his skills to help veterans with sight loss improve their IT skills.
Using computers and tablets has become an important part of everyday life - it’s something almost everyone does and it’s a vital part of our independence and when someone loses their sight, that is often the first thing that is lost.
When ex-Army man Dennis Sarginson lost his sight, he found it difficult to adjust. With the help from Blind Veterans UK, Dennis has now regained his independence and confidence and has gone back to work, teaching other blind veterans IT skills at the charity’s centre in Sheffield.
Dennis said: “When I lost my sight, I heard about Blind Veterans UK but didn’t want to accept help at first. After about a year, I contacted them for support and visited the centre in Brighton. I got involved with IT training and found I really enjoyed it, so I went back and did more training at the Sheffield centre.
“The charity encouraged me to get some qualifications, and do a course with the RNIB in Loughborough. While I was doing that I did a placement at the Sheffield centre in the IT training department, and stayed on afterwards!
“I love working here, and I think being a blind veteran myself helps as I’m in a very similar situation to the veterans and I’m able to understand what they’re going through. I enjoy seeing the change in people as they learn how to use a computer with the different magnifying and audio software, and seeing how the training helps them become more confident and more independent.”
IT instructor Gaye Atkins has worked at Blind Veterans UK for 15 years, and has worked with hundreds of blind and vision impaired veterans, just like Dennis, providing training in how to use a computer and specialist software such as Guide and Supernova as well as helping them get online.
Gaye said: “Initially, a lot of veterans can be hesitant about using a computer, it’s something they didn’t think they’d ever be able to do without their sight. But very often, once veterans hear about the IT training, they want to find out more about how it could help them. Those that don’t ask straightaway often come to us later out of curiosity – they’ll have spoken to one of the other veterans and heard about what they’ve learnt and thought ‘I could do that!’
“IT skills are so important in helping someone be independent, whether that’s about getting them back in to work, or being able to use email, Twitter or even Skype to keep in touch with family and friends. We teach everything from touch typing to providing ITQ exams, working with each individual to cater to their needs.
“Working in groups often means that the veterans can learn from one another as well as the instructors, and that camaraderie is so helpful to them as well. The needs of every veteran is different, but one thing I’d recommend to everyone is the use of keyboard shortcuts, it’s so much easier than using a mouse.”
There are tens of thousands of veterans now battling severe sight loss, just like Dennis, but they are not aware of the support available to them. If you work with, or know of, a blind Armed Forces or National Service veteran, refer them to Blind Veterans UK by calling: 0800 389 7979 or visit www.noonealone.org.uk.