A group of six people with vision impairment cluster around a computer. The computer's speakers emit the disembodied voices of additional members. Welcome to the monthly computer users group organised by Blind Citizens Australia. Those who cannot meet face-to-face can log in from anywhere in Australia.
I find it very interesting and very informative, says Margaret Macarthur about the group. Fellow participant Bryce Petti agrees.
It's a great way of communicating with people with similar disabilities to what I have, says Bryce.
Barry Chapman is very thankful that he can still join in despite not being able to physically attend.
It does make it a lot different to participate in the meeting rather than just listen online, he says.
Frank Nowlan is vice president of the computer users group. The group was formed way back in 1987. Frank says the goal was to offer information to those with vision impairment feeling less confident about computers. It assists members in making informed decisions when buying items like computers, adaptive equipment and software.
Frank says the advice people share in the group can be important for both work and recreation. He mentions one capable person who worked in banking. The person lost vision and struggled to adjust to using technology. They received a big confidence boost from the group. The group offers encouragement and awareness of what can be achieved with computers.
It's assisted me greatly in keeping abreast of developments, particularly in so far as it relates to accessibility, says Frank.
It's also enabled me to be more productive in my work life. Frank says the tips he has personally learned from others have been invaluable.
Learnt a lot
Club secretary Maree Fenech says the club has given her access to many different types of software.
I've learnt a lot of information on all different sorts of programs, she says.
The group often has guest speakers. This month's topic is mentoring other people with vision impairment, including children. Previous topics have included talking mobile phones and screen readers - software that reads computer text.
Steve Pattison particularly enjoys sharing information with others.
For me the social aspect's been wonderful, Steve says.
We often have a social get-together and hardly talk about computers. We just enjoy the fellowship and friendship of each other's company.
Steve says he is also thankful of how computers offer access to information and services.
I never dreamed I'd have access to Wikipedia and shopping online, he says.
Frank says one of his priorities for the group going forward is to attract a diverse range of participants. He is particularly keen to see more young people attend.
It would be good if we can attract more of them so that we get a broad base of felt need, he says.
Club secretary Maree says there will always be plenty of information for older people, too. Maree says she is keen for older people to realise that they do not need to be
whiz kids to get a lot of benefits from using a PC.
The Blind Citizens Australia computer users group meets on the third Tuesday of the month at Vision Australia headquarters in Kooyong. More information can be found on the Blind Citizens Australia website (opens new window).