Blind students learn computer skills
- By Daniel Keegan
- Jul 27, 2000
Recognizing a need to train blind workers for the new economy, the Columbia
Lighthouse for the Blind in Virginia is running a free Blind Computer Camp,
allowing blind students to learn about technologies that can help them.
"If we can give them more training and access to these technologies than
they'd typically get, then they'll have an edge," said Dale Otto, the president
and chief executive officer of Columbia Lighthouse, a nonprofit organization.
This is the first year of the computer camp, and five students are getting
access to screen readers and magnifiers, Braille displays and printers,
and speech recognition software. The four-week camp ends August 10.
By learning to use the devices, basic computer programs and how to access
the Internet and e-mail, the camp hopes to show the students that blindness
or visual impairment does not prevent someone from working with computers.
In fact, one trainer at the camp is blind.
Partnering with the nonprofit organization on the camp are the Fairfax County
government and Unisys Corp. The government helped identify students for
the program and provided classroom space. Unisys provided the equipment.
The high school students and recent graduates recently toured Unisys' Assistive
Devices Lab to learn how the devices can be used. Joy Relton, a blind Unisys
engineer, showed the students the devices she uses to perform her everyday
Relton said disabled individuals have difficulty with aspects of programs
that no one thinks of. "It's little things. Like learning that, 'Yes, I
can format and get a document out without having someone proofread it,'
" she said. "There are small idiosyncrasies with screen readers, like, 'How
do I know where I am on the screen?'"
But Otto said the greatest problem blind students face has nothing to do
with the technology.
"One of the greatest challenges the student faces is acquiring confidence
and believing in themselves," he said. "It really allows them to network
and share in experiences and challenges they face."