Coronavirus and business as usual (almost)

Profile photo of Gary Moore, AbilityNet CEO, smiling facing the cameraA message from Gary Moore, CEO of AbilityNet

With so much uncertainty at work, at home and in education, I would like to reassure you that AbilityNet is doing all it can to keep its services open for our many different customers.

Like many organisations all of AbilityNet's staff and volunteers are now working from home. The good news is that many of them were already home-based. We are very experienced at delivering our services remotely and accessibly, and our infrastructure is designed to support distributed working and collaboration.

I have laid out more details below, but to a very large extent we can confidently maintain business as usual.

You may know that we deliver a number of services from a variety of locations across the UK, for a huge range of individuals and organisations:

  • Our staff and volunteers provide face-to-face, telephone and remote IT support to disabled and older people in their homes
  • Our assessors provide face-to-face and online assessments to students and employees
  • Our consultants deliver accessibility consultancy and testing services to some of the largest brands in the world, sometimes from their offices, but usually delivered remotely
  • We run online and face-to-face events including free webinars, the Tech4Good Awards, TechShare Pro and an annual IT Volunteers conference
  • Our website offers free resources and expert information about disability, technology and accessibility

There's a more detailed round up for each service below, but what they have in common is that we have always put accessibility and the needs of our clients at the heart of our work, and are used to working remotely.

As well as the hard work and commitment of our staff and volunteers we rely on accessible tools which help us collaborate and connect.

At the heart of our day-to-day working toolkit is Office 365, with its many accessibility and sharing features, using Teams for internal communications and Sharepoint for sharing documents. We use the highly-accessible Zoom for our paid-for and free webinars and use tools such as Confluence for internal knowledge-sharing and PeakOn for employee support.

We also make sure we consider any reasonable adjustments our staff need to work comfortably at home, and our IT team ensures that all our systems are secure and efficient.

I hope this is of interest and reassures you that we are ready and able to help you with your projects and challenges in the weeks and months ahead.

Wishing you all the best in these difficult times.

Gary Moore

CEO, AbilityNet


AbilityNet Services Update

Given such a wide customer base we thought it helpful to summarise the current position for our each of our services.

Digital Accessibility Services

  • Most of our work is conducted remotely by a team that is experienced in working from home or other locations beyond our offices.
  • This includes accessibility testing and audits, consultancy and expert support on projects.
  • We use online meetings in Teams and Zoom to share findings, deliver free webinars and provide training - all of which have relevant accessibility features.
  • Some clients do ask us to work on-site, often for security reasons. We know this could be an issue if offices are forced to close but we are confident we can find ways to support them as they grapple with the challenges ahead.
  • In particular we can help you support any staff who need to make adjustments or deal with accessibility issues.
  • Please do get in touch if you have any questions about our accessibility services.   

Student DSA Assessments

  • We deliver face-to-face assessments in 11 centres across the UK to anyone who is eligible for Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs).
  • Many students are concerned about attending face-to-face sessions which is why we also have a highly effective remote service. This optional feature of the DSA service has been approved in current circumstances by the Student Loans Company.
  • Our assessors are able to provide confidential video-based services even when working outside our office locations.
  • You can request a remote assessment when booking a DSA assessment.      

HE Services

Workplace Assessments

  • The organisations we support with already use face-to-face and remote options to enable our staff to support their employees.
  • Many of our assessors are able to provide confidential video-based services when not in our office locations and which can be accessed from behind most firewalls.
  • You can request a remote service when booking a workplace assessment.

IT Support At Home/Home Visits

  • Given the vulnerable nature of the clients we work with we have taken the difficult decision to suspend home visits by our volunteers.
  • Technology will become even more vital if older and disabled people are to be asked to quarantine themselves. We can and do deliver free support remotely but we know that may people will not feel confident about that.
  • We are working closely with our volunteer network and charity partners to make sure they are in touch with the people they support and, wherever possible, we are helping people to access remote support.
  • Please contact our helpline on 0800 269545 or get in touch on our Facebook page if you have any questions.

Events

  • We continue to run a programme of free webinars - the next one is on 31 March Technology Help for Stroke Survivors and their Carers.
  • The launch of this year's AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards on 1 May will now be online only. Face-to-face events planned for July and September continue to be planned but will of course be kept under review.
  • The IT Volunteer Conference we planned to run with RNIB in June has been cancelled and we are instead looking to run a series of webinars and online activities during Volunteers Week to inform, engage and celebrate technology and volunteering.
  • TechShare Pro, 16/17/18 November, London - we’re working closely with the main sponsor Microsoft and the Olympic Park venue, Plexal, to manage the planning process.

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