Battling Isolation

Today we made an elderly woman cry. You might ask why we feel the need to tell everybody about this on a blog, surely not something to boast about…

Actually in this case it is. You see this elderly woman (in her late 70’s) has MS and had a stroke; she lives in a rural village and has been unable to drive for the last year. She relies on friends and carers to take her out once in a while to get her shopping.

“All my friends live a long way away” she told me “I can call them on the ‘phone but sometimes I don’t see anyone for ages. I can’t get out now I don’t drive. I just feel so isolated.”

Image of English VillageIt’s not uncommon for us to hear similar stories from our learners, especially older learners. The villages they lived in for many years were great when they were able to drive or had a spouse or family who could take them places but when none of these are available they find themselves housebound and feeling isolated.

What reduced her to tears from our ‘phone call then? We called to discuss providing her with a tablet and an experienced tutor to teach her how to use it in her own home.

Some of our learners stay on our waiting list for quite a long time if they do not have equipment and we do not have funding to provide any. Due to the generosity of our funders we were able to start this woman on her journey to exploring the internet and to greater independence.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am” she told us. We look forward to knowing how she progresses through reading her lesson reports pleased that we have made a difference to another person’s life.

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Changing Lives

image of learner Cornelia using her iPad

Often when you hear of people’s great accomplishments you find yourself reflecting on what your contribution to a better world has been.

For the past 10 years I have worked as a tutor for UCanDoIT. Over these years I have met many wonderful students with various disabilities; each one coping as best they can, some in very challenging circumstances. Each learner has up to 10 sessions in their own home and, as a tutor, you do feel that a life has been changed for the better with these newly discovered computer skills. At the end of a day’s work you can go home with a high job satisfaction rating.

One such learner was  Cornelia who, at the age of 44, woke one morning unable to get out of bed and barely able to talk. After a great deal of effort she was able to communicate her predicament to a friend who called an ambulance and Cornelia was rushed into her local hospital where, eventually, a diagnosis of Cerebellitis was made.

Cerebellitis is an infection in the brain that can cause permanent damage. In Cornelia’s case the infection caused problems with her speech and her ability to control her movements and may have been triggered by an ear infection. After 6 months of treatment and physiotherapy she eventually made it back to her flat. Life Changed.

A team of carers now provide the support that Cornelia needs. Getting her out of bed in the morning and getting her dressed, helping her wash and brush her teeth, preparing her food and drink and weekly assistance to have a shower.

At the time I was teaching her we were having a heat wave so travelling became a hot sticky adventure and energy levels were zapped with the heat. Cornelia was my Friday afternoon student and, no matter how she may have been feeling, always greeted me with a smile and a cheerful disposition. By the end of one particular lesson the high temperature had got to us both and I faced an uncomfortable journey home. As I left I casually mentioned that I would be able to jump into a nice cooling shower when I got home. It was at this point I realised how drastic had been the change in Cornelia’s life. Now confined to a wheelchair and reliant on others she would have to wait a week to have a shower with the assistance of one of her care team.

Cornelia had been an old style film editor cutting the celluloid up and sticking it back together to make the finished film. She enjoyed going to the cinema and socialising with her friends. Her taste in music was varied and she loved going to concerts. Adam and the Ants had been particularly memorable. Cornelia dabbled at playing the piano and was a proficient artist having done a couple of adult education courses. She had also written several short stories. Nothing had been published but they had provided a great deal of pleasure in the creation.

Technology is great when it works and you know how to use it.  The basic skills of e-mailing family and friends, learning how to Skype, online shopping , online banking and the wonders of the world wide web provide the foundations of what is taught and the start of a changed life.

Reliance on the care team or friends to help get her out of the flat in the wheelchair restricts Cornelia’s independence and is to her the most infuriating aspect of her current situation.

This life style will not change in the foreseeable future. Yet a dramatic life change has occurred thanks to an iPad, 10 lessons and an optimistic outlook. Although inwardly frustrated at why it had all happened to her Cornelia now feels blessed by her newly developed skills. A quick Skype chat to an old friend, checking for the cheapest price for a printer, finding out what local amenities are wheelchair accessible are just the start. A sketch sent via e-mail to wish someone Happy Birthday, a funky new rhythm created on an app and watching Adam Ant on YouTube. The door to so much more is now open.

The much missed joys in her life of creating music, drawing and writing are now available again. Although not as good as the real thing Cornelia can now watch a sunset or a firework display on screen.

The one regret Cornelia has is that she did not get into technology sooner. Now nothing is stopping her and her life is changed for the better.

