In the pandemic, digital technology has often been an important life line – for people working at home, for people to stay connected with loved ones, and for people with learning disabilities and autism, or if you have been shielding.
With platforms like WhatsApp and Zoom you can still access your support, see your family, as well as people you don’t see a lot. But there are also some negatives about using computers and digital technologies.
We are a team of three who are co-authoring a practice tool on digital inclusion with Jessica Wild, Research and Development Officer at Research in Practice. All three of us worked on a project called ‘Us Too’ which is about domestic abuse and through this work, we’ve got other opportunities. One of them is the practice tool with Research in Practice, which is for professionals who support people with additional needs and we are also writing an easy read guide for people accessing services.
About our work with 'Us Too' and our switch to digital technology
The ‘Us Too’ project involved a group of women who have learning disabilities and or autism, who have experienced abuse. The project involves teaching our peers and professionals about domestic abuse. We always have two people who do a training session, or sometimes all of us together, and we all have our own part to say or do, so we are all involved. We are stronger as a group.
‘Us Too’ has been working to prevent domestic abuse from happening to other women. The project makes women with learning disabilities and autism more aware of the signs of domestic abuse. We were also trying to teach women and girls about what healthy relationships look like, and how to stay safe in relationships. We are proud of ourselves for being part of the group and for preventing domestic abuse from happening to other women with learning disabilities and or autism.
When we were doing the sessions with people face-to-face, we could tell our stories personally and truthfully, as it would stay in the room and not be shared with anyone. But, with the pandemic, we moved to digital technology and it became harder to share our stories. So we made some pre-prepared scripts, using lots of little captions or snippets of our experiences which were then read out by actors. This made it easier to share our experiences in some ways, and helped keep us safe. We hope that other women learn a lot from our experiences and that they don’t go through what we went through.
What we've been doing on the digital inclusion practice tool project
Using our skills and experience from ‘Us Too’, we’ve been writing a practice tool for carers and supporters in a digital age, about how to help their clients or the people they support, to keep themselves safe, when using digital technology platforms. It is also about how to use different digital technologies because they might not have grown up with it themselves. We’ve each written something for the tool by taking one of the things we’re good at, and then we wrote a step-by-step guide, about how to use that form of digital technology. In the pandemic, things like WhatsApp and Zoom have meant you’ve still been able to get your support, as well as having things like Zoom socials.
We’re writing the practice tool to support people with autism and or learning disabilities, including those who live in places like residential care homes, and who access services, so that they can be helped to get online. We don’t know how many lockdowns we’re going to have, so it’s really important that everyone can get online because it’s a way of staying connected.
We’ve also been writing about what it is like to have autism or learning disabilities and about the things we go through because often, people don’t understand it’s an invisible disability. So, we’ve been explaining what it’s like and how it effects our use of digital technology. We also write about how to talk to people with autism and or learning disabilities. This includes making sure supporters give people with autism or learning disabilities a chance to think, not putting pressure on them, and listening to them about how to support them with what they need. We’ve also been thinking about people with other disabilities, such as physical disabilities, and the adaptations they might need, to access technology.
What the process has been like so far and next steps
The project has been difficult at times because we sometimes have clashing ideas, and sometimes we struggle to work around each other. But we get there in the end and we do work it out. We’re a good team, and we do work well together as we’ve all got stuff we’re really passionate about. This is one of the good but not good things because when you’re passionate about something, sometimes your voice gets louder or you can get stuck in your head with an idea, but we can get through it.
It also makes us all stronger, and that is one of the good things about our team. We are strong women, and we are passionate about what we do.