Photo shows instructor Allen West standing with his guide dog. Photo shows Allen holding a Braille note-taking device.

Allen West is one of Friedman Place’s amazing computer and technology teachers, he has been teaching residents here since 2012.  He teaches assistive technology, computers and personal gadgets, Braille typing and other adaptive devices for computers.  Most of his instruction is on a one-on-one basis with residents, although he will sometimes run a group seminar if there is something new to share. 

Allen started out as a volunteer, after two weeks of volunteering a staff person pulled him aside and told him “you can’t volunteer here, we want to hire you!” Obviously, Allen had some skills!  He had some vision until he was seven years old, but could never read printed words, so he started learning Braille in Kindergarten.  He went to school in various Braille classrooms in Chicago Public Schools and wound up at Brother Rice for High School where he learned to type.   He went on to work in a cafeteria as part of the Illinois Business Enterprise for the Blind Program, and in 1997 had to get a computer and take an Excel class as part of his training.  He learned quickly and kept going, he went on to teach himself Word, started using the Internet and continues to learn as technology changes.

He loves working with our residents, they keep him busy, which is what he likes best about working here.  He likes meeting and connecting with new residents, especially those that want to learn and are excited about learning new skills.  He says he can always tell when his students practice on their own.  He sits down and completes a  skills evaluation with every new student that is interested in learning more and then discusses their goals with them.  He has helped a resident get her GED, even when she almost gave up, he gave her some friendly pushes in the right direction and she completed it.  He has also helped several of residents complete on-line job applications and create resumes.

Since technology changes so quickly, when asked what he thought Friedman Place needs to stay on top of the changes, he responded quickly - Windows 10!  He shared that while Apple has been leading the way in adaptive technology for the visually impaired, Windows 10 would be even better than Apple which has complicated key strokes to remember and would be more compatible with other adaptive software programs. We are hoping Allen gets his wish, we are considering an upgrade to the resident computer room, stay tuned.

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5527 North Maplewood: Chicago, IL 60625 Phone: (773) 989-9800