If ever asked what did you do today at work? I can honestly say I changed a life.

Stephen Collis

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A Marathon Effort By One Of Our Trustees

One of our trustees Andreas Haimboek-Tichy is running  for UCanDoIT in this year’s London Marathon on 26 April 2015.

Andreas marathonHe said ” I am running the London Marathon for the 2nd time. I have chosen to run for UCanDoIT, the brilliant charity which transforms people’s lives by providing one-to-one IT Training to disabled people in their own homes teaching them to access the Internet, email, video conferencing facilities and much more and as a result enabling them to live (more) independent lives, interact with friends and family and/or get back into employment.”

Stephen Fry has a few words of support for Andreas, in this video.

 

Please show your encouragement by making a donation and helping him achieve his target of £2,000.

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UCanDoIT Founder Bids the Charity Goodbye

UCanDoIT founder Anthony Wigram gave up the Chair three years ago although he remained on the board and has now taken the decision that the time has come to resign as a trustee. He remains committed to the ongoing work of the charity and will continue to offer support.

Photograph of Anthony Wigram

Anthony Wigram

He said “I want to thank sincerely all tutors for the magnificent work they have done over the last 16 years. I am of course delighted to have left the charity in such good hands. We all know how passionate and committed Mary Payne (CEO) is and how much she gives to our work. We are also extremely lucky to have Dr Michael Taylor as Chair who is equally passionate and committed and brings a great breadth of knowledge to every aspect of our campaign to bring a new life to the thousands of disabled people who can benefit so much from our help”.

 

 

As the Chair of UCanDoIT Dr Taylor stated “It was the vision of Anthony Wigram to improve the quality of life for disabled people through their safe use of the Internet. He dramatically achieved this goal by founding the charity UCanDoIT. We now want to build on his success by ensuring UCanDoIT continues to expand through active collaboration with other charities and social enterprises.”

Mary Payne CEO of the charity, herself a former learner and tutor, said “We all owe a debt of gratitude to Anthony Wigram for his conviction that people with disabilities would benefit from one-to-one computer and internet tuition and his determination to make this happen. We look forward to carrying his mission forward.”

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Dyslexia Awareness Week

This week (3-9 November 2014) is Dyslexia Awareness Week. Dyslexia is thought to be one of the most common learning difficulties. It’s estimated that up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK has a certain degree of dyslexia.

hand holding a pen and writingDyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling (Rose, 2009). This can impact on literacy development, mathematics, memory, organisation and sequencing skills to varying degrees. Dyslexia can occur at any level of intellectual development. It is neurological in origin and is seen to run in families (Dyslexia Action).

Dyslexia was recognised under the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 and is still specifically mentioned in the more recent Equality Act (2010). This means that educational and workplace settings have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that those affected by dyslexia are not disadvantaged compared to their peers.

Using specialist software such as ClaroRead, Read & Write or Ginger tutors at UCanDoIT often work with learners to help them learn IT skills.  Tasks such as searching on Google, writing emails and posting on social media are made much easier with software that can suggest words and help correct spelling. Having web pages read aloud to the learner and the ability to change background colours help people with dyslexia work with articles on-screen and makes a huge difference.

Further information can be found at British Dyslexia Association or Dyslexia Action

 

 

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Working With Dementia

Today (Sunday 21 September 2014) is World Alzheimer’s Day. Alzheimer’s, often known as dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK and it is predicted that by 2051 there will be two million people living with dementia (figures Alzheimer’s Society).

There are many types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.

image of old woamn looking up towards the cameraAn eight year study of almost 6,500 Britons recently published in the Journals of Gerontology has shown that digital literacy (using email/internet) may help reduce cognitive decline among persons aged between 50 and 89 years. The study showed that people using the internet showed an improvement of 3.07% in delayed recall when compared with those who were non-users.”

Working with our partners Viridian Housing in their elderly care homes we are about to start a phase of training aimed specifically at people with living with dementia. Tutors working with Viridian have attended dementia awareness training with the Alzheimer’s Society to ensure they have knowledge of the symptoms and difficulties they may encounter.

Working with SimplyUnite Gem (software specially designed to enable people, regardless of their age or technical ability, to stay connected with friends and family) we hope to be able to decrease social isolation for these residents, encouraging them to use the internet to keep in contact with family and friends, share or re-discover memories using photographs and websites.

 

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UCanDoIT on YouTube

Have you visited our YouTube page? There are some great videos on there from learners talking about why learning to use a computer has been so important to them.

Visit the UCanDoIT channel here.image of YouTube logo

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