Being connected with other people through technology during the coronavirus outbreak

One thing we have learnt from the Coronavirus outbreak is the importance of technology to find out information, keep in touch with family and friends, do social and creative activities and generally feel connected to the world out there. But what about people who don’t have a smart phone, tablet or computer? They won’t have had the advantage of accessing all these things and nor probably will we have been hearing their voices about how they have been coping. I have heard that there have been some schemes to help people with learning disabilities get a tablet or other technology and am keen to gather information about these that you may have heard about or made use of. Please post any details on the forum- e.g.who provided the funding (for equipment or wi-fi), what could it be used to buy, any support to learn how to use it etc.
Thanks for any information which can hopefully be used to help address the disadvantage some people with learning disabilities are experiencing through a lack of access to technology.

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Hi Christine, we found the Tech to Community Connect service for vulnerable people in Surrey, run via the Surrey Coalition for Disabled People working with Surrey County Council. There’s the option to get a device on loan and you don’t need wi fi. However, there’s no phone number on the page to contact them. You fill in an online form to register interest. It might be possible to phone the SCDP and see if they can assist with registering. All referrals are considered, you do not have to live in Surrey although they will give Surrey residents priority. The information is at:

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Hi, thanks for replying and for information about the Tech to Community Connect. It sounds a great idea with the emphasis on friendship and connections. I like the way it is organised to encourage people to try out a device for the six month period which would hopefully be long enough to find out whether you want to be connecting via technology or not. Do you know how many people who have a learning disability have used the scheme? It will be interesting to find out more from the research findings how the scheme was used during the coronavirus outbreak. Does anyone know of other schemes that are helping people who have a learning disability to get connected via technology. Thanks, Christine

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We are trying to set something up. Currently we are encouraging individuals with disabilities including learning disabilities to get involved in our website through contributions, art work, photography, creativity, creating products, sharing stories and strategies or videos We are focused on independence and work skills, activities, resources for adult life and we are looking to start offering iPads with reloaded apps, tasks. Individuals can email or post in contributions to our website. It is early days and when we have tablets priority will be Buckinghamshire but we want contributions from everyone in the country. See

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We at Learning Disability England are holding an on line meeting for groups or organisations to share what they are doing to help people with learning disability get on line
Details here

It’s open to anyone with an interest and if anyone wants to share their work do get in touch.

Usually most of Learning Disability England’s work is aimed at members (self advocates, family members, allies & friends or organisations & their staff) but a grant means we can open up most things to anyone with an interest for the next few months.



I have been working on connecting people with learning difficulties/Intellectual disability for 30 years. I worked with Karen Spencer and Neil Morris from Central England People First (now Northamptonshire People First) 20 years ago on the methods we are using now. Covid forced the profession to use this method. The profession has resisted this for 20 years. It is essential that those of us who saw this years ago be involved in what is happening now. People are reinventing things needlessly because they are not aware of the history of this.
Don OCallaghan
Advocacy Communication Project

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Good to see you here Don. Those were exciting days!

I remember well all those online meetings where self advocacy groups from around the world used to meet together in the period 1996-1999. For me it was really fascinating, as all of us were rapidly learning the new skills we needed to communicate online (this has many parallels with what is happening during this pandemic). The speed of the internet and the quality of those webcams made it somewhat challenging at times. It was a period when not many people were online.

During this time one of the most exciting things was seeing people being supported remotely. I remember vividly coming into the office one morning and Karen Spencer saying that you, despite being based in Massachusetts in the USA, had helped her sort a computer problem she was having on her computer at home. This was in the late 1990s!

This paper records some of Karen’s experiences of the time.

It’s so great to see the technology now being in the hands of so many people with learning difficulties/disabilities. An important change is that we have so many more people with enough experience to share those technology skills with them, thanks to smart phones becoming part of our everyday lives.

Don (but also others), what would your top tips be for people who are introducing people to the technology for the first time?

I’d be interested in hearing what difficulties people are experiencing as well.

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So great to read this Neil and Don. I remember all too clearly Karen and others leadership and innovation in this area too. Pen

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In Leeds many organisations, including ourselves, are running activities on Zoom. It has been remarkable how many people have got to grips with it so quickly and it’s made a huge difference to people. In particular people who live along with little or no support.The local authority has funded some of this work through their 100% Digital Fund (which existed before the pandemic). As well as small amounts of money they also loan out iPads for people to use.

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If you are using technology to support people with learning disabilities during the corona virus pandemic you might be interested in completing this short survey I am conducting about the factors that have made using technology easy or difficult.

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Hi Christine I am new here,and have just noticed your post.
I have classic autism and learning disability and attend a specialist art studio for artists with learning disability.
When covid happened the studio fundraised for iPads for all its artists to use at home and we do a zoom chat each week with our tutor but the problem for me is I am non verbal so can’t use both zoom and Proloquo2go at the same time,so the studio got me the extra iPad for free loan and it’s opened up a lot of things for me, my mum is seriously ill with cancer riht now and I was unable to talk to her for a long time until I got the extra iPad so it has been a big help with that to plus lots of other things.

I will give the name of The organisation to you, I dont want to post it in case They get lots of people asking for equipment, its only for artists in our studio.
If you pm me I will message you it back. :slightly_smiling_face:

Hi sounds interesting

Hi, thanks so much for replying and welcome to the Choice Forum.
The support to get an iPad sounds great and I will message you separately as you suggest.
Thanks, Christine