The Ottawa Independent Living Resource Centre (new window) is a cross disability organization and local resource centre. Several of the participants in the Neil Squire Society’s Distance Computer Comfort Programs are also participants in our employment program, Independent Living Employment Assistance Program iLeap. The following was written by the Ottawa Independent Living Resource Centre.
Computers have become an integral part of everyday life. Thus, computers are no longer a luxury, they are essential. Virtually every single job requires a degree of computer knowledge and skill, even those jobs that traditionally did not involve using a computer. For example, persons who gather up carts in a parking lot have to log their statistics in a computer system.
The Neil Squire Society’s Distance Computer Comfort Program is the only computer training program we have managed to find that is free of charge. This is highly empowering, for a disproportionate number of persons with disabilities fall within the low income bracket. Often those who are on Ontario Disability Support Program (new window) ODAP have the desire to work, but do not have the means to upgrade or develop the necessary skills ( e.g. computer skills), the Distance Computer Comfort Program makes this possible.
We have several computers available to consumers at our centre. Those who do not have a computer at home can use our computer for their Distance Computer Comfort tutoring. The staff at the Neil Squire Society (new window) helped us setup the online classroom. We have a number of consumers who come in to use the computer to work one-on-one with their computer tutor. Our consumers have raved to us about this program. They feel that they are getting the support they need to truly understand how to use a computer. The one-on-one support, customized lessons, and accessibility accommodations have allowed for a much deeper comprehension than a group setting would allow for. Often those who require one-on-one support cannot afford to pay for one-on-one support.
Not only is the Distance Computer Comfort Program financially accessible to our consumers, it goes above and beyond to meet other accessibility needs. Being able to work from home ensures more consistent attendance for those who may be unable to physically access a resource centre ( e.g. lack of accessible transportation, limited service during the winter). Furthermore, the Neil Squire Society even covered the cost of the bus tickets for one of our consumers who faced financial barriers to attending tutoring sessions at our centre.
Even for those who are not employment oriented, the computer (new window) still serves as a powerful and essential tool in daily life. By learning how to access the Internet and use email, people become more connected with their family, friends, support network, and community. Having knowledge of the Internet and email allows one to find and access social services with greater ease and efficiency. For example, being able to access information and forms online allows people to move forward in their lives more swiftly. This is especially pertinent to those who use accessible public transportation. Instead of having to bus around to different agencies and obtain the necessary paperwork in person, they would have the information at their fingertips. Poor weather ( e.g. snow) or financial constraints can often lead to large gaps between visits, and lead to people being unable to access the services they require. Ultimately, computer knowledge allows people to access the services they require in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Although there are many simple and affordable ways to make one’s computer more accessible, often people are unaware of how to go about this, and often will even shy away from computers. However, the Neil Squire staff is very knowledgeable when it comes to assisting an individual in customizing their computer settings. They even provide assistive technology to those who require it. For example, they mailed a trackball mouse (new window) for one of our consumers.
The Distance Computer Comfort Program supports individuals in achieving their self-directed goals, allows for people to connect with and fully participate in their communities, and greatly enhances one’s employability. All in all, this program gives persons with disabilities the tools they need to live independently. This is not charity work, this is empowerment (new window).