I'm not a super "techy' person. I watch shows like NCIS and to me people like "Abby" are dark, mysterious and intimidating with their ability to manipulate technology using their supercomputing powers. I am an administrator for an agency that works with people who are blind, so in terms of general office functionality I'm golden. Need an Excel graph? I'm all over that. Need me to hook up our projector for a video conference call? I'm calling Abby.
A few weeks ago I got a call from a woman who said her father needed some help. He is 92 years old and had a condition in one eye common to people who are aging ' macular degeneration. Until a few months ago, he still had one 'good' eye so this was an impairment he had been working around.
During the phone call I learned that The Man's wife had recently died and Shingles had taken all of the vision in his better eye. He had become blind and was struggling to find a reason to get out of bed every day. What she was about to ask me was more than a typical referral for services. With an almost apologetic voice she said, 'He wants learn to write again' using his computer.'
This level of adaptive technology training is not something our specialists typically do, and in more urban places, it would be easier to refer him to a place that could. I thought of The Man, a WWII Veteran, sitting with a hundred years of memories waiting to be written and knew I would simply have to find a way. Using personal time, I gave myself two weeks to learn how to use the accessibility program called Voiceover. I marked helpful keys on my own Macbookpro, put on a blindfold'.and wept. ABBBBY!!!!!! I struggled for days on end memorizing the short-cut keystrokes and fighting with 'Alex' - the voice who speaks everything on the screen. Eventually I learned how to open a document, type, fix the (many) typos, use dictation (to avoid so many typos), save and print the documents.
I drove an hour into mountains so beautiful they made my chest tight. I made my way down a dirt driveway to a tidy cabin. I could see The Man sitting in a chair in the living room with headphones on. It took me a while to get his attention but eventually The Man came to the door. He and I embarked on a journey filled with lots of laughter and no small amount of humility. His short-term memory loss made it difficult for him to remember the short cut keys which are of course the ones we never use (close your eyes and try to remember where the F5 or Fn keys are). I recorded my instructions on an old tape recorder and marked the buttons so he could rewind and play them over and over. He has made so much progress in the last few weeks and I continue to be inspired by his tenacity. He is writing.
I received the following email from his daughter two days ago: 'You are amazing. Thank you so much for the work you are doing with my father. The tape recorder is brilliant! He is now re-invigorated with learning the process.'
It was a simple email, and it came just before Thanksgiving. relieved, I sent silent prayers to The Man and his family. The North Country Association for the Visually Impaired certainly doesn't cure the blind, but through this agen
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