Shortcut to tablet success: Digital Lifeline Fund

Janet Groves admits feeling nervous getting started with the tablet she received via the government’s Digital Lifeline Fund, set up to help people with learning disabilities.

“I knew nothing about them - I was nervous,” says the 58-year-old from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. “It felt strange,” she remembers.

Janet received her device through The Hive Library, run by Worcestershire County Council – only organisations can apply for tablets on behalf of individuals through the scheme.

AbilityNet is providing FREE support to recipients and assessed Janet’s needs. High on her list were wanting to play games and make video calls. 

Image shows Janet Groves who received a tablet via Digital Lifeline

"I struggled at first, but I got used to it."
Janet Groves, recipient of a tablet


Our volunteers supported her at Bromsgrove Resource Centre, which Janet attends three times per week to help build confidence. “I was taught how to use it. I’ve got a mobile phone, so I knew how to use FaceTime and Facebook a bit, but not on a tablet, she said.  

“I struggled at first, but I got used to it,” Janet added. 

Building confidence with a tablet device

At first, there were challenges, including working out how to switch the device on and off and generally “just learning how to use it,” said Janet. But, gradually, she became less hesitant: “I did feel myself becoming more confident…the more you use it, the easier it gets.”

The addition of shortcut buttons, as recommended by AbilityNet, was a big help. These were configured using Action Blocks for Android. The App enables you to configure tailored buttons for the home screen to automatically jump to a task.

For Janet, the shortcut helps her to access FaceTime. She says that FaceTime is better on a tablet than a mobile phone “because it’s a bigger screen.”

“It’s quite fiddly on the phone. I can call my friends. I can just press the shortcut,” she said.

Please note: calls to our helpline number cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number and count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way as 01 and 02 calls, and AbilityNet does not receive any money from these calls

Developing pride and independence

Janet, who lives in Bromsgrove in supported living (a combination of housing and care), has a stylus for using with a colouring-by-numbers app and loves to play online quizzes.

“Coronation Street is my favourite quiz. I’m doing well with my score! I do colouring-by-numbers and have a special pen for the tablet.”

Her favourite activity is doing quizzes, although colouring is a close second because it is “relaxing and calming”.

Janet's "pretty busy diary" includes visits from her sister and aunt and knitting. She is currently making a scarf and enjoying “knit and natter” sessions at the day centre. Susan also goes for drinks at the pub with her boyfriend of two years, Paul (“usually a Coke or cappuccino.”). 

Combined with lockdown restrictions easing, Janet says using the tablet has boosted her confidence:

“It's had a good impact. It’s given me more independence. It’s allowed me to keep my interests and access them in a different way. I’m able to do things I’m interested in when I want to do them.”

What's her advice for others who might feel wary about new tech?

“Don’t rush yourself and take it easy. It’s made me feel more confident using technology. I like it. I feel proud of myself.”

Digital Lifeline is an emergency response project delivering devices, data and digital skills support to digitally excluded people with learning disabilities. It’s funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and delivered by Good Things Foundation in partnership with AbilityNet and Digital Unite. The project is also supported by Learning Disability England, the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, self-advocates and other disability and digital inclusion organisations. Find out more in our impact report.

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