Alan Dyte is no stranger to new technology, having produced the legendary BBC Radio Bristol weekly programme Guidelines for blind and partially-sighted people from 1974 to 2003. However, it was when he left the BBC and had to look for a computer system for home life that he struggled. Read more about his transition to Apple’s built-in screen reading software VoiceOver, and the support he received from Vision West of England to master the MacBook Air.
“I first became aware of how text readers can help in the use of computers when I worked at the BBC in Bristol. My introduction was with Microsoft 95 linked to JAWS, a screen reading system. It took a while to learn, but I made good progress and was soon using the computer for writing scripts, editing documents and doing my own correspondence. Previously I had to get volunteers to read my mail, write all letters and scripts required for broadcasting. It was very frustrating and I began to think that I could not handle the job myself.”
“I worked with BBC Radio Bristol for 32 years happily using the equipment I was familiar with, until I retired early as my wife was ill. As I had to leave my equipment at the BBC, I had to start to learn how to use something new. My son took me into PC World to try and buy something I could use. It was easy to get a computer but the cost of a licence to let me use JAWS was much too expensive, £800 for the software alone!”
“We were thinking of abandoning the idea when my son saw an Apple Mac desktop for only £600. We went to try it out and were amazed to find that it came complete with a screen reader. I went to the Apple store in Bristol every week for lessons on the iMac and later bought an iPhone. I found the phone easy to use but when the iPad was introduced I found this much easier to use than the iMac and so moved on to this.”
“After many years I decided to buy the new MacBook Air and tried to organise training to help me use it. But Apple no longer offer one-to-one training in their stores. You can drop in for advice or a one-off lesson but as the staff do not know VoiceOver commands that well, it’s of little use to me as a visually impaired person.”
“I struggled for some time to find a place where I could get trained on the MacBook Air with little success as most of the other training offers were on Jaws or the iPad. Hearing about Sight Support (then Vision West of England) came as a surprise but I decided to have a go. I met James, their Technology Advisor and discussed my needs, booked a time and took the MacBook Air for my first lesson.”
“We started with the basics and I was shown how to find VoiceOver commands on the computer. This was so useful as I could refer to it at any time when I was alone. I then learned how computers work and where you should look to find work that you have done in the Files app. Most things are in the Dock, and these can now be opened using Siri a speech programme that listens to your voice. Siri has now been extended and is available for help with many features like editing or spell checking. James explained all to me and I made braille notes during lessons.”
“I still prefer my iPad as there are less commands to remember, but if I am writing a long document like this one, I use the MacBook Air. It is faster and has many more menu options when working professionally.”
If like Alan you are looking for some help and advice on how to use your smartphone, tablet or laptop computer or if you want to book a one-to-one technology training session, then drop us an email to [email protected], or call us on 0117 322 4885.