WHO WE ARE
AbilityNet provides free IT support for disabled and older people, helping them to use technology at home so they stay connected and achieve their goals online.
Pat Maskell is a Coordinator for AbilityNet, covering Cumbria, although her impact spans far wider than that. She has been in the role for 7 years giving up her spare time to help older and disabled people in Cumbria (and beyond) be part of the digital world by providing support, advice and training as well as coordinating a small local team of volunteers to do the same. She ‘works’ tirelessly to spread the word across the region, and the UK so she and our team are able to support more clients. Pat has been involved with computers for over 25 years, passionate about the power of tech to transform lives.
WHAT WE DO
A nationwide network of 300+ carefully selected and vetted AbilityNet information technology (IT) volunteers visit clients in their own homes and support them with their technology, whether it’s a laptop, computer, tablet or smartphone. As well as diagnosing and fixing most computer related problems, volunteers help with sending and receiving emails, using the internet, installing new hardware and software and giving impartial advice on equipment and software.
HOW WE HELP
AbilityNet's amazing network of volunteers help older disabled people to use technology to achieve their goals. We can come to you in the comfort of your own home or assist remotely to help you overcome any challenges you are facing in the digital world. For more information about our IT support at home services visit the AbilityNet website.
Watch our video to understand how our volunteers harness the power of technology to change lives. Meet Myles who has put technology solutions in place for Maggie to continue her work as a writer with macular degeneration:
Remote support for older and disabled people: TeamViewer
AbilityNet volunteers continue to support older and disabled people at home using Remote Access Software TeamViewer – without losing the personal touch.
Pat Maskell our County Co-ordinator for Cumbria has embraced the TeamViewer software, which allows her to remotely access a client’s computer in order to work alongside them.
One client reported a sluggish PC, which Pat was sure she could help with “sluggish computers are my forte,” she says. “I suggested using TeamViewer to help him.
Installing TeamViewer software
TeamViewer requires both parties to install the software, and so Pat’s first job was to reassure the client about what she was doing.
“I could hear some concern in his voice and so I was keen to reassure him. I explained what TeamViewer is and that ultimately the power would stay with him – he could cut me off if he wasn’t comfortable with anything I was doing.”
Concerns are valid as many scams do abuse remote access software. AbilityNet volunteers are DBS-checked and won’t install anything without permission.
- For more information see avoid remote access scams
Pat used the remote access to install Malwarebytes (a spyware scanner) onto the client’s computer to look for viruses and other malicious software.
After a 40-minute scan, Malwarebytes revealed a few problems including a software program that had taken over the client’s web browser (Browser hijacker). Together, Pat and her client successfully quarantined the viruses, and the client’s computer is now performing well.
“He said, I can't believe how fast it is. I've since been on to TeamViewer again with him and found that program that was interfering with Google was also stopping some of the windows updates going through, so we have installed those as well,” says Pat.
TeamViewer benefits: a community approach
Pat normally works face-to-face helping people in her community but has found TeamViewer still allows her to connect and keep a community approach.
“There are all sorts of things that are possible with TeamViewer that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do,” she says.
“One minute I can be talking to a client in Devon the next the guy in Hampshire with the sluggish computer and I have also been helping a couple of ladies in London.”
Social connection is as important as the remote access, and Pat, a former sales coordinator, uses the skills she has acquired talking to customers to put AbilityNet clients at their ease. “It is important people are comfortable with me,” she says.
“Eva in London was having trouble with her scanning and her printer and a couple of other things, and I talked her through it. She told her friend Rose all about me [because] Rose wanted to buy a new computer and so Rose got in touch with AbilityNet. So, I'm kind of building up a community now; that's what I'm all about.”
Read how our volunteers have been bringing communities together during Covid-19
TeamViewer also helps Pat empower people to solve their own problems, an essential part of being an AbilityNet volunteer.
“You've got to have the time to be able to do it. AbilityNet volunteers have got the time, whereas call centres might read from a script. My first thing is I talk to the person first, find out what the person knows, what I think they're capable of, and how best I can approach their problem because it's different for everybody.”
“You're talking to them on the telephone and you have got to give that reassurance, as you would when you were sat beside somebody. TeamViewer allows you to show a client how to do it. So it's almost like being there with them.”
Good neighbours refer friends to AbilityNet volunteers
London-based friends Iva Malaggia and Rosaleen Allen have both found support from AbilityNet tech volunteers during the current Covid-19 crisis.
Iva, 85, from Muswell Hill, sought support after she upgraded her laptop from a Windows 7 to a Windows 10 based machine. “Everything seemed to be different,” said Iva. “You can’t get someone in to help you out [because of Covid] and I needed a bit of guidance,” she added.
Searching online, Iva found AbilityNet and how our network of volunteers can provide free technology support. We put her in touch with Pat Maskell, who is county coordinator for Cumbria North.
Read how we’ve been providing Remote Support during the pandemic
Pat supported Iva by phone and helped her to set up her scanner, and to print documents.
“It has made a big difference to me because now I am using the computer much more easily [and] I feel much more confident,” said Iva.
Referring to a friend for help
Later, Iva referred her friend, Rosaleen Allen, 76, to AbilityNet. Rosaleen, lso from Muswell Hill, was looking for support in choosing a new laptop.
“My old laptop got to the point where the battery wasn’t working before lockdown. When it finally died. I knew Iva had had support with her laptop; she’d spoken to this wonderful lady called Pat. I detected such a difference in Iva’s confidence. I tucked it away for future reference,” said Rosaleen.
A recommendation from her friend was one Rosaleen trusted.
“Iva is one of the most intelligent wise people I know, and I really am lucky to have her in my life. I was so impressed with the change with how she spoke about things. She was very enthusiastic. "I thought I need some of that,” she told us.
Pat helped Rosaleen choose a new laptop to suit her needs.
Read how to choose a computer that matches your accessibility need.
“My needs are pretty simple. My main needs are email, some document correspondence. I just like to be able to churn out a letter that people can read [and] shopping online,” Rosaleen said.
HOW YOU CAN HELP?
By donating you can help us to continue to help disabled and older people stay connected in this ever changing digital world.