Thank you to volunteers: 25 years helping those in need

Did you know, three of our AbilityNet tech volunteers have actually been helping disabled and older people with their tech before AbilityNet even began?

As part of our 25th birthday celebrations this year, here we highlight those amazing folk who have already marked 25 years as tech volunteers!

How AbilityNet got startedPerson lights candles with 25 on them

AbilityNet was founded in 1998, formed from the merger of two organisations: the Computability Centre, established at IBM Warwick in 1987, and the Foundation for Communication for the Disabled, founded in 1985.

It was from the roots of these organisations that our three intrepid volunteers sprung forth.

Simon Flower, based in Scotland; David Brew, our Northern Ireland volunteer coordinator; and Richard Hicks, based in Worcestershire, have all been tech volunteers for an amazing 29 years!

Meet long-serving AbilityNet volunteers

Simon FSimon Flower, smiling, holding his certificatelower, from West Lothian (pictured, holding his long-service award from AbilityNet), is one of our 300+ volunteers who support disabled and older people at home, and remotely, to make the most of their technology. 

He reflects on his 25 years helping older people and disabled adults:

"When I started volunteering, IT Can Help was part of the British Computer Society, which was my introduction to AbilityNet. I've been a bit 'semi-detached' over the years, going long periods without seeing clients, but I remain committed to the ideals of the organisation - that being able to access computer resources becomes ever more important to daily life and that those who are disenfranchised from that access are at a huge disadvantage," says Simon.

"IT Can Help is about trying to improve access to what is a critical resource for vulnerable people. This was brought home to me when helping a regular client with the mundane problems of connecting to the internet. As this client is housebound, but also fiercely independent, the internet provides their sole access to much of life's essentials (contact with providers of housing, utility services, the medical profession, supplies of food, ...) as well as a significant proportion of social activity,"  Simon continues.

"It's a lifeline for this client, as for many, which the volunteers in IT Can Help keep working when there are problems. Of course this is only one part of what we do, but it's the part that helped me to become aware of the importance of the service we offer," says Simon.

David Brew smiling at cameraTech changes over time

David Brew (pictured), a volunteer in Northern Ireland reflects on his involvement in helping people with tech for the past quarter of a century:

"During the last 25 years the young have become mesmerised by technology as the old struggle and are baffled," says David.  

"The technology facilitated the enhancement of the lives of disabled people while, for commercial reasons, eviscerated the local community services relied on by the elderly. Throughout this time AbilityNet have supported us volunteers throughout the UK, to make the technology accessible to the elderly, and guide disabled people when help is needed," David continues. 

Thanks to David, Simon and Richard for all your hard work helping AbilityNet clients for the past 25 years!

How do AbilityNet volunteers make a difference to people's lives?

AbilityNet is so proud of its incredible volunteers and the impact their work has on improving the lives of so many disabled and older people around the country.

Here are some of our recent comments from people who have been helped by our volunteers:

  • "Eva was great. She patiently listened to our I.T. issues (as she was being bombarded with several at the same time!) and helped solve them quickly and efficiently, and gave us helpful advice on solving more long-term issues. Thanks to you all at AbilityNet for helping reduce our stress levels!"
  • "I believe you are providing a much-needed service for the visually impaired or disabled individual. It helps us to keep in touch with others, making better use of computer/iPhone. Many thanks to Steve who visited today and updated the layout on my computer, improving accessibility." 
  • "Katherine was very pleasant and most helpful in resulting in having my first Zoom meeting with rare dementia support this week, and hopefully I will remember what I need to do for the next meeting."
  • "Michael was an excellent caring person who understood and helped me understand the setting of my video doorbell because I'm fearful of answering the door without knowing who it is. Unutterably fantastic service, I thank providers for the help."
Do you have skills that could help older and disabled people with tech?

About the volunteering experience

Younger woman shows older woman something on a phone, on a park benchWriting in a previous blog on the AbilityNet website, Chris Grant, a former volunteer and now member of staff reflected on his time volunteering with AbilityNet:

"I'd strongly recommend to anyone to volunteer for AbilityNet. The organisation treats everyone as one big family," Chris says. "We can go to each other; there are forums and WhatsApp groups, and you become friends, and it is good to see that. This is the best organisation I have volunteered for because everyone is treated the same and opinions are heard."

Meet some more of our long-service volunteers

How AbilityNet can help

  • Do you know someone who needs help with tech? Refer a friend for help from one of our 300+ volunteers.
  • Call our FREE helpline on 0800 048 7642 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
  • You can download FREE factsheets for advice on how to adapt your technology
  • For a database of tips on adapting your tech, visit My Computer My Way
  • Watch recordings of our FREE webinars at, and sign up for future events