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Digital Access is Fundamental

by Joanne McLain

More and more, we are realizing that digital competencies are an essential part of financial health. Our society functions online for so much of what we need in life, from interacting with government agencies, to shopping for food and clothes, to getting a job and performing on the job, to education and banking and even navigating the roads. Not to mention finding romantic partners, catching up with old friends and arguing about politics.

My Technology Learning Experience

I had never used a screen reader before and it was certainly an experience to hear my computer chatting to me about everything on the screen, including details that my eyes would ordinarily scan past without noticing. It became overwhelming when I moved the cursor and the voice skipped about in mid-sentence, telling me half-finished bits of information that jumbled into meaninglessness.

At FHI, we are doing our best to learn about different forms of assistive technology so we can provide the best classes possible for people with disabilities. The process has given me a deep respect for people who rely upon tech to navigate websites that I take for granted. And I’m gaining a better understanding of how to make that experience as seamless as possible for them.

What Have We Learned About Online Technology?

We asked our staff at FHI to tell us something that they learned about using online technology in the past few months that helped them do something new or improve an existing process. Here are some of their replies: 

“In my recent experiences with technology, the magic of turning off devices at night, rebooting my wireless modem once a week, and restarting my devices when they are running slow or when I’m needing to troubleshoot an issue cannot be overstated!”

Connecting to a public wi-fi puts EVERYTHING on your computer at risk. In reality, we shouldn’t ever be connecting to public wi-fi on our work computers. And if we keep sensitive data on our personal devices (like info to file taxes, etc.), then we should think twice about connecting to public wi-fi on these devices too!”

“We can run slide decks through software to check visibility for low vision, color blindness, etc.”

“My calendar apps on my phone have been vital for keeping me on track every day with my tasks and meetings. Using a combination of reminders and daily alarms to structure my schedule has been so helpful. I’ve also been enjoying the benefits of having lots of resources on a Google Drive. It’s made learning and implementing a lot of new knowledge easy and manageable.”

“Sharing calendars is a must for our family. I can take a quick look to see what the Denver family and those in Florida are up to and if they are available for a call or a lunch date (in person or virtually). Also, Google Drive photo sharing has been a plus for me and the family. And an all-time favorite is the Samsung Health application, counting steps, heart rate etc. Some personal accountability, and a daily fun challenge tool.”

Pinterest has many ideas for business, life, crafts, recipes, pets, every topic one can think of. A plethora of ideas.”

Digital Access and Equity

We know that the whole of our personal economic life begins with access, so anything that is a barrier to accessing the online, virtual world will limit our potential for financial security and well-being. We also know that digital access is not distributed equitably and that is why we are creating our Thriving in a Virtual World program.