Tag Archive

Access Tech

A Perfect Teacher-Student Partnership

A Perfect Teacher-Student Partnership

LightHouse offers a variety of resources, trainings, and programs for individuals who are blind or have low vision taught by expert instructors and educators, most of whom are also blind or have low vision. Our dedicated staff work with their students to form and enhance blindness skills to improve their sense of autonomy and self-confidence. The greatest aspect of being part of such a close-knit community of blind leaders and learners is being able to share successes and accomplishments, or “mission moments,” with the LightHouse community.

Access Technology Instructor Kacie Cappello’s favorite part of the job is watching a student’s hard work pay off.

“Many come into training intimidated by technology and full of self-doubt. The skills they learn allow for greater independence and better social connection. When a student realizes they can do something like buy their own groceries online or send email to a friend, I get to watch their confidence grow as they find their empowerment. That means the world to me.”

Kacie’s role is to provide information, guidance, and structure, but the student is the one taking on the challenge of learning a new skill. That requires commitment and practice. One of her ambitions for her students is for them to have autonomy over their digital information.

“To me, maintaining anonymity means having the ability to effectively manage your information, privacy, and digital presence. Access technology skills help students keep track of things like account details and participate in online life on their own terms.”

LightHouse student Eva G. struggled with independently accessing her computer and other devices at home and sought out access technology training with LightHouse. She began working with Kacie one-on-one for virtual training sessions.

“I lost my vision at a quite advanced stage at the age of 84. I am 91 now. I did not think I would be able to learn anything because of my age. When I had sight growing up in school, I was never taught computers or typing or anything like that.  Honestly, the first time I had a lesson with Kacie I thought to myself, ‘I will never get this,’ but Kacie was so patient and persistent. It was amazing to me how after a while I started to get used to it.

“To me, it is really important to be as independent as I can be. It means a lot to be because I’ve always been in touch with a lot of different people throughout my life. But when I suddenly had to ask someone to write my emails and read them back to me it just wasn’t the same. The first time I was able to have an email read to me by the computer and then answer it myself was such a gift. It felt like the best thing that has happened to me.

“In retrospect I do still think it was kind of magic. I feel so grateful for the LightHouse and for Kacie and what she has taught me.”

These are the moments that strengthen the blind community. One individual’s success becomes a shared accomplishment for all of LightHouse and our community. To inquire about programs offered by LightHouse, you can visit our website.

For information about Access Technology, send your emails AT@lighthouse-sf.org  or call 415-431-1481.

There’s an App for That: Select the Right Tech, App Edition is June 25

There’s an App for That: Select the Right Tech, App Edition is June 25

Whether you love accessible technology or have a love/hate relationship with it, knowing your options is power. For years LightHouse has hosted Select the Right Tech, a gathering where blind and low vision consumers from all over the Bay Area can get hands-on with the best in accessible technology and talk directly to representatives from different companies in an exhibit hall hosted at LightHouse headquarters. During the pandemic we’ve found innovative ways to connect tech and consumers remotely.

This year’s virtual Select the Right Tech, App Edition will feature developers of mainstream and blindness-specific mobile apps. Don’t miss this chance to ask your questions to the makers of the apps you love and to learn about apps you haven’t tried yet.

Select the Right Tech, App Edition takes place on Friday, June 25 from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Here is the schedule:

1:00 pm Welcome to LightHouse
Presented by Erin Lauridsen, Director of Access Technology

1:10 pm Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.
Presented by Will Butler, VP Community

1:45 pm Microsoft Soundscape
Microsoft Soundscape uses 3D spatial audio to promote a person’s mobility and independence by enhancing their awareness of their surroundings by calling out landmarks and points of interest from where they actually are.
Presented by Melanie Kneisel, Software Development Engineer

2:15 pm Spotify
Spotify is a digital music, podcast, and video service that gives you access to millions of songs and other content from creators all over the world.
Presented by Philip Strain, User Research and Accessibility Lead

2:45 pm Voice Dream Scanner
Voice Dream apps are designed for accessibility, and Voice Dream Scanner is a fast and accurate OCR scanner for everyday use.
Presented by Winston Chen, Founder and Developer

3:15 pm Aira
Aira is an app that utilizes your smart phone’s camera to connect with professionally trained agents who provide visual information to accomplish tasks, navigate and enhance your experiences.
Presented by Jenine Stanley, Director, Customer Communications

3:45 pm GoodMaps Explore
GoodMaps Explore helps people who are visually impaired navigate safely and efficiently.
Presented by Mike May, Chief Evangelist

This event is free and open to all, those who RSVP in advance will be eligible to win door prizes.

