Fig.1 Access to work – MicroLink Access to Work Video
Any of us could or will stumble the first time we are faced with a new tool or piece of software – I’d like to see any of us tested using a tool such as Delicious or ScoopIt and see how we get on, or trying to use a Microwriter, programme the washing machine or even turn on someone else’s Microwave.
All experiences become familiar in time if we give them a go or get some useful tips. The same implies whether or not you have a disability or combination of disabilities or not.
To make sense of the plethora of accessibility tools, software and built-in ‘assists’ – and the equally enormous combinations and varieties of people who may benefit from using them I am having to get into my minds eye four people, or ‘personas’ who have quite different needs and imagine them, in context, wanting to and trying to use tools that ought to improve access for them. Some intriguingly are likely to suit all users if they offer a short cut or a different way into the information – I prefer a transcript over lectures. I like to use narrator in the car or when busy with some other task like painting the shed – the book is read to me as I can’t do what I am doing and look at the screen at the same time. I call this the ‘Montesori Effect’ – how meeting a learning challenge for one community of learners you gain insights and create tools that benefit everyone.
As for any of us, when it comes to learning, context is important whether we have the space, time, kit and inclination. There is a big difference between giving something a go and having to use it with a set goal in mind. Anyone remember the first time they had to create something using PowerPoint, or Word come to think of it? Or writing a blog – let alone embedding images, video or audio.
Some of this reminds me of my first computer – an Amstrad. All green text and no mouse. My father got himself a Microwriter and mastered it. Bizarre. Confined to a wheelchair (badly broken leg from skiing) for some months in my early teens I ought to have been able to keep up with school work – but somehow a box of books didn’t do it for me.
When I get stuck I can now turn to a son, daughter or my wife who may or may not be able to help. We also pick up the phone to ‘The Lewes Computer Guy’ for technical fixes. Had I a disability how likely is it that I can turn to someone with the very same set of challenges that I face for tips and advice? On some context a blind person will and can turn to a supportive community, but this might not be so easy if you are, or feel like, the only person with Dyslexia or Cerebral Palsy at your schoolor university.