AbilityNet volunteer Shaun Bentley helps others despite his own arthritis pain

AbilityNet volunteer Shaun Bentley wearing a cap and smilingShaun Bentley began volunteering for AbilityNet after a life-changing motorbike accident led to a rare infection, and a diagnosis of osteomyelitis and arthritis.

In October 2014, Shaun was knocked off his motorbike and was airlifted to hospital in Nottingham after medics feared he’d severed his ankle. Clinicians saved Shaun’s ankle, but he contracted osteomyelitis – a rare but serious bone condition – and later osteoarthritis. There remains a real risk that part of the limb may have to be amputated. In total he’s had 15 operations and is currently unable to continue his career working as an IT consultant.

Volunteering for AbilityNet gives me a sense of meaning

Shaun, from Lincolnshire, says volunteering for AbilityNet “gives me a reason to get up for.” He says, “Before I found AbilityNet, the days were beginning to mix together. I was playing a lot of computer games and needed a reason to get out of the house.”

“My own disability means I know what others are going through, and from working as an IT consultant I know how frustrating it can be when technology doesn’t work.” He brings with him 25 years’ experience in technology including working for management consultancies using technology to help streamline business processes, businesses offering solutions for monitoring noise, dust and vibration and included a stint working with gold mines.

A self-professed “geek” Shaun has also worked for the Royal Air Force as a radio and communications technician. However, he mostly provided support for others from the UK in a role that included repairing radar, communications and IT systems towards the end of his service.

Supporting others can be challenging

Despite his experience Shaun recalls his first call for AbilityNet as “challenging”. “My client was blind, and I’d never encountered anyone using a screen reader before,” he says.

The client had recently bought a new computer from a local firm but was struggling to get set up. “Some of the solutions were simple,” says Shaun. “I spent some time with them finding out how they normally do things and putting their desktop icons in the place where they had previously been.”

“Computers are a life-line, and for most of us we don’t think about how we use them. For disabled people it’s especially important as a means of connecting with family or doing their shopping if they’re unable to get out of the house.”

Asked what he’s say to others thinking of volunteering Shaun says “join and give what you can. Even a couple of hours can make a massive difference.”

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