Web browsing with no monitor

This week, I visited Pendeford Community Learning Centre at the suggestion from Val Smith. Val works with the Beacon Centre for the Blind in Sedgley and I spoke to him so that I could translate the theoretical and practical side of constructing accessible web sites into something more tangible; something more personal; in short – until last week I had never watched a visually impaired person use a computer.

On my journey to Pendeford I had the good fortune to meet someone who knew how to get there and found that he was involved in the class. In Val’s class it was nothing short of inspiring to see people of a range of ages learning new skills; learning how to use a computer without things that many people take for granted.

Where would most of us be without a mouse? More importantly, could you operate a computer if you turned the monitor off? Val can type at a much quicker rate than myself, his hands skating over the keyboard using shortcuts I wasn’t aware of, using the assistive technology – screen reading software JAWS to its maximum.

JAWS is very powerful, but it does have a steep learning curve with so many options and keyboard shortcuts, but when you can see someone able to use a computer better than many users without disabilities it is incredibly frustrating to know that many websites which have not been designed to assist such users, even things like putting in a link to a search facility instead of a search field can cause confusion.

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