By Cathy Long with Martha Moser, Vision Loss Resource Team
When I was a student at the Overbrook School for the Blind, I took switchboard classes to learn this skill so I could work after school and some weekends. My teacher was Lucy Boyle, one in a million! I was scared to death of her, but I applied myself and learned all the things she had to teach me. It put me in good stead as I worked in my chosen field of clerical worker for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. After I finished the course, I then worked one school night evening and every other weekend. I was very honored to be one of the few students who earned money while I was still in high school.
To do the job, I needed to know how to dial the phone, which I did know already, but I also needed to memorize every extension in the school so that when I answered a call, I could route the call immediately where the caller wanted it to go. In those days’ phones did not have buttons. They had little holes all around the dial and a person would put certain fingers in the holes to dial the number. The easiest number to dial was one, because it was the first hole, and the number that took the longest to dial was zero because it was the last number around the dial.
But today things are much different. If you have a phone with keys on it, there is a method for people to dial the phone without looking. A member of the Vision Loss Resource Team told me recently that she was having difficulty dialing numbers because she could no longer see the numbers on the keypad and was not dialing correctly. I told her that it would be okay because she can learn to dial without seeing. Here is how it is done.
On the phone, there are four rows of numbers.
Row one: Numbers 1, 2, and 3.
Row two: Numbers 4, 5, and 6. We will call this the home row. Notice the 5 key usually has a dot on it or a slit on it at the end of the key to identify it under your finger.
Row three: Numbers 7, 8, and 9.
Row four: Star, 0, and pound, otherwise known as hashtag or #
As I stated already, the second row will be the home row. This is where three fingers will stay until a number is needed above or below the home row. You can use the pointer finger, the long finger, and the ring finger. This depends on what hand you use and how you will hold the phone. Here is how it works. Pretend for now that you are dialing with your right hand. The pointer will rest on the 4, the long finger will rest on the 5, and the ring finger will rest on the 6.
As an example, we will dial the PCB Information line. This is a great resource for people who want information but do not have access to a computer. That number is 1-773-572-6314. Note: this is a long-distance number and will cost unless you have an unlimited long-distance plan on your phone.
With the fingers on the home row, bring up the pointer finger one row to hit 1. Then the pointer finger goes back to the home row so it can go down one row to dial 77. Then the pointer finger once again rests on the home row on the 4 again. Now it is time for the ring finger to move up one row to the 3. Now that ring finger comes back to rest on the home row on the 6. Our next number is 5. What great luck! The middle finger does not have to move, it just has to press the 5 and stay put. Now we need 7. Remember what the pointer finger did last time when it wanted 7? Yes, it’s going to have to do that again. Down one row. Back up to the home row on the 4 it goes. Now the next number we need is 2. Get that middle finger ready to go up and get that number and push it, then come back to the home row and rest on the 5. Now the ring finger is in luck, because the next number to dial is 6 and the ring finger is already on it. Push down. Now the ring finger must find the 3 key. Just up one row and it is there. Push that. Now back to the home row the ring finger goes to rest on 6. There are only two more numbers to dial and the pointer will have the pleasure. First it goes up one row to press the 1, back to the home row on the 4 and it pushes the 4 key.
If you have a cordless phone, do you know you can dial a number first, and then press the “talk” button? Try it. You will hear the dial tone quickly followed by the number you dialed. This is most important for people who have trouble dialing as fast as the phone company requires.
You can practice this technique dialing your own number and most definitely, the PCB Information Line. I encourage you to call the PCB Information Line regularly to stay up to date on the offerings PCB has for you.
I hope you have found help in this article. Please call regularly to listen to the PCB monthly calendar. It is usually updated by the 3rd of the month. Team member, Ed Facemyer, does a fantastic job keeping the Information Line updated. Please use it and feel free to practice your new dialing skills to attend any PCB discussion calls. I am always amazed by the things I thought I knew but learned new things by listening in on the PCB discussion calls.
Why did I call this article “Dialing for Danger?” Because that is what a few of us switchboard students referred to as we were learning and perfecting phone skills with Lucy Boyle. Looking back on that, I realize I was just a silly teen-age girl and I don’t know what she saw in me to believe I had what it took to do the job. It turns out she was right. I credit much of my success to Mrs. Boyle because she taught me so many things to help me get ready to work as an adult. I am retired now but as you can see, still actively engaged in the community and still typing!