Digital inclusion in action in Wales
Darren Williams – Digital Inclusion Officer for RNIB Cymru’s Get Connected project.
I’m passionate about digital inclusion, but when I tell people what I do for a living, the main question I get asked is “What does digital inclusion mean?” let me try and explain. So much of our everyday life is now conducted online, a few examples are: shopping, connecting with friends and family through social media such as Facebook or Twitter, searching and applying for jobs online, or just basic entertainment, catching up on TV programmes on BBC’s iPlayer or Channel 4’s 4OD service. I do all of those things, but I also read news online, and answer emails while I’m out and about (I’m hardly ever at my desk, as I’m out visiting people as part of Get Connected!) Many of us take this all for granted, but it can be much more difficult for blind and partially sighted people, so many websites and online service are just not designed with people with sight loss in mind – and that’s the crux of what digital inclusion means – being included in the digital world.
Nearly 50 per cent of blind and partially sighted people feel cut off from people and things around them. Being included in the digital world helps to alleviate that isolation, whether by something simple as having a Facebook page to stay in touch with friends, or being able to search for better energy deals online. This last point is an important one for people with sight loss, not being online should never be a barrier to saving money.
I think the best part of my job is seeing how the people I meet with go on to do amazing things. Tracy from Bridgend lost her sight following an accident, and didn’t even turn her computer on again – but after a few sessions with me, Tracy has now enrolled on an Open University business course – and yes, to clarify, it is the Open University you’re thinking about: distance learning using the internet!
When speaking to the people I’ve met and supported to get online, to get some stories for this blog post, one person stood out. I’d like to leave you with Joyce from Port Talbot’s own words: “I spend a lot of time online and the internet has become my best friend. I am now 88 and live on my own, I spend my time talking to friends and family, looking at antiques online and viewing houses I’d like to buy! It really brings me enjoyment”.
For more information on Get Connected, or to speak with a Digital Inclusion Officer to arrange a visit, please visit our website.