A locally based non-profit organization is asking folks to dig into their pockets to help with a computer tutoring program for people with disabilities. Burnaby's Neil Squire Society has launched a campaign to raise money for Distance Computer Comfort, a program that provides free computer tutoring to people with disabilities all over Canada.
Participants visit online classrooms to learn basic computer skills with a tutor who helps the students achieve their learning goals.
Chad Leaman, the society's director of development, said they received federal government funding for a pilot program only.
"But that government office does not offer any program funding - it is up to us to keep it going," he said. "Computer skills are considered education and training, which are provincial jurisdiction. Herein lies the irony, we have a program that can reach anyone in Canada, but we'd have to go to each province for funding. We are working on funding within B.C., but we have to raise 25 per cent of the necessary funds - hence this campaign."
If the program were to shut down, the Neil Squire Society would no longer be able to provide computer skills development for people with disabilities across Canada, he added.
"This program has provided people with skills to close the digital divide. Many of these participants are using Google, email, Word, (and) Excel for the first time. This program enables people with disabilities to participate in our digital society," Leaman said.
Almost all of the program's volunteers are from Burnaby and many of them are students, Leaman added.
"When they both are in class, the volunteer can see the participant's screen, and hear them through computer headphones and microphone. From there, it's just like sitting beside someone at a computer - you can show them things, surf the web together, assist in writing and receiving emails, make posters, budgets etc. The learning goals are set by the participant," he explained.
In an attempt to save the program, the society has launched a campaign, where people can sponsor a copy of Windows 7 and Office 2007 for $12.
"We are hoping to raise $25,000 to keep staff associated to this program, as once again another key program is without government funding," Leaman said.
To get involved, go to www.indiegogo.com/neilsquire.