Paul Wherly

Working with Visually Impaired Colleagues

Recently I have been delivering a series of  Upgrade courses in a large organisation. They have just upgraded from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2010.

Now you might think that for an IT Trainer of great experience that this would be a simple matter. In the main you would be correct.

However – two members of staff have different levels of visual impairment.  Read on for what we and they did.

Registered Blind

One lady – we will call her Miranda ( she said I could write about her but not use her name) is completely blind.  Her guide dog sat under the desk the whole time I was with her and behaved beautifully.

Imagine the challenges Miranda faces on a daily basis. Getting to work, entering the building, finding her way to her desk (which is by a window in a bank of desks in an open plan office). Then whenever she wants to get a cup of tea or coffee a colleague will need to assist so that she is safe.

Then we come to her computer which is of course why I am there.

Miranda can only use keyboard short cuts to use the Programmes. She used a program called JAWS which reads out the documents, spreadsheets and emails. There are two sets of keyboard shortcuts to learn, those for JAWS and those for Microsoft Office.

Before I saw Miranda she sent me through a list of questions, things which had been bothering her, that she could not work out for herself.

For example, in Outlook 2010 you can view a Preview of an attachment except of course if you are blind. The JAWS software could not cope with the Preview option and got stuck in a loop. The solution was to switch off the Preview element in Outlook.

In most cases the keyboard short cuts remained the same, however in  Office 2010 there are new ones to access the Ribbon and the Quick Access Toolbar.

We spent a couple of hours together working our way around Microsoft Outlook 2010, Excel 2010 and Word 2010. By the end of the session we had switched off a few things and learned some new keyboard shortcuts.

I will be going back to spend another morning with Miranda to help her with use of the Internet.

Have you ever thought how you would use the Internet if you could not see what is on the web page?

Visually Impaired

After spending the morning with Miranda I then went and spent a couple of hours with Tom ( again not his real name). Tom has a different kind of visual impairment. He has to use a screen magnifier to focus in on parts of the screen. He has a very large monitor and the magnification can be up to 400%. I found it difficult to look at the screen in such a high magnification, however Tom can’t see it if is is any less.

We had to zoom in and out to see dialogue boxes or find the OK button.

I introduced Tom to the keyboard shortcuts within Microsoft Word which is the program he uses most. We learned about short cuts for formatting, saving and printing. Tom had not been aware of these and so we went through the alphabet.

Did you know that there is an action for each letter of the alphabet when teamed up with the Control key?

Here are just a few:

  • Control and the letter A – select All text
  • Control and the letter B – Turn selected text Bold
  • Contorl and the letter C – Copy selected text
  • Control and the letter D – open the font dialogue box
  • Control and the letter E – Center your text on the page

More in another article!

In the organisation I was visiting, special monitors, added software and modified hardware are provided for any one who has a challenging physical situation.

Do you work with anyone who is visually impaired? What kind of things does your workplace do to accommodate them?


3 thoughts on “Working with Visually Impaired Colleagues

    Excellent article which really highlights some of the challenges which visually impaired people face in the workplace.

    I work with 2 visually impaired colleagues – one of whom uses Jaws to do her work.

    I also often regularly help a lady who’s almost completely bind who uses the Windows magnifier feature – and enlarged text on her iPad.

    Thw Windows shortcuts are invaluable to me, but especially to those who cannot see the screen clearly.

    Hi Julia
    Thanks so much for commenting and glad that you liked the article. Working with a visually impaired colleague is challenging, but it does make me realise how lucky I am! Lucky to have my sight and lucky to be able to make a difference even in a small way.

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