Compaid was founded by Lorna Ridgway. Lorna had made her name in the sixties and seventies in education policy and practice, appearing on an episode of This is Your Life in 1970 and being made a Member of the British Empire.
By the mid-eighties, she was volunteering at a Cheshire Home in Tunbridge Wells, and was fascinated by the potential of personal computers, which had become more affordable and user friendly through machines like the BBC Micro and Clive Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum.
Lorna started up a day service in the dining room of the Cheshire Home, where disabled residents could learn more about computers, with specialist adaptations and software helping to make the machines more accessible to those with physical or learning difficulties. Word of the project quickly spread, and the day service soon outgrew its humble beginnings. Lorna identified vacant buildings at nearby Pembury Hospital, and in September 1986 Compaid was founded as a charity at this new home.
Faced with the challenges of getting disabled people to the hospital, Lorna raised money for two second hand minibuses, recruiting volunteers to drive service users to and from their homes in the local community. These buses were soon busy in the middle of the day, taking older people on shopping trips to nearby Tunbridge Wells, and the fleet grew as more people asked for transport for hospital and medical appointments, as well as outings to the Kent countryside.
Lorna sadly died in 1994, but her work in establishing the charity’s supporter base meant that services continued. The services moved out of the hospital site in 2006, and eventually found a new permanent home in the neighbouring town of Paddock Wood, where Compaid is headquartered today. Computers and accessible transport have changed exponentially since Lorna’s time, but her vision of disabled people empowered through technology to overcome barriers in society remains at the heart of our charity.