RSVP to Select the Right Tech: App Edition!

LightHouse thanks Oracle for their generous sponsorship of this event. So, put it in your chosen calendar … app!

Meet LightHouse Access Technology Specialist Amy Mason

Meet LightHouse Access Technology Specialist Amy Mason

The Lighthouse Access Technology Department offers up-to-date training in the latest accessible methods. Meet Amy Mason, one of our Access Technology Specialists, who trains students who are blind or have low vision on ways to make their phone, computer or other devices easier and more comfortable to use.

Amy began her journey with access technology while in high school in Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, when her vision was changing. At first, she learned to use a rudimentary screen magnifier, then she moved on to using the popular screen reader, JAWS. But in college, although she used a computer, she had no idea how to set one up and did not keep up with newer versions of Microsoft Windows.

After getting her Bachelor’s degree, she continued her education at South East Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska, focusing on computer networking. She also taught computers to kids during the summer. It was important to her that her students learn not just how to use a computer but how to problem solve when their computer didn’t work. One of her teaching tricks was to unplug all the computers and disconnect the cables in the classroom. Her students were required to put them together before class, including troubleshooting if something wasn’t working. For example, if their computer wasn’t making sound, even with the cable for sound plugged in, Amy would prompt them with questions like, “Did you plug the auxiliary cable back into the right place?”

Amy has brought her sound techniques for getting students to problem-solve and explore to LightHouse. “It’s okay to try things,” she says. “It’s a lot like exploring a new neighborhood or cooking a new dish. You have to learn new skills, new information, and new landmarks, but a lot of your key concepts stay the same.” When students encounter something unfamiliar while using technology, Amy encourages them to apply the skills they’ve already learned and problem-solve.

Amy’s experiences have informed her teaching strategies. She relates how when she was growing up, her father brought a computer home with several tutorials, including one that taught computer basics. One sentence really stood out as she was going through the tutorial: “The computer is no more intelligent than a toaster.” Now, in explaining her approach to teaching, Amy uses the metaphor of a toaster to help her students understand the basic functions of a computer. “What you’re doing with a computer at its most basic level is no more complex than what you’re doing with a toaster,” she states, with amusement. “With a computer, you’re giving input, with a toaster, you’re giving it bread. Then you add in variables, such as ‘I want this input to be put out in this format’, or ‘I want the bread to be medium dark’. Then you execute the program. If you’re using the computer, you might get a spreadsheet. If you’re using a toaster, you get toast.”

During the course of training our students learn how to use a number of technologies. Among the things Amy can teach you are how to use a screen magnifier such as ZoomText, screen readers such as JAWS, your smartphone, email and other programs on your computer, and for braille users, how to use refreshable braille.

Amy is concerned with accessibility, but also has expertise in the user experience. Besides technology training, the LightHouse Access Technology Department works with developers to evaluate websites and mobile applications for accessibility. Amy likes to educate developers on the impact poor accessibility or a poor user experience has on a blind person. For instance, developers may not realize that many blind people do not use a mouse at all though the software they use assumes they do. As Amy explains, “if a someone has to press tab 52 times on a keyboard to get to where a mouse user can get with one click, well that is not a great user experience.”

Amy trains her students to become their own teachers, so that when they finish their training program at LightHouse, they are confident enough to problem-solve when their technology downloads an update. With her help she hopes they will be able to work through any changes the update brings because “they’ll have the tools they would need to explore.”

When Amy is not training you may find her hard at work on hobbies such as drawing and crocheting. Amy is owned by two especially opinionated cats.

