Providing tablets for people with a learning disability or difficulty: Digital Lifeline

People with learning disabilities are getting a boost to wellbeing thanks to tablets received through Stoke-on-Trent City Council and tech help from AbilityNet.

More than 100 people received devices, and digital skills support after the council applied for the government’s Digital Lifeline Fund. Council staff hope that those who need physio will use the tablets to follow their exercise routines at home.

Support worker Caroline Johnson explains that many the council supports through its day services are avid YouTube viewers. Staff recently identified videos on the site that match the therapeutic movements they do in face-to-face physio sessions. As Caroline says, people “could potentially go home and do exercises on their tablets”.

Kick-starting a learning journey

As a Digital Lifeline partner, AbilityNet provides digital skills support and training for community-based organisations, including Stoke-on-Trent council.

It’s still early days for the tablet recipients, says Caroline. Few of those involved had any online experience or knowledge, and many don’t have smartphones or an internet connection at home.

Social distancing and related lockdowns have been major hurdles in getting 100 people set up with the new devices – that’s where AbilityNet’s specialist assessors come in.

Specialist support for learners and staff

Our specialist assessors supported the council by recommending apps and equipment to make the tablets more accessible. We also offered training on devices and adaptations, so staff could familiarise themselves with the tablets they delivered into the community.

Following contact with AbilityNet, council staff report being better able to support learners and more knowledgeable and confident about technology. They also feel more able to work in an inclusive way.

Laurie Riley, a day service officer at the council, says: “AbilityNet gave us basic training on tablets and advice about apps we should be putting on. We also got a load of extra equipment like keyboards and headphones.”

For FREE support from AbilityNet, call our helpline 0800 048 7642

Supporting recipients’ interests

Image shows Stoke-on-trent resident with learning disabilities holding a tablet with pictures of his artworkLaurie says one tablet user, Keith Hayward (pictured), makes artwork he then photographs using his tablet.

Another recipient, a young woman who has profound learning disabilities and limited verbal ability, loves the sensory experience she gets from her tablet. She plays one game where she touches the device to pop bubbles that appear on the screen.

Another tablet user is interested in cranes and lorries and used to rely on the computer at his day centre to explore things he likes. He now uses his own device to look up websites and information whenever he wants. According to the staff, he was blown away when he used his tablet to watch a virtual tour of Chester Zoo.

His family are also encouraging his newfound digital skills and have installed Wi-Fi at his independent living flat.

“People have got tablets and equipment that they’d never have been able to afford otherwise,” says Laurie. “It has been brilliant.”

Awards nomination for council

The Council’s determination in championing the Digital Lifeline work has led to a nomination in the city council’s annual staff awards.

The awards honour employees going the extra mile for residents over the past year.

How AbilityNet can Help

How AbilityNet has already supported individuals during the pandemic