John is a service technician with a communications provider, fielding calls from customers and helping them sort out problems with their internet.
Looking for an opportunity to help others on his own time, he decided to volunteer as a tutor for Neil Squire’s Distance Computer Comfort program.
“I use assistive technology to use computers and mobile devices and have found it to be helpful for me. So I thought it would be a nice way to give back to other people,” says John, who has vision loss.
John also appreciated the convenience — he didn’t have to leave his house to tutor students from across Canada. “The ability to do it remotely was nice as well, because I didn’t have to go anywhere to meet the client. Scheduling is convenient that way.”
John was paired up with Palmer, a college student who also has vision loss.
John worked with Palmer on a weekly basis, helping him learn how to use JAWS (opens in a new window), a screen reader program, and Microsoft Office programs like Word (opens in a new window), Excel (opens in a new window) and PowerPoint (opens in a new window).
“It was a good learning experience,” says John, who notes he learned a lot about troubleshooting assistive technology while teaching Palmer. For instance, while navigating Excel’s much more visual graphing feature using a screen reader, they sometimes had to come up with workarounds.
This aspect of troubleshooting, says John, “teaches you how to explore different things. It was part of what I reinforced with the training – so that Palmer or anyone else I was coaching would have a sense of where to find resources and other support channels if things don’t work as well.”
The best part for John was seeing the lessons he was teaching helping his student in his day-to-day life.
“The main one that stands out is when we went over how to navigate Excel. Palmer was taking some computer courses at the time. Shortly after we did the session on Excel, he was doing some assignments that used similar concepts. So it was nice that the material we worked through was helping him in his assignments. It was kind of a good, practical experience,” he shares.