Guest blog post by Mary Anne Davies-Barrett, LSI for the Visually Impaired, Highbury City of Portsmouth Centre

clip_image001I work at Highbury College Portsmouth with Visually Impaired students, mostly teaching IT courses. I started supporting one visually impaired student and now we have around 18 visually impaired students attending the college learning how to use a computer. We have a specialised classroom full of resources for the visually impaired.

Easy to use & effective!

Over the years we have used magnification software and speech software like Supernova, Zoomtext and Jaws.  Unfortunately, this software can be very expensive. When the college upgraded to Windows 7, I discovered the Windows Magnifier.  Windows Magnifier can be accessed by just pressing the Windows key and the plus sign. It has made such a difference to the visually impaired students as they can access this for free. In fact sometimes I make use of the Magnifier myself. So easy to use and can be accessed from any computer wherever you are in the College, at home, in a library and other places. Some students actually prefer Windows Magnifier rather than other magnification software.

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Accessible for students

They find it easy to use and do not need to spend money on the expensive software. I also personalise the windows colour and appearance to each PC to suit each individual student’s needs.  As Windows magnifier can be accessed from any PC around the college, the students do not have to worry if they are moving from one class to another. We also use the Ease of Access Centre.

Simple shortcut for teachers to know

I have also started to train other members of staff around the College how to use this magnifier and make them aware of it as you cannot tell when you are going to need it.  I have trained the Learning Assistants around the college and they were amazed how useful this information is for them when they are supporting students in various parts of the College.  I am also going to train others how to make use of the Windows key and other shortcuts using the Windows key.

I am passionate about my work with the Visually Impaired and enjoy working with these wonderful people. They are amazing! And I could not do this without Microsoft. So thank you from me and the students.