Four Liverpool-based charities have opened a centre providing computer services for disabled and visually impaired people.
The IT Gateway Centre is a purpose-built facility offering IT services and training. The centre will be jointly run by the RNIB, online charity AbilityNet, Liverpool Community College and Glaxo Neurological Centre.
Initial funding for the scheme came through a £850,000 grant from the Department for Education and Skills to build a UK Online Centre in the building. Staff from the Liverpool Community College will man the centre, and Microsoft and IBM have donated equipment.
The New Opportunities Fund awarded a further £300,000 to cover running costs for the next three years. The centre hopes to attract sponsorship from private-and public-sector organisations to bring in further revenue.
The idea for the centre was developed after the Glaxo Neurological Centre found it had no room to expand its existing IT services to cater for the whole of the local community. The four charities partnered to lobby for government funding to ensure that Liverpool's disabled and partially sighted residents could acquire IT skills in a supportive atmosphere.
Additional revenue will be generated by the RNIB, which is using the centre as its North-West headquarters and will rent out space on the first and second floors. The charity will also provide help to blind and partially sighted visitors to the centre.
AbilityNet will run its regional operations from the centre and will work to provide training and support for the various Gateway programmes.
The centre will offer conference and meeting rooms and IT facilities for local small businesses.