2002 Conference Proceedings

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WINDOW-EYES AND INDEPENDENCE FOR THE ELDERLY BLIND

Presenter:
Sonja Homan
GW Micro
725 Airport N. Office Park
Fort Wayne, IN 46825
219-489-3671
FAX: 219-489-2608
Email: sonja@gwmicro.com

We are aware that the numbers of older Americans are growing, especially with the numbers of baby boomers. There are approximately 34 million older Americans. The good news is that they are living longer, healthier, and more active lives.

"The most powerful predictor of severe vision impairment is age. One in six Americans sixty-five years of age and older experience severe vision loss. This number translates to 5 million individuals, a figure which has doubled in the last 30 years, and is expected to double again in the next 30 years (AFB, 1997). These are not just numbers; these are our parents or grandparents who are experiencing difficulty adjusting to vision loss. By the year 2030, they will include the enormous baby-boom population. Loss of vision can mean the loss of the ability to perform familiar tasks like managing the home, cooking, reading, and watching television. Without vision rehabilitation services, even activities such as movement about the house and the yard become daunting tasks. Possibly even more significant, loss of vision means no longer being able to drive a car. By age 85, one in three individuals faces these problems resulting from vision loss (AFB, 1997). With timely provision of vision rehabilitation services, older persons with vision loss can master the skills necessary to continue a "normal" life, performing the tasks that they have always found familiar and useful." 1

Vision loss has a significant impact on an older persons life, but many services are available which can help that person continue to work and/or live independently. These services can include counseling, independent living skills training, orientation and mobility, and technology training.

With a computer and screen reading software an elderly person who is blind can perform many tasks independently that used to require the assistance of someone with vision.

This presentation will have two primary goals: 1)to demonstrate how Window-Eyes, a screen reader for Windows 9x, Millennium, XP, or 2000 can be used to provide independence for an older person who is blind and 2)to discuss training strategies. Some of the demonstrations will include using Window-Eyes to handle financial tasks such as reading and paying bills and recording checks and to access the Internet to read newspapers, search for information, order and shop for such things such as groceries. Since an older person who is blind tends to be isolated, the computer can be used to communicate with family and friends through email. Reading and writing email with Window-Eyes will be demonstrated. Training strategies for learning how to use the computer and Window-Eyes will be presented. Suggestions for training curriculum for Window-Eyes will be discussed. Other training information will include such things as free resources, tutorials, quick reference guides. Window-Eyes tutorial and user guide in MP3, PDF and html formats will be demonstrated. Handouts will be provided in print, tape and braille.

ENDNOTES

1) POSITION PAPER: Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program (Title VII, Chapter 2 of the Rehabilitation Act Found at www.afb.org


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