10th January 2020 by Catia Neves

What was the challenge?

A high number of people accessing services from Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, have learning differences and mental health issues, that often are not recognised or diagnosed. As a large amount of the job search process happens either online or from a computer, as well as needing to write CVs and cover letters, it is important that people have the best strategies and tools to improve employability and housing success levels.

Nahid Behzadi, Curriculum Coordinator at Crisis has worked with D&A since the partnership started in 2014. She said: “The need for Assistive Technology support was massive. We had lots of members with specific learning differences (SpLD) and learning to read and write was proving a real challenge. However, through introducing Assistive Technology we were able to share viable strategies with our members to support them with this and was definitely the way forward for a lot of people we support.”

What did we do?

Without in-house knowledge about Assistive Technology (AT), Crisis approached D&A in 2014 to create a series of digital inclusion training workshops, for people impacted by homelessness and neurodiversity.

Since then, we have delivered a series of group and one-to-one sessions for members to develop core skills and digital literacy, with the aim to overcome daily barriers that affect their ability to participate fully in society. Group workshops are structured around core strategy areas, with training delivered on relevant technologies. While one-to-one sessions allow for really tailored support around a person’s specific needs, such as mental health, reading and writing.

The technology we suggest is selected for accessibility and flexibility purposes, using tools that are free and available across various different platforms, devices and on the cloud. This means participants can access them anywhere, whether they have their own device or not.

What were the benefits of our approach?

Many of the course participants have learning differences which are often undiagnosed, so we focus on tailored training and technology to support participants to develop strategies so they can more effectively pursue housing and employment opportunities.

Nahid said, “D&A has been absolutely excellent; they are compassionate and knowledgeable trainers. Their support has been extremely valuable for us. I haven’t come across other organisations who are as knowledgeable about AT and they are the only organisation I know where their ethos is so close to ours. The compassion they show towards members is so beautiful. They go above and beyond and are incredible at establishing relationships with the members and putting them at ease, which then helps them to learn effectively.

“The benefit is that they are providing people with skills that lead them to independence through reading letters and so on. The sessions are always tailor-made, so if a member wants to cover something in particular, the trainer will be flexible and adapt the training rather than just following a set curriculum, which works brilliantly.

“The partnership has been brilliant and we hope the support will continue and grow in future.”

Participant feedback from training sessions:

Daniel said: “Now when I get a letter I type it up and use “MyStudyBar “to read it out loud to me. Before I had to ask for help or give it to a friend whose reading was better than me’.

Blanca said: “I’m more organised now [using Google Planner] and I know what to do when I can’t read a word.”

Amber said: “I loved my session with Tim Blunt very much. It gave me hope that I can turnaround my workplace failures and shortcomings in bright success finally with a little help of AT. Thank you so much for providing us this opportunity. I really hope I can take a few more sessions to overcome any difficulties arise…”

Sharon said: “It is hard to find someone who fits with how you work, I was so happy on the first meeting that I will attend all training sessions where possible. Honestly, amazing session, such good teaching. I learnt so much and really enjoyed the session. Thank you very much. I couldn’t be happier.”

Esther said: “I am generally nervous about meeting strangers but they made me feel welcome. They listened to what I needed and boosted my confidence so much. They were very selfless, staying longer than they were supposed to. I’m so happy I took this training and look forward to more.”

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