Jessica Rathwell holds her iPhone close to her ear while she types out a tweet using special voiceover technology. With remarkable speed, she navigates her way through her tiny keyboard, adding and deleting letters.
Rathwell is blind, and she is a self-described huge Apple fan and tech geek.
Her technology skills have led her to a career in teaching other blind and low-vision people to use Apple computers and devices as they come out of the box, with no additional technology or modifications.
She got her first Apple computer in the 1990s but had to give up the operating system when they took a big step away from assistive technology.
That meant years of working on a Microsoft system. In 2008, Rathwell saw the Tiger 10.4 operating system for Apple computers that had voice-enabled software. It was the first time Rathwell could take a stock unit out of the box and use it as is.
“For me, it was the joy of inclusion,” she says. “When you spend your life in school having to casino online always have some sort of assistive technology, it feels so good when you no longer have to.”
By all accounts, Rathwell is a whiz on all things Apple and teaches other people at the Nanaimo and Region Disability Resource Centre to use a computer and gain full access to the Internet.
Rathwell”s Microsoft counterpart is Aedan Staddon. The two have a friendly rivalry, and Rathwell has started learning on Mac computers as well.
“Learning from a blind person is better because they teach you what you realistically can and can”t do,” he says.
He is currently taking online courses in computer programming through the Cisco Academy for the Visually Impaired.
A room full of people who have sight issues discuss their preferred operating system and talk about Twitter and Facebook. Before Rathwell and Staddon started teaching, their students’ experience with the technology could be kind of scary and frustrating. That”s changed now, and their students at NRDRC, a volunteer charity, are happy.
“The Internet is a conversation point,” says Rathwell. “And it”s nice to be able to use it the same way anybody does.”