How digital support skills training made an impact with Red Chair Highland clients

In 2022, AbilityNet was able to distribute 300 Lenovo digital devices to clients or volunteers at eligible organisations as part of the AbilityNet 'ConnectingU' digital device programme 

Red Chair Highland logo includes illustration of a red chair in a circleDevices were provided to older and disabled people supported by community organisations around the UK, with the goal of breaking down the digital divide, particularly with those who are disproportionately excluded from the digital world

Free training and advice for using the devices was provided to participants by volunteers who are part of AbilityNet's free Tech Support services

Here, we chat with Kirsty Adam from Inverness-based social enterprise, Red Chair Highland (formerly known as Libertie), one of the organisations who took part in the device scheme:

Can you describe the impact the devices have had on the people they have been distributed to by your organisation?

The Connecting U devices distributed to people had an immediate impact on them. These are people who were digitally excluded, that is without a digital device or the means to purchase a device. By providing a device and connectivity the recipients were able to be immediately connected with the digital world and could reliably make contact with vital support agencies, family and friends.

With support, clients were able to learn how to manage their digital life tasks - such as making appointments, managing benefit claims and housing applications, and accessing employability services. Having the means to safely access the digital world has meant that they are now journeying towards more positive, successful outcomes.

What types of tasks have been undertaken with the devices since receiving them and the Tech help from AbilityNet volunteers?

'Join us online' displayed on laptop screen on deskRecipients used the devices in a variety of ways:

  • Maintaining important contact with support workers and agencies
  • Completing and managing benefit claims
  • Keeping work journals up to date
  • Accessing health and wellbeing services and apps
  • Setting up email for the first time
  • Job searching
  • Studying
  • Energy account management
  • Entertainment
  • Keeping in touch with family and friends

How have the people using the devices been empowered by the access to the devices?

Having their own device and reliable connectivity has hugely empowered the recipients, making a real positive difference to their lives and future pathways.

Recipients report improved confidence and better mental health and wellbeing. Recipients have found that they benefit from enhanced autonomy and improved self-efficacy in terms of being more in control of their life choices.

“I have been able to attend Near Me appointments and take part in online counselling services. I am hopeful to do some College Courses on it. It has been really beneficial as I wouldn't have been able to afford one myself,” - comment from one of Red Chair Highland's clients about using the device, supported by ConnectingU

Are there any other barriers you perceive are stopping the individuals Red Chair Highland has helped from using tech?

Two women using computer in home office settingWe have consistently found that just providing a device doesn't always help the digitally excluded person to become included. The device itself is not a magic bullet.

The recipient often needs support to overcome the micro-barriers which are preventing them from accessing the digital world. These micro barriers often include fear and a lack of confidence and basic digital skills.

In older people there is a common belief that it's just not for them. We have found that in-person and remote support can make a massive difference to people who have a self confessed phobia of digital. Letting them know that there are no silly questions and that many people have similar fears and concerns can really help them to feel more confident about learning how to access the digital world.

Specific device support is also essential for those who have not used one before. Walking them through the set-up and basic features can really help make the scary digital thing become more familiar and accessible.

Do you have anything else to share about your tech goals for the future with your organisation?

Ensuring that any future devices distributed are 4G-enabled will make connectivity much simpler and more accessible for recipients.

Many older people and disabled people experience difficulties with their technology, and can’t find the support they need.  Our amazing volunteers provide one-to-one technology support remotely and through home visits. Get involved today - apply to become a volunteer.

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