Computers and the internet are possibly two of the greatest inventions of our time. They have transformed our daily lives, at home, at work and now even when we are on the move. For disabled people being able to get online opens up a world of possibilities for completing everyday tasks, enjoying games or films, working and connecting with friends and family.
Not everyone is online yet, and not everyone owns a computer or mobile device, though the rate of ownership is growing. According to Ofcom 66% of adults in the UK own a smartphone and 80% of adults have fixed or mobile broadband. Whether you are one of the majority of “connected” adults or not, not everyone knows how to use them to best effect.
Where's the instruction manual?
Most tablet devices don’t even come with an instruction manual, they are meant to be intuitive to use. Older and disabled people can find it difficult to know where to start. To get your device to accommodate your specific access requirements you have to know where to find the settings, what to choose and which apps might help. Giving people the confidence, skills and training to use their computer is an important part of what we do everyday.
Getting up-skilled for IT at home
Maxine Turkington lost most of her sight some 30 years ago due to a type of inherited macular dystrophy.
After her husband died she called in AbilityNet’s IT Can Help team to come to her home so she could develop the IT skills she needed to live independently.
Maxine said: “I was very reliant on Syd for everything computer related, but with my IT Can Help volunteer, Paul, I have discovered a whole new world.”
Independence through voice recognition
Northumberland-based Belinda Sidebotham is a tetraplegic – the result of a motorbike accident 35 years ago when she was only 17 years old. She is paralysed from the chest down, uses an electric wheelchair and has only very limited use of her arms.
When she first met Fred Godfrey, her IT Can Help volunteer in 2009, she was using her computer courtesy of a stick attached to her hand with a Velcro band – a device which had been created for her all those years ago in the Spinal Unit. Typing a short email could take up to half an hour and was not only difficult but also uncomfortable.
Fred introduced Belinda to voice recognition (VR) technology via Dragon Naturally Speaking software and she has never looked back.
Our IT Can Help volunteers visit disabled people in their homes across the UK and Northern Ireland and help people like Maxine and Belinda to get the most out of technology.
Upgrading My Computer My Way
Ten years ago AbilityNet launched My Computer My Way, a comprehensive guide on how to set up your computer or device the way you need it to work for you. My Computer My Way provides free advice on how to use the accessibility features that are built into your desktop PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
It is now one of our most popular products - almost half a million people from all around the world have used it to help make adjustments in the past year.
Thank you Microsoft
The great news is that we’re going to be rolling out a comprehensive update of My Computer My Way in the coming months to improve functionality and usability. As part of the #upgradeyourworld campaign Microsoft has chosen 5 charity partners to receive a grant of £30K to support the transition to Windows 10.
We’re delighted to have been chosen as one of those partners and we’re planning to use the money to upgrade My Computer My Way so that it covers the full range of features that make Windows 10 the most customisable version of Windows yet, as well as every one of the excellent accessibility features built into Windows 10 that continue to make it the powerful and empowering platform of choice for disabled users the world over.
How AbilityNet can help
- Call our free helpline on 0800 269 545 to ask for help with any disability
- Use our online enquiries form to ask for help
- Request a home visit from our IT Can Help volunteers
- Check our free factsheets about how technology can help disabled people
- Use My Computer My Way to identify the adjustments that will work for you