Help with your tech - an AbilityNet volunteer offers advice

When an AbilityNet volunteer arrives in your home to help you with your technology you can rest assured they will have extensive know-how. Many come from significant careers in the Information Technology (IT) sector, and bring with them years of experience, as is the case with Myles Pilling.

Our volunteers help older people and disabled people to use technology to achieve their goals at home, at work, in education and online. They do this by assisting people remotely or visiting them in the comfort of their own homes to provide in-person support. Speaking about his experience Myles said: "In volunteering for AbilityNet I have found myself helping mainly older people including those with Macular Degeneration, Parkinson's and stroke survivors. I have helped people who require assistance with developing their access or finding a solution to their problems. Usually it's a case of finding a technological solution that suits their own preferences."

Meet our volunteer Myles

A photo of volunteer Myles, smiling facing the cameraBefore becoming a volunteer for AbilityNet Myles was a special schools teacher for 30 years, then an IT SEN (Special Educational Needs) Adviser for 10 years providing IT hardware and software for pupils with special needs and complex needs. For the last six years he has been running his own business AccessAbility Solutions, has been a County Co-ordinator for AbilityNet's network of volunteers in Wiltshire and Myles is also a Co-director of the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA).

Coming from an IT background many of our volunteers are experts with technology, but they also often learn new things as part of the experience of volunteering. We asked Myles to tell us about some of the technology he enjoys using and has seen change people's lives:

An Amazon Echo Dot, black on a white backgroundAbout smart speakers

"I'm particularly enjoying using smart speakers at the moment. The Echo Dot and Google Mini Home are both affordable and useful, particularly for the visually impaired. The Echo Dot can provide music and books to listen to and with the right setup you can also control your heating and TV with your voice. The Google Home with a Chromecast device attached to your TV makes using Netflix, which has 150 films with audio description, very easy to access."

About virtual assistants

"I'm very impressed by what virtual assistants can now do! Composing an email through your smart phone and using the Google Assistant app it gives instructions throughout the process. Siri, a virtual assistant that is part of Apple's operating system, allows you to perform tasks on your phone, ask questions and get recommendations using your voice. For those with little or no hand function it is essential to be able to control your technology with your voice."

About Orcam MyEye

A man wearing te Orcam MyEye device which clips onto a standard pair of glasses and can recognises every day products "The Orcam MyEye is a very clever device. Maggie, somebody I've helped as a volunteer, says it's the single most useful device she uses as she needs to read the written research she has published during her career. Maggie also says she would not have known about it had an AbilityNet volunteer not told her about it. It is not a cheap solution I'm afraid, but it's worth the money if it allows you to take control back in your life and regain independence."

We recently caught up with Myles and Maggie to find out more about her experience and the support she has received from Myles - watch the video below:

Simple solutions are sometimes better

Myles is a big fan of technology as you can tell, but he recognises simple solutions are sometimes better: "One moment I found especially memorable is when I sourced a three button phone for a blind lady so that she could continue to use the phone she was used to. It is so important to meet the person's preferences, even if it means not using the latest technology. In this case the latest technology would not have helped her and would have made her life more complicated. Having more functions to a phone doesn't make it more functional for some people I have found."

Request help with your technology 

Myles is part of a network of 300+ AbilityNet volunteers that support people across the UK. "It's a pleasure and a privilege to be able to be an AbilityNet volunteer. Such a vital role we play. Not only in making the technology work, but to make it work in a way that the person we're helping wants it to. The human connection we offer is so valued as we understand the needs of the user and find the most appropriate way of solving problems."

If you’d like to use your IT skills to support people you can enquire on our website about becoming an AbilityNet ITCanHelp Volunteer in your local area.

If you or someone you know could benefit from free IT support at home you can request a home visit on our website, call our helpline on 0800 269 545 or email us at enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk.

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