As more of our lives happen online, how do people with sensory impairments stay connected?

Two women seated at a table, one using a tablet, one smiling to camera

The internet is playing an increasingly important role in our everyday lives; we use it to talk to family and friends, search for jobs, navigate the streets, pay bills and buy Christmas gifts. But for many people with sensory impairments, accessing the internet and using new technologies can present huge challenges.

Online Today, a Big Lottery funded project, supports people who have sensory loss to get online. It explores how participants can develop independence through the use of technology and the internet- for example, gaining assistance from specialist accessibility apps to identify household products or navigate to a particular destination. At Sense, the internet plays an important role in helping individuals in Sense accommodation to stay in touch with family and friends.

Being the Project Officer for Online Today has provided me with a fantastic opportunity to meet some truly inspirational individuals, and be involved in some wonderful work.

Before joining Sense, I worked as an audiologist and was looking for an opportunity that would allow me to continue helping people with sensory loss. Having been a part of Online Today for a year now, I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone.

The project so far

So far, 402 people have been involved in the project through Sense. Participants have not only included people supported by Sense, but also members of the public who have a sensory impairment. We have held a range of activities, including one-to-one IT tuition and group workshops, and have worked with our Sense centres to help the people they support to get online.

During my year on this project, there have been a great number of highlights. Every time I see the positive effect the online world has on an individual is brilliant. Some occasions stand out in particular.

One of these moments involved supporting an individual who had dual sensory loss to use her iPad to set up and use Facebook. By showing her the Zoom feature on an iPad, she was able to view the different areas of the Facebook page more easily. Seeing the joy on her face when she started seeing photos her friends had posted was fantastic, and soon she was able to write her first status update. She told me that, now she had the ability to communicate with her friends and family, she would never feel left out again.

A huge variety of online activities have taken place as part of the Online Today project, including; using Skype to communicate with family, taking and sharing pictures on a tablet, entering digital pictures into a Christmas card competition, and learning how to navigate the basics of a computer, to name just a few. Although the project is coming to an end, there is still time to get involved!

Getting support

Online Today has been running for over two years. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the project will conclude in December 2017.

We have plenty planned before the project ends in December. So if you, or anyone you know, has sight and/or hearing loss and would like to know more about getting some support getting online, please email technology@sense.org.uk

It’s important to get in touch now so we can help you as much as possible in the next few months. Here’s to getting online – today!


Read more about accessible technology on the Sense website

Why I set up my own technology group

 

 

Jessica Higgins

Author: Jessica Higgins

Online Today project officer at Sense

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