Saturday, August 28, 2010

Breaking A Personal Tech Barrier

Since I lost my eyesight in 1991 I have found myself lost more often than not when it comes to technology. It has been partly due to a lack of resources and partly that I am overwhelmed with the subject matter. When I was a high school then college student, I was fortunate enough to have an organization helping me purchase technological products such as computers with third party screen readers which would make my computers speak what appeared on the screen. However, the organization would only pay an adaptive tech expert for a couple hours of service to help me learn the new system I just received. These hours included setting up the equipment so when it came time to learn how the machine works, I would only learn the basics and the expert would be on his/her way leaving me to attempt to commit to memory what I had just been taught. I rarely ever had the opportunity or initiative to educate myself beyond the basics. If need be, I would ask a friend. Quite frequently, I was informed that whatever task I wanted to perform was not possible or accessible via the screen reader so I had to rely on sighted family members and friends. I have used PCs since 1993 and had begun to push myself to learn about more features and aspects of the machine in recent years. I also began asking questions as well as researching what was available on the Mac operating system. I was most intrigued that Apple incorporated was including universal access in all their computers, phones, MP3 players. With Apple, the screen reader software came standard on every single product. On the PC side, I would have to buy the products the way everyone else does, but then in addition to the cost of those products, I would have to buy third party software which could cost as much as $2,000. Plus an annual relicensing fee of at least $1,000 if not more. I began to use a Mac and suddenly found that I was advancing through the tech world with much more ease. I set up this account on a PC, but struggled to compose my posts online. My best option was sending my posts as emails, but I would not be able to label them to make it easier on my readers. I was unable to post for months. Once I started using the Mac, I attempted to navigate the site to compose my posts. To my surprise, I was able to post entries with ease. Me! The person who has never been tech savvy. I also found that I could finally join my friends at the various social networking sites such as; Facebook, Twitter, and others. I found myself visiting more sites, exploring more tech resources, and becoming more comfortable with applications on my system in a way I had never been before!!

One aspect of the internet with which I still struggle is registering for races on my own. To sign up for road races and triathlons I always must rely on my brother, a friend, or a representative from the offices of the race organizers. I tried registering, but I always struggle. Then, I decided today that I would try yet again to sign up on my own for the GLASA Twilight 5K. I am running for GLASA as part of their charity marathon team so I am able to run in their 5K with the benefit of a complimentary entry where they wave the fee so long as I type in a coupon code. I had previously set up an account as part of the marathon team so I simply logged into it and began the process. It went so smoothly. Before I knew it, I had reached a window informing me that I had successfully signed up for the race. I quickly checked my email in box and there was my confirmation email! I had done it. With some more practice, I will be signing up for many more races on my own. Maybe this seems like a minor achievement for most individuals, but fore me, it is a major deal considering how far I have come even within just the last fourteen months when it comes to adaptive accessible tech.

The Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association hosts its third annual Twilight 5K to benefit GLASA programs. The race is capped at 500 runners so it is an easy and fast course with plenty of wide open room to run. It is a walk/run event and there will be plenty of food, beer, and prizes for all runners and spectators. Anyone can join in on the fun so feel free to log on to the following site for more info and to sign up too.

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