Neil Squire has been at the forefront of virtual programming for nearly 20 years. We saw the need for this type of service early on as a means to serve people located in remote communities across Canada who otherwise would be beyond our reach. Many of our participants also faced barriers around transportation and attendant care related to their disabilities that made it nearly impossible for them to attend a classroom session on a regular basis.
In 2002, we began using a variety of technologies including video and audio conferencing, application sharing, internet-based lessons, as well as chat and messaging. We used NetMeeting (opens in a new window), an application that came with Windows 95, the equivalent to Zoom (opens in a new window) today. We also used several VNC-based software applications to connect to people’s desktop computers. These were the equivalent of TeamViewer (opens in a new window).
In a few years, we had implemented Moodle (opens in a new window) and Elluminate (opens in a new window) for distance learning. This allowed us to expand our reach considerably and help people beyond our physical offices.
Moodle served as our learning management system for job seekers with disabilities to access our resources remotely. This included videos, presentations, texts, online assignments, and more. We also had resources for people who wanted to upgrade their computer skills. We continue to use Moodle today.
Accessibility has always been at the forefront of our minds. We built a screen reader for our Moodle platform for anyone who needed it. In addition, we ensured audio and video would be captioned and transcribed using speech recognition technology.
In 2010 we launched our Distance Computer Comfort Program, so that participants could develop their computer skills from the comfort of their own home while working with a volunteer tutor or staff member one-on-one. We initially used Elluminate, a web conferencing program. As time and technology have progressed, we have adapted our platforms and knowledge too. To this day, Distance Computer Comfort connects volunteers and people with disabilities in real-time, from across Canada.
Ten years ago the technology we were using was so leading edge, it had us presenting at conferences all over North America.
Now, almost 20 years after we first began offering virtual programming, we find ourselves in the midst of COVID-19, and yet we are able to run all of our programs virtually with no stoppage of service to clients. Whether you’re looking for a job, require employment related disability supports to continue working successfully, or want to learn how to connect with others through email or social media, you’re in good hands with Neil Squire.
Read some of our distance programming successes from over the years here: https://www.neilsquire.ca/tag/distance-computer-comfort/