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IT skills training for the disabled can help plug skills gap


The Guardian today reports on two initiatives designed to enable disabled people to develop IT skills.

AbilityNet has a network of centres around the country offering advice on the use of computers by those with disabilities, and offers guidance on alternatives to the standard PC set-up.
The charity provides adapted computer equipment with full training and technical support, a programme of awareness education, and consultancy for employers on system and workstation adaptations.

With Repetitive Strain Injury of increasing concern, the alternatives to the standard keyboard and mouse arrangement can be of help not just to those with upper-body disabilities. AbilityNet works to make people aware of the underlying reasons for RSI and helps employers to prevent and manage the condition.

In 1999 AbilityNet’s staff saw 1,600 disabled adults and children for individual assessments, training and technical support visits. Short assessments are available with a consultant free of charge. This service is also available from the regional and national centres - for further information visit

Workability, part of the Leonard Cheshire foundation, is another scheme helping disabled people to learn computer skills and gain employment. They are appealing to companies to donate their old Pentium PCs - Microsoft have already donated software for the machines, but Workability are always in need of more computers for their programme, which is accessed though a virtual college. The programme enables disabled people to enhance their IT skills and qualifications from a distance, thus avoiding any problems linked to restricted mobility, and works alongside a 'buddy system'.

The initiative is on target to achieve its goal of 10,000 disabled people accessing the course. Workability say that businesses who donate their machines will benefit by having access to a newly-trained workforce in areas where there is currently a skills shortage.

Businesses who would like to help Workability should contact the Workability Team on 020 7802 8200.


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