On 14 January 2015 at Rushden Masonic Hall, national charity Deafblind UK received £25,000 from RWBro Max Bayes PGM on behalf of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to fund the vital work of our Digital Inclusion Project. This exciting project supports people who have combined sight AND hearing loss, enabling them to access mainstream devices such as tablets, the internet and Braille technology.

RWBro Max Bayes, Provincial Grand Master presents the £25,000 cheque to Andy Shipp, DeafBlind UK Digital Inclusion volunteer - accompanied by Jeff Skipp, Chief Executive, Monica Evans, Senior Institutional Fundraiser & WBro Gerry Crawford, Provincial Grand Charity Steward

Deafblind UK’s Chief Executive, Jeff Skipp says

I would like to extend our sincere thanks to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for this generous support of our Digital Inclusion Project. This funding is supporting us to help deafblind people access the world around them. They are exploring the ways technology can help them and the outcome is making them feel less isolated, more independent and better connected to others. Vital parts of life that many of us take for granted.

Max Bayes, Provincial Grand Master for Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire said

I am so pleased that Freemasons have been able to support such an important project. The Digital Inclusion Officer will help a great many Deafblind individuals to connect with others, enabling them to better communicate and be part of the community.

The Government is moving forward with its policy agenda ‘digital by default’. This means that in the future people will claim benefits, receive information about public services and access advice through the internet. With this funding, we are able to support individuals who need access to public services the most, enabling them to enjoy the same ease of access as everyone else.

There have also been many developments in affordable and accessible technology in recent years; many devices now have features that can enable people to find information, express their views and develop social connections. It has become much easier for people to do activities such as using Skype, doing their online banking and reading information online. With the support of our Digital Inclusion Officer, we can help deafblind people to unlock these features and work with them to find technology that best fits their needs.

Doreen is deafblind, in her case; this means she is deaf with deteriorating sight loss. Her first language is British Sign Language and she also uses Deafblind Manual Alphabet (tactile communication). Doreen has benefitted from the expertise of our Digital Inclusion Officer and is now inseparable from her iPad! Our Officer simplified how to navigate Doreen’s iPad so that she only sees (from a few centimetres from her nose!) what she is able to use. Dorreen is now able to record and share special images or video she has recorded on her iPad, and for the first time in 20 years, she has been able to make her own travel arrangements. Dorreen is also able to talk to her friends independently, without the need for an interpreter, as she has mastered the use of social media!