My Dad has very serious vision problems, but he’s not completely blind. This means that he can use a normal computer, but he has a lot of problems doing so. We’ve got his machine set up so that he’s using very large fonts, and a high-contrast color scheme. The problem we frequently run into, though, is that most software developers don’t take these kind of things into account. We’ve found that developers are really haphazard about when and where they respect the default font size and color scheme in Windows.
We recently switched him from a dial-up ISP (Wal-Mart Connect) to Verizon DSL. The Wal-Mart Connect service used a proprietary client for e-mail and web browsing (basically, the old CompuServe 2000 client), and that actually worked pretty well for him.
When we switched to Verizon, I switched him over to using Outlook 2000, largely because it was already installed on his machine, and I was familiar with it. That turns out to have been a pretty bad idea. Outlook does a pretty poor job of respecting large font sizes and still leaving you with a usable interface. My Dad just hasn’t been able to get used to it, and there are a number of hurdles that make it hard for him to use.
I’ve been researching alternative e-mail clients for him. Basically, I’m looking for something with a fairly simple interface that’ll work well with a high-contrast, large font environment. I tried Scribe first, but that had a few interface quirks that made it unusable. I then tried Sylpheed, and that actually looked like it might be usable. I didn’t get too far with that though, since my Dad couldn’t remember where he’d written down his e-mail password, so I couldn’t actually get all the way through the setup. We’ve also been talking about just switching him over to Outlook Express, but I’m not sure that’ll be much better than Outlook. Hopefully, the next time I visit my parents, he’ll have found that password and we can play around some more.