Friday, July 29, 2005

DAY 1: Volunteering w/ NY Cares

I had such a rewarding experience last night helping out at the Chelsea Rec. Center, where New York Cares provides free computer training to its neighbors. I had the opportunity to work with two wonderful and eager-to-learn members of the community and even started some new friendships with them and fellow volunteers.

One woman in particular, an elderly woman named Edith, wanted to learn how to simply log into her email account to correspond with her niece and some fellow artists in her West Village community. I was very patient with her as she slowly and carefully articulated her passion for the arts and love of her creative community. But she had grown very frustrated with technology, unable to view or send emails to colleagues. As a society, many of us now prefer to correspond by email instead of phone or mail. This transition didn't sit well with Edith, but she knew she had to embrace email correspondence in order to stay in touch.

As she drafted one of her first emails ever, she typed a beautiful short letter to her niece, using her index finger to type out each letter. I didn't mind being patient - I enjoyed seeing the excitement and joy in her warm but weathered face. Once she completed her letter, she accidentally closed the browser window, losing all of the content. Amazingly she calmly asked me how to login again so that she could retype her message. If that was me, I would have been frustrated and changed gears, moving onto something else. But not Edith, she was determined to draft an email.

At the conclusion of our session, she expressed her appreciation and invited me to a gallery opening this weekend in the Village, featuring some of her films.

This doesn't even begin to share how rewarding the experience was last night. I can't wait till my next project...

1 comment:

Brandon Gerena said...

Edith was very frustrated with text hyperlinks used by Earthlink (as well as many other websites and email clients), finding it difficult to move her mouse directly over the text in order to click. I felt so bad watching how much of a challenge it was for her to maneuver the mouse, causing each action to become nearly laborious.

On my train ride home, this really made me think a whole lot about website usability. Let's see how this experience impacts my next design....