About 20 years ago, Doug was just a teenager when an accident left him a C5-6 quadriplegic. Newly injured and with no computer experience, he sought out the Neil Squire Society, where a volunteer tutor taught him basic computer skills.
Armed with these skills, Doug bought his first computer in 1995. He has been using computers heavily ever since.
In 2017, Doug noticed a Neil Squire Society staff member’s social media post seeking volunteers for the Distance Computer Comfort program. The program provides online computer skills tutoring to people with disabilities from the comfort of their home.
At this point, Doug was back in school, halfway through an IT program. He thought back to the volunteer who had helped him learn computer skills over 20 years ago. He says, “A Neil Squire Society volunteer spent a lot of time teaching me the basics. The skills he taught me laid the foundation for all that I’ve accomplished over the past 20+ years. I really felt a need to pay that experience forward.”
And so in November 2017, Doug began to volunteer as a tutor at the Distance Computer Comfort program. “When you’re explaining things to other people, it’s a completely different process,” he explains. “Helping other people would help me learn things in a completely different way.”
Doug has tutored two individuals to date: one in Saskatchewan and another in Alberta. He has volunteered extensively in the past, from teaching individuals to being on some organizations’ Board of Directors.
Distance Computer Comfort classes were two hours a week, and Doug realized the clients frequently didn’t remember their lessons from the previous week. To keep their skills sharp, he started giving them light homework and reviewing the previous class at the beginning of each session. This also helped him model his instruction to the clients’ needs.
Doug recalls a particularly memorable moment: “I was teaching someone how to use Excel (new window). He had previously used the software, but he was entering data manually. When I showed him that he could automate the process, or that Excel could predict what you were typing and the results that you would get, it was just a huge aha moment. You could tell that he was super happy about learning this, and he was also disappointed that he had wasted so much time entering data in the past. I was like, yes, I’ve taught something that’s useful!”
Applying His Skills
Along with volunteering, Doug recently established his own web design and e-commerce firm. While he was in his IT program, he had built an e-commerce store for a company based out of Winnipeg. It was the perfect practical application of the skills he had learned in school, along with being fun. That is how The Wheel Life Consulting and Design (new window) was born.
Although his new company is a big part of his life now, Doug continues to take the time to volunteer. He shares his knowledge along with learning something new every week. “The biggest thing is that everyone learns differently. It’s a lesson I’ve learned lots of times in the past, but this one put a whole new twist on it – not just adapting but learning the disability at the same time. That really was an eye-opener for me.”
“I’ve enjoyed it,” he continues. “It’s fun working with people and I really enjoy those aha moments where they finally get something and it clicks. You know that they’re never going to forget it.”