A visually impaired woman from Southport, Rachel Duerden, who had written off accessing the digital world has now planned her wedding online thanks to sight loss charity Galloway’s and its digital partner Aspire Assistive CIC. She will marry fiancé Andy, at Southport Town Hall in October

A visually impaired woman who had written off accessing the digital world has now planned her wedding online thanks to sight loss charity Galloway’s and its digital partner Aspire Assistive CIC.

Rachel Duerden, of Southport, vowed never to use technology after she was unable to use a faulty computer a few years ago.

But during lockdown, the 49-year-old needed to get online. So she signed up to the Galloway’s Tech Ability project, where she had remote one-to-one training on how to use accessibility software Synapptic and now she cannot believe how useful the internet is.

Rachel will marry fiancé Andy, 53, at Southport Town Hall in October. They will celebrate their wedding breakfast at a cafe nearby and will spend their honeymoon in Chester.

The pair met last July in Sainsbury’s in Southport, where Andy works, and got engaged at Christmas.

Rachel, who has light sensitivity and tunnel vision, said:  “I never really used technology before.

“I didn’t have a good experience a few years ago when I tried to use a computer and it didn’t work. So I thought, ‘if I don’t have to use it, I am not going to bother.’

“But because of lockdown, the need to plan my wedding and needing to send emails, my hand was forced, so I decided to learn how to do these things and sign up to Tech Ability.

“I have found it very helpful as I have been able to do things I didn’t think I was ever able to do. If I need to look up information, I can use the internet. I just speak to the tablet and it researches for me. I have been using it to plan my wedding, so I have looked up dress shops and places to get suits, as well as cafes and places for food.

A visually impaired woman from Southport, Rachel Duerden, who had written off accessing the digital world has now planned her wedding online thanks to sight loss charity Galloway’s and its digital partner Aspire Assistive CIC

A visually impaired woman from Southport, Rachel Duerden, who had written off accessing the digital world has now planned her wedding online thanks to sight loss charity Galloway’s and its digital partner Aspire Assistive CIC

“I really like the way Andrew and Graham have taught us. Because they are visually impaired themselves, they have more of an understanding of what it is like.

“I don’t normally rave about technology but I really would recommend others try it as it has worked for me.

“If I hadn’t signed up to this project, someone else would have had to help me plan my wedding and send emails, as I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it myself. But it makes me feel better that I can organise it myself and be independent.

Rachel said: “I am absolutely excited for my wedding. I used my tablet to research dress shops and found a shop in Southport. The staff were nice and friendly and they gave me an appointment to try on dresses and told me what to do. I have picked a lovely dress which no-one else is allowed to see – not even my mum. It will be a lovely surprise for her on the day.”

Andrew Coleman, assistive technology co-ordinator at Galloway’s, which supports blind and partially sighted people across Lancashire and Sefton, said: “It has been really exciting to see people with very little or no confidence in using digital software experience try assistive technology and realise how it can have a big impact on their lives.

“It has been a pleasure working with Graham at Aspire Assistive CIC and we are really grateful for the support we have had from Catalyst, CAST and the The National Lottery.”

The Tech Ability project has been made possible thanks to an initial grant of £17,787 and then a £5,000 continuation fund from Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response Fund. Galloway’s was also supported by digital charity CAST and Graham Longly from Aspire Assistive CIC Ltd, who provided the training to help deliver the scheme. 

Do you have a story for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

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