Louise (52yr, single mother returning to school. failing sight, and dexterity)
Louise is a mother of 3, who with her children now grown and out of the house, wants to start up her own business as a caterer, preparing food for events like weddings, business meetings, or church events for example.
As a mother she became an excellent cook, but has no experience running a business. She has registered with a community college near by to take some business administration courses. While she does have a computer at home, she uses it primarily for communicating with her children via email and Skype, and occasionally she uses it to write letters with a word processor. In the last couple years however, she has found it becoming increasingly more difficult to use the computer because her sight is beginning to fail, and arthritis in her hands is making it more difficult to type.
As part of her initial course for returning students, Louise received orientation on the various technologies available at the college. The college had fairly modern technology, with computer labs with the latest hardware and software that students might need to assist with their studies. Each lab had only one computer that was setup with assistive technologies. When the adapted computer stations were available, she was able to use a screen magnifier and speech recognition to operate the computer. Though it took some time to learn to use the assistive technologies, by the time she was finished the orientation course she was relative proficient as using them.
On many occasions however, the adapted workstations were occupied and she had to use one of the standard workstation. And because the computer she had at home was rather old, the software she had learned to use at college was not available for her operating system, and she did not have the money to upgrade to a new computer.
Scenario 1: Term Assignment Business Plan
In her first course of the first term, “Introduction to Business Administration,” the term assignment was to put together a business plan. Since she had plans to start a catering service, she used it as the basis for her project.
The project involved using a variety of technologies to create a report style document outlining how the business would be setup and financed, creating a projection of the startup costs and costs over the first five years of the company. It also involved setting up a plan for hiring staff as business increased, and finding a rental spaces once her home became too small to carry out the activities of the business.
Since the adapted computers in the computer lab were not consistently available for her to work on, she needed to come up with another way to get her course work done. A students she met in in one of the computer labs one day, working on the adapted workstation, talked about the trouble he had as well, getting access to the workstations. He told her that sometimes he ends up using one of the regular workstation, but finds Web based applications that function similar to the way the adapted workstations do.
One free application call “Big View” was an online magnifier that magnifies whatever content was being viewed in the Web browser. Opening up the Big View site, then entering a Web address of a second site inside the Big View application, would make the site available in 2 to 10 times the size of the original site, while maintaining a crisp clear presentation of the content. She liked how Big View worked and decided she would use it along with online tools like My Docs, My Spreadsheets, and My Presentations, three free Web-based tools that allowed her to write her report, setup the financial documents, and prepare an organization chart for her new company. It also nicely magnifies the real-estate site she was using when researching potential locations for her business.
While the Big View tool worked well to help her see the computer screen, she was still finding it painful to type for any length of time. The adapted workstation had a voice recognition program installed that she had learned to use, but the same software was not available on the other workstations, and was not compatible with her computer at home.
Louise went back to her friend in the computer lab and told him about her difficultly typing. He suggested she use a tool called VoicePress, which was a plugin for the WordPress blogging software. It was not the ideal solution, because it only worked for speaking text that would be written to a document, and only into WordPress. It did provide some relief, allowing her to setup an account on the WordPress Website, and use the plugin to help write much of the text for her business plan. Once the bulk of the text was written, she could copy it over to My Docs and refine the text and add formatting there. Ideally she would have liked to have something that would allow her to use My Docs, and the other online tools, using just her voice to interact with the applications.