Julie Duffy is the Visual Impairment Officer for Portsmouth Library Service, part of Portsmouth City Council (and works closely with the Sensory Impairment and Deaf Services team). Julie runs the visually impaired phone advice line and provides help and guidance on any aspect of vision impairment. Julie has been at Portsmouth CC since 2001 and is completely blind. Many of the people Julie advises are elderly, new to sight loss and nervous of technology. Julie is thrilled to be able to confidently recommend a simple computer solution for email, internet and typing documents.
“I was originally employed as a transcriber for print into braille and then our Social Services team circulated a newsletter asking the visually impaired people of Portsmouth what help and support they wanted. The response was that they wanted a regular newsletter (which I still produce) and computer lessons. I man the helpline for blind and partially sighted people and their friends and family. I advise on assistive equipment and technology – I try to give people a choice of all equipment for loan or purchase, and let them know about the magnification that is available on any equipment they already have.
My clients are usually elderly and often just want a computer for day-to-day activities like sending emails and contacting family and friends who live abroad. They want to be able to type documents and some of them enjoy listening to the radio and newspapers. If they’re nervous of technology, I suggest GuideConnect.
Another thing my clients frequently want is to be able to look things up on the web – the feature that I am most pleased about with new GuideConnect is that internet access is now so much better.
I have some clients who have other conditions in addition to sight loss, for example one cannot use their hands due to arthritis. Also, sometimes as people get older, they begin to lose their patience. So the other thing people often say to me is “I wish we could say this [into the computer], rather than having to write it”. Although I haven’t tried the Voice Input feature yet (I’ve just got the mic today!), I am really excited about it and being able to show it to others.
I just feel that GuideConnect is ideal for my clients who are older, learning to cope with sight loss and just want simple computer access. Sending emails to friends, writing their own letters and searching the internet helps them feel positive, involved and less lonely.”