By David Bates
There is now increasing emphasis on enabling more of the older and poorer members of the community to use computers to access information and to communicate with others. I see the primary need for non-computer-literate older people to be an inexpensive ‘net book’ with a very simple and easily-learned interface which will enable them to undertake basic tasks. But from where can such machines be purchased with suitable, simple software installed?
Like a new driver, learners are easily put off by technicalities – they just want to move forward by operating the controls without learning what goes on under the bonnet. This problem is especially acute for blind computer users, who have to control the machine in an unusual way: because they cannot read the text or see the cursor they must move it around the screen with the Alt, arrow and Tab keys, and then listen to the words under the cursor as they are read out with a synthetic voice. The link they require may be very visible on the screen, but it may well take the carefully listening user many keystrokes to locate it.