Sunday, 13 September 2009

The ITCH Network - Free Local Computer Assistance for Disabled People


Over the last year or so, I've been trying to help out on a couple of web forums that deal with broadband problems. It's fascinating stuff and a real challenge to find a way to fix a problem without having direct access to the computer or router involved. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't, but no two problems are ever quite the same.

During the course of this, I came across a subset of problems that were harder to deal with than most and these came from people who had disabilities of various sorts. Quite often, the solution to their problem was quite straightforward and would have taken minutes to fix, but they could not physically do what was needed - for instance, crawling under a desk to open up a phone socket. Sometimes, the needs were much more specialized. In both types of case, it was frustrating not to know where to point people for additional help.

Searching the internet for solutions, I came across IT Can Help - the ITCH Network.

ITCH was founded in 1994 by the late Ken Stoner, a Motor Neurone Disease sufferer, who realised the important role computers and communication devices can play in the lives of disabled people, and their needs when it comes to getting such sytems running and keeping them running. ITCH is a network of volunteers who provide FREE computer support to disabled people in their own homes and in other locations such as day centres and residential homes.

The ITCH network is a programme of the British Computer Society (BCS) - the industry body for IT professionals. The BCS has had an involvement in the voluntary disability sector for more than 25 years, focusing on how computer technology can assist disabled people.

So what can ITCH offer?

- Provide impartial advice on computer hardware and software;
- Install new equipment and software;
- Help in getting connected to the internet and using email;
- Help in getting started with standard software packages (eg word processing);
- Solving technical problems that may arise;
- Giving advice and assistance with hardware and software upgrades;
- Helping people get the best from their computers and software.

ITCH works in partnership with AbilityNet, the UK's leading provider of expertise on computing for people with any type of disability.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

If so, you can contact the IT Can Help Client Helpline via the AbilityNet Freephone (and textphone): 0800 269545

or by email: enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk

Ask for help from an IT Can Help volunteer

CAN YOU HELP ITCH?

Of course, activities like ITCH are totally reliant on volunteers. If you want to learn more about ITCH, or think you have the skills to become a volunteer (and no, you don't need to be a complete computer nerd to help!), then you can visit the ITCH website

You can email ITCH at: info@itcanhelp.org.uk

Telephone ITCH at: 01793 417723

or, you can even contact them by snail-mail at:

IT Can Help (BCS),
Member Groups,
First Floor,
Block D,
North Star House,
North Star Avenue,
Swindon
SN2 1FA

No comments:

Having had some major problems with my own broadband service, I understand how others struggle to get help from BT.

There is a lot of good information out there, but it can be hard to find. So this blog is an attempt to pull some of it together, in one place.

It's a blog that really shouldn't be needed - if only BT and possibly other ISP's in the UK, provided useful customer support.