Helen Docker operating a bandsaw

Helen Docker has a keen interest in gardening.

Constantly looking for ways to improve her garden, she became frustrated with herself for not being able to build the garden structures, such as planters and raised beds, that she wanted to implement, so she decided to enrol at the college to study Level 1 Carpentry and Joinery.

However, there was a catch, Helen has disabilities, one of which impacts her mobility.

“I was nervous when I initially started due to my mobility limitations and the need to use a wheelchair.

“People aren’t as aware of you when you’re in a wheelchair, so the apprehension came from asking - how am I going to navigate that environment?”

Her teacher, Richard Weaver, worked closely with Helen to discuss her needs and make adaptations to the workshop.

“We personalised a number of resources for Helen so that she could use them fluidly.”

This included a lowered work bench, a perching stool for machining use, a mirror on the machines to aid vision, and the use of a camera and TV in the workshop to aid in the observation of Richard’s joint and construction demonstrations.

“Best of all is the camera technology, which is amazing,” Helen commented, “it enables me to see the demonstrations as clearly as if I was looking right over it myself.”

Due to being able to set up and use the machinery independently, Helen has made excellent progress, surprising herself with how quickly she was able to master the techniques, so much so that Helen has progressed onto the Level 2 course which includes more advanced techniques such as the set up and operation of a circular saw and the building of a door as a project.

“Originally, I started hoping to pick up the basics on a personal skill level. Yet as I progressed through, I surprised myself by realising that I was really enjoying it.

“I was just as capable at creating the joints and frames as everyone else.

“I can now see myself making a career out of this.”

It’s clear that despite her initial reservations about studying again (she said that she’d done courses with us previously, so wasn’t worried about coming back to learning), Helen has since gained a taste for it. As maths is such an important part of carpentry, Helen decided to use the opportunity to improve her maths grade from school.

“I just thought why not, in for a penny in for a pound.

“Both courses have allowed me to explore my limits and develop technical skills – the possibilities are endless.

“Nothing is impossible with the right help, determination, and willingness to find the right adaptations to succeed.”

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