Over time, applications evolve. The Office 2003 interface is completely different from that of Office 2019. Students who learn Windows concepts and controls can transition more easily to new application interfaces. Edit field, combo boxes, rich-edit fields and menus are the same controls used in Windows 98 and Windows 10.
Most Access Technology Trainers teach keyboard access. They don’t understand what’s happening on the display. They know one route to achieve an end-goal. They can paste text into Word 2019 but don’t understand how to access “Paste Special” via the ribbon without looking up the specific keyboard commands.
Access Technology Trainers should know how to quickly accomplish tasks, but they should also understand what’s happening when they execute the commands.
When hiring Access Technology Trainers, most employers blindfold a trainer and seat them in front of a computer with a screen reader. Once they can complete a specified number of tasks, they’re considered for the position.
There are some fundamental skills trainers should know and nearly all can execute by rote:
- Text attributes
- Document format and font styles
- Heading style text
These are all easily executed with keyboard commands. Once the trainer completes the tasks, they are checked off as successful and continue the interview process.
Blindfolding is a parlor trick that doesn’t illustrate a trainers’ computer skill. When someone is visually-impaired, they learn a lot of keystrokes and can execute a basic document in a matter of seconds. Executing keystrokes isn’t training. Teaching requires excellent communication skills.
Rather than blindfolding a prospective trainer, have them teach you a lesson and listen carefully from the perspective of a student. Communication isn’t affected by a blindfold. Sighted and low-vision computer users can teach screen readers as well as totally blind individuals.
Access Technology Trainers should be able to clearly and concisely explain:
- Application layout
- How to access elements of the display via the keyboard
- What happens when they execute a keyboard accelerator
- The screen reader commands necessary to access display elements
- How to complete tasks via ribbons, menus, and dialogs
If a trainer doesn’t understand what’s happening when they execute commands, they teach by rote.
Blind and visually-impaired computer users are entering law school, seeking PPh.D. degrees, and venturing into fields we couldn’t imagine a decade ago. Keystroke instruction frustrates and annoys these students. Concepts and controls set them free and give them the skills needed to venture into advanced application features.
The next time you hire an Access Technology Trainer, throw away the blindfold and listen to their communication skills. Access technology trainers should:
- Teach concepts and controls with keyboard commands in context
- Rely on concepts and controls rather than keystrokes
- Have an outline from which they will teach the material rather than winging each lesson. Continuity is important
- Understand and explain the application and document layout
- A pleasant presentation style free of too many fillers (Um, ah, er.)
Teaching blind and visually-impaired computer users requires strong communication skills and a solid understanding of the Operating System and application.
Hire trainers that inspire success and independence. When teaching computers to blind and visually-impaired consumers, communication is everything.