Tuesday, April 15

Free tech support for the blind

Greetings. I received the below information from an email list. For those that are blind or low vision and who need technical support but may not want to call the computer company for fear of getting someone who doesn't understand how you can use a computer if you're blind, consider the following service from the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. Incidentally, I applied for and had an interview for this job. Though I didn't get it, it did hold the position of being the longest phone interview I've ever had, at the time and since, topping out at around 90 minutes. However, my job path led me in a different direction, which I can now say that I'm grateful for. I wouldn't have it any other way. Anyway, this is a great service and definitely one to make note of. You never know when you might need it. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.

Follow up: From the Access Ability blog (linked below in the blogs to watch section), we learn that the toll free number for this tech support service is (888) 825-0080. Apologies for not including this in the original post.


I want to just remind everyone our Adaptive Technology Help Desk is still operating and we eagerly await your calls. The telephone number given is for voice and relay calls; we do not have a direct TTY for the help desk.


Contact: Dominic Calabrese 312/997-3662


Chicago Lighthouse Assistive Technology Computer HelpDesk Hopes to Expand Service

CHICAGO - In an ongoing effort to accommodate people across the country who are visually impaired and in need of technical support, The Chicago Lighthouse hopes to expand its toll-free telephone assistive technology support line.

Since it was developed in 2006, the service has accommodated over 1,500 requests for assistance from individuals in 48 states, Canada, China and South Africa. Servicing the calls is Ray Campbell, a former engineer with Lucent Technologies who now works in the Lighthouse's Adaptive Technology program.

"I've taken requests from Delta Junction, Alaska to Pilots Knob, Missouri; from Bird Island, Minnesota to Sasketoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; and from Lanzhou, Cansu, China to Somerset West, South Africa," Campbell notes.

"Our intent is to offer a one stop place where people who are blind or visually impaired can get the assistance that they need," he says. Campbell points out that he is able to listen to what JAWS or WindowEyes is saying and walk the caller him right through their problem.

"I've assisted people with everything from installing Antivirus software to helping someone navigate the eharmony.com site using JAWS to assisting organizations with designing an accessible website to showing someone how to find Game Day Audio on the Major League Baseball website, www.mlb.com to assisting someone in accessing his credit card statement on-line," he continues.

Campbell's assistance has been well received across the country.

"I've got one gentleman in South Carolina that calls me two to four times a week to ask for my help," he says. One lady Campbell assisted in San Francisco wrote a letter thanking the Lighthouse for offering the HelpDesk service and praising Campbell for his assistance. "People contact me as they value my opinions on what technology they should buy, and while that's a bit scary it also feels very good," he smiles.

Campbell adds that if he can't resolve the issue over the phone or through e-mail, he will schedule an on-site visit as long as the customer resides in the Chicago metropolitan area. The program was made possible when the Lighthouse successfully matched a $41,000 grant from The Boeing Company.

"We're tremendously grateful to Boeing for their support and we intend to use the support line in strengthening our level of customer service and showcasing the Lighthouse as a national leader in adaptive technology," says William Bielawski, program manager for adaptive technology and office skills training at the Lighthouse.

Bielawski notes that any blind or visually impaired person could contact the support line regardless of what product they're using. "It can be any hardware or software relating to assistive technology as long as the customer is visually impaired," he says. Bielawski encourages calls from employers, counselors, teachers and other individuals who work with people who are visually impaired. "We're excited to have an opportunity to make it easier for people with visual impairments to take advantage of the many technological advancements that are now more readily available."

The Chicago Lighthouse is one of the nation's most comprehensive social service agencies. Housed under its roof are the nation's oldest low vision clinic; one of the few remaining clock manufacturing facilities in the U.S.; a nationally acclaimed school for children who are blind with multi-disabilities; a VA program serving veterans in all 50 states; and a radio station. The agency provided education, referral and direct services to more than 70,000 people in fiscal year 2007.

No comments:

Post a Comment