People First of West Virginia offers solutions for those who want to learn all about using online technology. The organization provides training on social media, assistive technology, computer basics, online safety and web resources.
They’ve even written their own guide called Get Connected, Stay Connected, which has step-by-step directions on how to access popular online tools.
Apostrophe asked the People First of West Virginia about the best ways to get started connecting online. This is how they answered:
Apo: Why should people connect to online technology (i.e., email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)?
PFWV: Online technology offers people of all abilities excellent reasons to use the Internet – entertainment, socialization, information, education, upcoming events, news, email and social media.
It’s all easily accessible, even if accommodations are necessary through online text-to-speech or voice command for navigation.
“People with disabilities have always had to change with the times. We have to change, or we will be left behind. People with disabilities should be connected online because they are like everyone else, also their disabilities often don’t show online,” Kevin Smith, People First of West Virginia self-advocate coordinator, said.
Apo: How can people learn to navigate online technology?
PFWV: Sites like YouTube publish free videos that teach computer skills and how to use online technology.
Or learn to navigate online with hands-on experience. Many local public libraries offer free basic computer classes.
Or attend training or use a guide like People First West Virginia’s Get Connected, Stay Connected. Find it online at peoplefirstwv.org.
Apo: What are the most popular online technology tools that you recommend?
PFWV: Facebook is a valuable tool because it communicates quickly and easily for announcements, cancellations, upcoming events, education and sharing news from around the world.
Smart phones are also a valuable tool for email, social networking and multimedia. They can do nearly anything a computer or laptop can do, and it’s always with you. These are especially useful for people with hearing impairments, as they can be used to communicate effectively.
Apo: Do you have tips on how to make the use of online technology successful?
PFWV: Using the Internet can be a wonderful thing; it can also become frustrating, quickly. Slow Internet speeds, advertisements, spam, viruses and computer malfunctions can make anyone want to give up.
Try these for a more positive online experience:
- Install an anti-virus program on your computer. There are free products as well as costly ones. People First West Virginia likes using Avast Free. Another good free anti virus program is AVG Free. Be sure to download the free versions, not the 30-day trial versions. Find them by using the Google Search.
- Try speech recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking for a more accessible online session. Free voice-to-text applications, like Dragon Naturally, are available for most smart phones and tablets. Free screen reader programs and adaptive hardware are also available.
- Beware of suspicious activity. Online scams and fraud are a pitfall for many people. If you plan on meeting someone you met online, take precautions. Bring someone with you, and meet at a public location. Learn more about cyber safety at stopthinkconnect.org.
Apo: Do you have any other comments about using online technology?
PFWV: Having a disability isn’t a reason to avoid online technology, it is a reason for you to learn how to make technology work for you.
All self-advocates should learn how it can improve their lives. Whether you want to research an item you’d like to purchase or connect to an old friend through Facebook or Skype, the Internet is a resource that makes communication and learning easy.
“If it weren’t for online technology, I wouldn’t know about many of the things that help me in my day-to-day life,” Kevin said.
For more information, go to peoplefirstwv.org or call 877.334.6581.