People often debate whether to bring a desktop or a laptop computer to college, and I decided to bring both. I have a chronic illness and disability, which means that accessibility and digital materials are incredibly important for me, and having both a desktop and laptop computer has helped me tremendously. Here are ten of the reasons I bought a desktop computer for college, and how it has helped me often. Please note that my computer runs Windows 10 with these accessibility settings enabled.
A little less than half of the classes I have taken in college have been virtual. This is due to several factors- my chronic illness, low vision, and some classes being exclusively offered online. It helps to have a dedicated place where I can work on my courses. Read more about why I take virtual classes here.
For the most part, I do not handwrite assignments, as I have dysgraphia, which is a learning disability that affects handwriting and is often correlated with vision impairments (read more about dysgraphia here). I also run this blog, and frequently spend hours at the computer typing up posts. It feels much more natural to type for long periods of time on my desktop keyboard.
Synchronizes with laptop
One of the awesome things about having two computers is that all of the data synchronizes, meaning my class notes, photos, and other information is easily accessible on each of my devices. I find it helpful to switch between the two computers, especially since I have neck issues that can be aggravated by hunching over for a laptop screen. My laptop is a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10, and I cannot imagine using any other laptop in class as it easily fits on any sized desk and the battery life is awesome. Read more about choosing a laptop here.
While a large screen does not necessarily mean a computer is accessible for low vision, my computer’s 22″ screen enlarges text very efficiently and can easily display large navigation tools, windows, and images. Windows 10 is fantastic for this, as I am able to use large, bold print.
While my Surface can do many things well, running multiple intricate software applications at once is not one of them. Luckily, my desktop computer can run all of the applications and then some, making it easy to be productive.
Easy to print items
In addition to bringing my desktop computer, I also purchased an inexpensive Brother laser printer with wireless capabilities. I can quickly print out an assignment for class, scan in pages, and make copies. Because I got the printer and toner on super sale (start checking advertisements now!), it’s cheaper than having to go print out items at the library. To register a wireless printer, follow the same instructions listed here for registering an Amazon Echo.
Why have one screen when you can have two? I hooked up a 26″ TV monitor on an adjacent table to use as a second monitor for my desktop computer. I commonly use this when running multiple applications, or when taking notes on a video. I also can stream tabs on my Google Chrome browser to my TV monitor using a Chromecast.
Make materials accessible
I learned how to create accessible materials using Microsoft Word back in high school and refined that process throughout college- read more about making documents accessible in Microsoft Word here. I usually use my desktop for this because the process is faster and I can enlarge documents easily. I love that I can turn almost any document into a format that I can read quickly and easily. I also can read materials from Bookshare, Nook, and Kindle. Read more about Bookshare here, using Nook eReaders here, and my review of the Kindle Fire here.
Utilize library resources
Libraries have resources that go beyond print materials, such as databases, remote desktop applications, and even digital materials. I can access all sorts of library tools from the comfort of my desk. Read more about campus libraries here.
I don’t need the space on my desk
Having low vision means that I don’t have to worry about lots of papers, heavy textbooks, writing, or other similar tasks. My computer does everything for me, so I don’t need anything else on my desk. I live in a room by myself, and always lock the door when I leave, so I have never had to worry about anyone else messing with my computer.
I have been extremely fortunate to have both a desktop and laptop computer at college. I have been able to do everything from homework to take entire courses without having to leave my apartment. This is especially helpful with my chronic migraines, as I can create a study environment that’s free of triggers, and all of my computer settings are exactly as I like them.