Big Lottery Fund awards £5.8m to give blind people IT skills

Big Lottery Fund awards Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) £5.8m to teach online skills to people with impaired sight and hearing

The Big Lottery Fund has given £5.8m to provide basic online skills and technology training to people in the UK with sight or hearing impairments.

The fund has been awarded to Royal National Institute for Blind People's (RNIB) Online Today project, which will work with 37 partners in 195 locations across the UK to tackle the skills gap.

The Big Lottery fund is awarding £15m to support digital inclusion, with the RNIB’s fund being the first charity to receive a grant.

The fund is part of the Basic Online Skills programme developed in partnership with charity Go On UK.

RNIB aims to use the fund to raise awareness of equipment and programmes available to make technology accessible to people with sight or hearing loss. This support will be offered through existing networks, surgeries and an advice line.

Existing RNIB volunteers will be trained as a "technology support squad" and beneficiaries will act as "digital champions" sharing skills through peer networks.

RNIB estimate that the Online Today project will enable 125,000 with sensory loss to develop skills and confidence in technology.

Big Lottery Fund chief executive, Dawn Austwick, said: “Being confident online can bring opportunities and make life easier for people, particularly those that have an added barrier such as sensory loss.

“This is why it is important that the Online Today project will offer a tailored approach according to people’s needs including one-to-one advice and the use of mobile resources and home visits to accommodate those who are homebound or in rural areas.”

The project will run for three years with training for online systems for government support, help with day-to-day tasks, such as shopping and paying bills; and those of working age will have access to IT skills to help them gain employment.

It will be delivered through a variety of sources including 40 Switch On events, surgeries and 893 annual training sessions and home visits.

RNIB's CEO, Lesley-Anne Alexander, said: "We are delighted to have secured this grant from the Big Lottery Fund for our Online Today project, which will make a huge difference to so many people throughout the UK.

“The internet and new technology is an increasingly important part of modern life and, for people who have sight or hearing loss, being able to get online confidently can make a real difference to living independently and as part of an inclusive community. We're looking forward to working with our partners to deliver this exciting project."

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