My new computer class

Kate Giles
I have been rapidly losing my vision. Using the computer has become a challenge. I decided I needed lessons to learn how to use the computer without vision. I have been going to lessons every week. I listen to the lessons using headphones. I am learning to touch type. I am also learning to use ZoomText. It is a program for people with vision impairment. It makes text easier to see. It can also read aloud what is on the screen. But it is hard to concentrate. I often get distracted. I need to keep practising.
Posted by: 
Kate Giles on 18/04/2011
A ZoomText computer keyboard featuring large black letters on yellow keys
ZoomText Keyboard

I like having a matching keyboard with ZoomText control buttons

Over the past couple of years my vision has been dropping fast. It has been challenging. Everything I do becomes more and more difficult. That includes using the computer.

I am a self-taught computer user. But what used to be a joy is now becoming hard work. I struggle to see the mouse pointer. My keyboard accuracy is also not what it used to be. I have exhausted all the large print options available.

The time had come to face reality. I had to learn to touch type. I also had to learn voice activation technology. I had to start taking classes.

Computer classes

No matter what the weather, I now catch the bus every Wednesday for the hour-long journey to my computer class. A coffee on arrival helps me relax before the class begins. Then I get settled in. I put on the headphones and it's game on.

Beginning with your little finger, place the fingers of your left hand on A, S, D, and F, says a voice via the headphones. Use your right thumb to press the space bar after each word or set of letters. Then the letters begin. A, S, D, F, space, the monotonous voice continues. A S, D, F, space.

Repetition and distractions

The lessons are repetitive. On and on it goes. F, S, D, A, space. F, S, D, A, space. A, S, space. A, S, space...

Then a thought interrupts the repetition. It's dad's birthday today, I remember. Did I send his present? I wonder to myself. Yes, I'm sure I did on Monday. But my focus has been lost. I have to quickly start concentrating on the lesson again.

Then there is another voice. It is the tutor. Touch typing results for Kate Giles. 70 words. 29 word-per-minute. 20 errors. Accuracy 94 per cent.


I can do much better than this. I know I can. Focus, Kate, focus! I tell myself.

Then it's back to the voice in the headphones. Beginning with your index finger, place the fingers of your right hand on J, K, L, and semicolon. Use your right thumb to strike the space bar after each word or each set of letters.

An hour and a half later it is lunchtime. I breathe a sigh of relief. I stretch my arms and neck. I also try to clear my head of A, S, D, F and dad's birthday.


After lunch it's time for ZoomText. This is a computer program for people with a vision impairment. It is my preferred tool as it has magnification and screen reading in one package. It appeared easier to use than other programs. I also like the idea of having a matching keyboard with ZoomText control buttons. I will take up anything that makes life easier.

Do we all remember how to open a file in Microsoft Office using ZoomText and our short-cut keys? booms the tutor. She has to talk very loud so we can hear her through the headphones. Don't forget to use the tab button.

Off we go again on another series of exercises. Every movement is relayed through the headphones. The robotic voice continues to remind me of my blunders.


I am beginning to realise the importance of concentration. It plays a huge role in learning to cope well in a world without sight. When I lose focus I lose control of whatever I am doing.

But this continuous concentration also brings about severe tiredness. By the end of the day I am exhausted. It is the same with my computer class.

Practice makes perfect

Let's call it a day, says the tutor. This comes across loud and clear. Remember! Practice makes perfect, continues the tutor.

But remembering what I have to practice can come later. For now, I need to focus on battling my way to the bus and finding my way home.

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