Let LightHouse get you connected with access tech. If you are interested in Access Technology Training at LightHouse, visit our access technology webpage or email skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.

Access Technology

Access Technology

The Access Technology department at LightHouse is here to facilitate the use of accessible technology among people of all ages and levels of expertise, as well as groups and companies seeking education or consulting.

We welcome those with changing vision or visual impairment to come explore ways to make their phone, computer or other devices easier and more comfortable to use. We’re here to help you find new technology tools to stay productive at work, or keep in touch with friends and family.

Training

Whether you’re just getting started with access technology, or you need to update your skills to keep pace with the latest and greatest tools and apps, LightHouse is here to help.

We have a variety of resources to educate and introduce you to different technology, and the ways you can use them. Our staff will take the time to learn about you, your needs and interests and the technologies you may have used in the past.

With an instructor, you can explore whether magnification, speech, Braille or a combination of these tools will best suit your needs.

You can meet one-on-one with an access technology instructor, and work on skills that will help you achieve your personal and professional goals. We also have group workshops to build skills and connect with the LightHouse community.

A male student uses magnification during an Access Technology training at LightHouse.

Corporate Accessibility Consulting

We invite companies updating their technology, or seeking an accessibility evaluation to make an appointment with the Access Tech department. Contact us about your company’s specific needs, and we can discuss how to help.

Here are a few of the services we offer:

Design consulting —We can help you plan and design a product that is accessible from the ground up.

Functional accessibility review — We utilize our expert access technologists to assess your website or app from an accessibility perspective.

User testing sessions — We organize our blind and visually impaired user testers of all backgrounds and levels of vision to provide feedback on your product or service.

Press for our consulting services:

TechCrunch: LightHouse Access Tech Director Erin Lauridsen interview on ‘Bullish’

The Verge: Soundscape, our new design consulting project with Microsoft

CNN: Erin Lauridsen on Google’s AI Technology

Connect with us:

To sign up for access technology training, contact at@lighthouse-sf.org.

For design consulting and user testing services, contact elauridsen@lighthouse-sf.org.

Spring Training: Join Our Access Tech Trainers for Opening Day this March

Spring Training: Join Our Access Tech Trainers for Opening Day this March

March is a huge month for Access Tech at LightHouse. Not only are we now running free tech trainings as often as three times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays), but we’ll also be holding a daylong open house for those who want to really try out everything our department has to offer. And even better, we’ve lined it up to correspond with the Giant’s Opening Day!

What: AT Opening Day Open House

When: March 23, 2017, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Where: LightHouse Headquarters, 1155 Market St, 10th Floor, San Francisco

It’s quite a batting line-up: Siri, Victor, Sara, Ruby, Candy, the Beetle, Divinci, Alex and his gal Alexa. All of these devices and a myriad of others have the purpose of enhancing your tech independence. The LightHouse AT Specialists, Trainers and AT Vendors will be providing hands on equipment demonstrations and hosting 30 minute product and software workshops throughout the day. Please RSVP to skuan@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7312.  All those who RSVP and show up will automatically be entered to have the chance to win an Amazon Gift Card.

More Tech Classes Coming Up This March:

How to keep your computer safe (March 17, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Viruses, strange phone calls, unwanted pop-ups and ads – there are a myriad of ways your computer could be attacked. The LightHouse is pleased to offer a free workshop on how to keep your computer safe and keep you up and running. Come and join our one-day workshop and ask those nagging questions about viruses, pop-ups, ads, email attachments, and unwanted phone calls. Our knowledgeable staff will show you the steps on how to keep you and your computer safe from harm, especially if you are a screen reader or zoom user with additional considerations for security.

Windows 10 Tips and Tricks (March 30 – 31, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.)

Do you have Windows 10? Did you recently upgrade your computer to Windows 10? Do you find it hard to navigate and difficult to understand? The LightHouse is offering a 2-day free workshop to get you up to speed.

We’ll offer tips, tricks and best practices — whether you are a beginner or an expert, come join us and explore the many features Windows 10 has to offer. Space is limited. For more information or to signup, contact Shen Kuan at 415-694-7312 or skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.