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Galloway's Tech Ability: 'A Miracle in a Box' – Teaching the unknown from afar

We are currently in the middle of our Tech Ability project, working with new digital partner Aspire Assistive CIC Ltd to deliver a pilot project called Tech Ability.

We have learnt so much from the process and have been uploading regular updates known as ‘Weeknotes’ to the Catalyst’s blogsite which you can access here:

We have also written a longer blog to help us convey how the project is going:

How do you show a visually impaired person, who struggles to use technology, how to be more digitally savvy? And how do you do it when you are miles away from them?

To the untrained Joe Bloggs, it seems nigh on impossible and only something a miracle could achieve. But this was not something that worried Andrew Coleman and his trusted new friend, Graham Longly.

The pair, who incidentally have never met face to face, have formed a strong bond as they strive to prove the impossible possible.

That’s right – thanks to their excellent expertise, two strangers have been able to teach 13 other strangers who are not digitally confident to do a whole host of new things such as send an email or use Zoom.

It hasn’t been without its challenges, but on the whole, the experiment (which is the only way to describe anything we have seen or done in the past 12 months thanks to Covid!) is working.

So let’s start from the beginning…

Sight loss charity Galloway’s was awarded funding from Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response to train a small group of visually impaired people who are not digitally confident to do a whole host of new things such as send an email or use Zoom.

Andrew is sat at a desk with his laptop and headset
Andrew on a Zoom call

This was done over the phone, with Andrew and Graham remotely accessing the tablets to see what the participant was seeing on their screen. Then, as the training developed, it was done over a Zoom call and in-group sessions, so participants were able to meet each other virtually.

Not underestimating the complexity of the task, digital charity CAST stepped in to offer support and Andrew Coleman, Assistive Technology Co-ordinator at Galloway’s teamed up with Graham Longly from Aspire Assistive CIC Ltd to deliver the scheme.

This was a match made in heaven as both Graham and Andrew share a massive love of all things tech. They are also visually impaired, which may seem like an added challenge, but in reality, this is what makes the project work. They understand the frustrations and types of issues that occur and more importantly, they connect well with the participants. They feel comfortable around them and are not scared of making mistakes.

So, with this in mind, it took lots of lengthy discussions to reassure the participants that their lack of understanding and the fact they don’t have the internet really would not be an issue.

Some of the participants were saying things like:

‘I assumed that a tablet would not be accessible to me as I wouldn’t be able to see it.’

‘I am not confident enough and frightened of making a mistake. I also hear a lot of bad things about the internet.’

‘I need further access to training.’

But this was the very reason Graham and Andrew were doing it!

And yes, whilst there was reasonable hesitancy around venturing into the ‘unknown,’ only one person realised it was too much for them, which still gives us a huge success rate of 92 %.

The rest of the participants were really excited and had been having a right good play before Andrew and Graham had even begun the first training session.

There of course have been a few more hiccups, but for Graham and Andrew, it is just another fun puzzle to solve. They do like a good challenge, especially if it involves tech!

One person had struggled lifting their finger and tapping once on the touch screen, so Andrew was able to alter the settings remotely to allow double tap, which they had been used to on their smartphone.

And the biggest issue? The fact that Graham and Andrew are not present with the participants to see what they are doing.

As Andrew puts it: ‘You can’t see what people are doing so I can’t correct them. How do you describe something to someone when they have never held a tablet before? We are asking them to do something that is not natural to them.’

But however difficult it may seem, whatever Graham and Andrew are doing behind the scenes is working.

You can almost hear the sense of pride in Graham’s voice as he tells me: ‘The enthusiasm from the participants is really clear. They are eager to learn. One person told me that the tablet was a miracle in a box.’

And that’s where we shall end this blog – right where we started…

It was a task that seemed nigh on impossible, yet Graham and Andrew performed what others have described as ‘a miracle.’

To read more about the funding for the project, click here:

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