Who are they?
SOUTH LAKES SOCIETY FOR THE BLIND.
Where are they?
What do they do?
Provide support and services for people with a visual impairment.
How big are they?
Fewer than 10 staff, but 170-180 volunteers.
Turnover circa £200k
What did they receive?
9 Office Professional Plus suites.
Office software available on laptops being loaned for free to computer novices with a visual impairment.
From Kendal, at the South East corner of the Lake District, the South Lakes Society for the Blind provides support and services for residents of the local region who have visual impairment.
Currently, around 600 people are being helped by the charity. Charles Ely, the SLSB’s Technology Adviser, has a very 21st-century role – to use his expertise in IT to provide training and to demonstrate how technology might support and enhance users’ lives.
“If you think about it,” Charles explains, “for somebody with no sight at all – to take an extreme example – a computer provides the means by which they can communicate exactly as a fully-sighted person does. It’s not like Braille. If you receive an email from a blind person, you won’t have a clue that they’re blind. Likewise, shopping online is the same experience.”
As ever, there’s a huge variation in user skills amongst the client base, which is demonstrated when Charles pauses to take a call. Marion is 88, completely new to IT, and her printer cartridge has run out for the first time. Charles makes an appointment to visit her at home the following week to show her how to fit a replacement.
For users like this with a low level of computer expertise, the SLSB provides the specific hands-on help that is largely unavailable nationally. This is an area that is being enhanced by the charity’s purchase of laptops via a lottery grant, and the donation of Office Professional suites via the CTX programme.
“We loan the laptops out for two months at a time,” says Charles, “so that the recipient can become familiar with computing and start to get to know the software. We help them along with it, then after that period they are able to decide whether to spend money on their own computer.”
Before they’re sent out, Charles installs each laptop with specialist software designed to help visually impaired people, along with the MS Office products that are found in workplaces across the country. The Office products are particularly important. “Screen readers work far better with MS Office than with OpenOffice or some other software,” he explains.
If the Microsoft/CTX programme can help to get previously computer-illiterate people with vision impairments trained up on industry standard software such as Microsoft Office, then everybody will benefit. And there’s no reason to believe that the laptop loan scheme won’t be a roaring success. The SLSB has been going strong since 1956, and has amassed a network of 180 volunteers across the region. That seems an awful lot for a small charity with a single figure staff count. “Yes,” confirms Charles. “We’re extremely proud of that.”
Windows Server 2012 is a server operating system that enables a computer to handle network roles such as print server, domain controller, web server, and file server.
Join us on
Session Cookie: Looks like: SESS636698fd811c0f0105518e7332ea5f41
A unique session ID. This expires when you stop using the site
Google Analytics: Looks like: _utma, _utmb, _utmc, _utmz
Google Analytics cookies track when you accessed the site, how long you spent here, what you did, how you got here, and when you left.
_utma tracks how many times (if any) you have visited the website before. Expires 2 years after your last visit to this site.
_utmb and _utmc are connected, and track how long you stay on the site. _utmb: Expires 30 minutes after your visit, or after 30 minutes of inactivity. _utmc: Expires when you close your browser.
_utmz tracks identifies where you've come from e.g. from a search engine or from another website. _utmz: Expires 6 months after it was last set.
You can read more about what each Google Analytics cookie does.
www.ctxchange.org: Looks like: ccShowCookieIcon site_cookiecontrol
Used by this popup/site to record whether you have chosen to accept cookies. Duration 180 days.
Show the cookie icon?