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Sight Loss Student Wins Regional Learner Award

May 09 2012

Dudley College student Lisa Parke, 44, from Dudley has won a Regional Learning Award as part of Adult Learners Week 2012. The award recognises new computer skills that Lisa has learnt, despite losing her sight, and which she now uses in her new role with greater responsibilities at her local branch of Samaritans.

Lisa at a computer with tutor Jo

Lisa will attend the Midlands Awards Ceremony, held in Leicester, on Wednesday 16 May 2012 where she will be presented with her award. Accompanying Lisa will be Jo Griffin, Lisa's tutor from Dudley College, who supported Lisa throughout her Certificate in Using IT.

Learning for Lisa has been made easier with Dolphin Guide specialist software which enables computers to talk to people who are blind or partially sighted. The software, which is available on Dudley College computers, allows anything on screen to be read out aloud, including emails from friends and family, online documents, web pages, computer games and lots more online information. Guide also includes a Typing Tutor, which helped Lisa learn to touch type, even though she can't see the keyboard.

Losing her sight has had a big impact on Lisa's life, and as her sight deteriorated from the age of 17, Lisa adapted but eventually she had to give up her job in catering and focused on being a mum to her daughter until she joined the Samaritans as a Volunteer.

"Although my eyes don't work, my brain does," Lisa explained. "I was desperate to do something interesting so I contacted my Local Authority's Vision Services Department. They told me about computer courses that used talking computer software for the visually impaired, and soon after I enrolled on a course and met my tutor at Dudley College, Jo Griffin.

"Jo introduced me to Dolphin Guide, and with her support and patience and my increased computer skills, I now wouldn't be without my computer as it's opened up a whole new world for me. After a really nervous start I have achieved something I'm proud of and have gained new-found confidence."

Jo Griffin, Lisa's tutor at the college said, "I'm so proud of Lisa, she truly deserves this award. She has worked so hard, and overcome lots of barriers that would have stopped many from learning the IT skills she now has. Lisa was extremely nervous when she first came to class, so even walking through the door was a challenge, but with appropriate support she soon felt more confident."

"I'd encourage anyone who thinks they can't use a computer because they have sight problems to think again, as we offer help and support at the college from our trained staff and specialist resources such as Dolphin Guide and Supernova."

Offering a range of facilities developed specially for visually impaired and blind learners is something Dudley College is proud of, as Principal, Lowell Williams explained: "We are extremely proud of Lisa, and this award illustrates how learning has helped change her life and supported her at work. Lisa's commitment, enthusiasm and ambition has helped her overcome the concerns about learning new skills. I hope her story will inspire others and help them understand how learning can play a vital role in helping them achieve a better life."

For more information about IT courses for visually impaired at Dudley College, please contact Jo Griffin on 01384 363539 or email: jo.griffin@dudleycol.ac.uk