I always dread people asking what I do. You see, I do quite a few different things:
I’m a computer consultant which includes advising on what to buy, setting up systems, dealing with computer problems and setting up websites. I am a photographer and have my own studio; I write articles occasionally; I edit videos for people; I trained as an artist at Chelsea School of Art, mainly to paint, I write songs and have around 152,000 followers for my music on the Internet, I also do building project management sometimes. Oh, and of course I teach as well.
I did my teacher training over 12 years ago. During that time I have worked for UCanDoIT as well as a few other organisations and run private courses.
Over the years, whilst still loving teaching, I have become jaded with the amount of superfluous paperwork demanded by some institutions. This has led me to streamline who I work for and, amongst these, UCanDoIT is one of my favourites. It is very client centred whilst at the same time still concerned with its tutors.
The adult education sector has changed over the last 15 years, mainly by introducing a huge amount of paperwork. UCanDoIT has a very flexible program for both its students and tutors which means that their tutors are good at teaching, they’re dedicated, and interested in solving problems for their students. I regularly see emails on the UCanDoIT tutors forum where they are discussing problems that students have and are trying to work out how to solve those problems together.
I have taught many students since working for UCanDoIT and my experience has been varied. It is impossible to categorise students as there is no common denominator except that they have a disability. I have taught people who live in beautiful apartments and I’ve taught others who live in squalor.
For nearly all the students though, doing the UCanDoIT course has changed their lives. After it they no longer see the computer as something to be scared of, instead it is something that they look forward to using and many do so every day. One woman I taught was a particular challenge because she hadn’t been taught to spell. Much of our journey was centred around creating a phonetic way of typing, so although what she writes isn’t correct in the formal sense it is clear enough to mean something to most people. For her, the whole world opened up.
I have also had students who have found their long lost families, simply by doing a search and had their whole life changed. For most people learning how to email, use Google, YouTube, and Facebook are things that make a massive difference.
Oh, there’s something I haven’t told you, or maybe you knew already. I have a disability too, and part of my disability is that I have no lower arms. When I turn up to teach someone they often find it very interesting, and hopefully inspiring, to see somebody who can harness the power of a computer for their own ends, despite what looks like a barrier. I have been using computers now for 32 years and still love using them, for me they are a creative device, a communication tool, and a source of knowledge and entertainment.
For many people, computers offer an opportunity for a much richer life both academically and emotionally. Whilst people can often feel very isolated by impairments or even getting old, computers can offer a sense of community and, although things like Facebook are often greeted with scorn, once they have been experienced they reveal some sense of communion with others.
There is another way of looking at what UCanDoIT does – if you teach people with disabilities to be more computer savvy they could create a release of human potential that might in time serve society well. I personally wish the Government provided this service as a matter of course because I find the idea of Charity when associated with disabled people a bit difficult. Money that should be given as a right in an inclusive society shouldn’t have to be begged for. However, one has to be pragmatic and UCanDoIT is a charity that gives many disabled people freedom and access to a richer life.
Thanks for reading