Thomas Bryan, Blind Low Vision NZ National Technology Advisor, tells how lockdown has been for him and gives some technology advice to get us through.

1. Tell us about how you are coping in the lockdown?

Not too bad, not as bad as I thought it might be. What helped was being in isolation for nearly two weeks before everyone else had to [Thomas returned from CSUN, an assistive technology conference in the United States and had to go into isolation]. I think this helped me prepare to work from home.

2. What are the biggest challenges you are experiencing during the lockdown – in terms of how you work?

A lot of my work happens at odd hours of the day with people online, via Zoom and similar platforms, so not being able to catch up face to face with colleagues, work contacts, friends and family over a coffee etc. has been hard. Plus I have had some technical issues with my personal technology, which has impacted on me accessing information and participating online with others which has posed a few personal challenges for me.

3. What do you think are the biggest challenges for our clients in terms of technology and staying connected at this time?

That’s a complex question! There is no real simple answer as everyone’s needs are quite different. Issues might range from not being able to remember a command to assistance with a technology fault through to learning a new app like say Zoom, or concern for going over a data cap. All very valid questions and some our Adaptive Technology team can assist with.

4. As our technology adviser you must be more prepared than most for this new way of working remotely – what sort of advice have you been able to pass on to others in the blind and low vision community at this time?

I guess the main thing is, we are all in this together.  We all need help so don’t be afraid to ask.  Post your questions to some of the email lists as there are many members/client who are only too happy to assist or phone our Adaptive Technology helpdesk, or contact your local instructor. If you’re in doubt, just call our contact center as they can put you in touch with staff or tell you how to join a number of online support groups.

5. What’s one piece of advice you could give to our clients to help them with their technology challenges?

If you’re not sure reach out to the community, members on lists, or our adaptive technology service who are always keen to assist.

If your issue is not with your assistive technology, but more your computer, tablet or phone, then this might be something you may need to go back to the supplier for more technical support.

Or if it’s say a Microsoft software problem, then they have lots of resources online plus they also have a helpdesk.

6. What can our clients do if they need help with technology questions?

First try and identify what the problem might be, check out a few things first.  E.G. check the power connection at both ends.  Check your speakers or monitor are on or your phone isn’t on mute so you are not hearing any alerts etc. Then as above.

7. What have you learnt in the past couple of weeks that has helped you cope with working remotely?

Google search is my friend, and the blind community and my colleagues are a mind of information and only too happy to assist.

Listen to Thomas’ tech podcast which focuses on assistive tech for people who are blind or have low vision.