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I was speaking to a colleague last week about online sources of information and was flabbergasted when he told me that he had never used it. Moreover, he was so averse to this form of information sharing, I felt like I had suggested something illicit and dangerous! Of course, in the hands of unscrupulous authors, web-based information can be manipulative and misleading, but for every dodgy blogger there are half a dozen useful links to explore.
With appropriate safeguards, social media can open up huge opportunity for people with learning disability , for whom isolation and loneliness are a well-known factor. Using the web to vent, explore, contact and self-promote can be really healthy. As I found myself defending my position, I realized that many other colleagues might not have discovered some of the priceless stuff that is out there in cyberspace, so here is a sample to get you interested:
- Mencap are campaigning to let people with learning disabilities be heard in the political forum through the use of the internet. Check out https://www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/get-active-online and see what information is available. They are running a survey at the moment to look into peoples’ experience of the benefits system, so this is a chance for people you may support to have a say. https://www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/hear-my-voice/benefits-survey
- Hate Crime advice for people with learning disability, by a person with learning disability, can be accessed here http://www.warwickshire.police.uk/media/5809/Hate-crime-easy-to-read-booklet/pdf/Easier_Read_-_Hate_Crime_v2_-_Issued.pdf . Check out the other publication on home security by the same author.
- Check the quality of support and care services by becoming a Quality Checker. Information about this role which is a really excellent and empowering way to be involved in how services are delivered can be seen here http://learningdisabilityalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/AQC-intro-flyer-d-web.pdf
- Get active in the Derbyshire area, where you can connect to a fitness class via http://www.jumpzfitness.co.uk which holds organized sessions in physical fitness for people with learning disabilities in a variety of settings. For those who want to set up similar sessions, Mencap have a factsheet here http://www.efds.co.uk/assets/0000/5219/Mencap_Sport_Guide.pdf to offer advice and help.
- Using the web to help develop accessible information can be tricky, but help is at hand through EasyRead, who have a wealth of resources here http://www.easy-read-online.co.uk to guide and support accessible written, audio visual and web formats. Similar help with additional advice and support is at http://www.changepeople.org - a non-profit that seeks to help people with learning disabilities advocate for themselves and secure their rights.
- Promoting rights is the main aim of the website of The National Forum for People with Learning Disabilities http://www.nationalforum.co.uk with links to a variety of activities and information.
- Looking for Love or maybe just connecting with others with similar interests can be very tricky for people with intellectual disabilities, particularly in the complex and fast moving world of online dating. A website that aims to support those with learning disability to find and make relationships, London based http://www.starsinthesky.co.uk offers easy read and pictorial info, runs social events and puts people in touch.
Being web-savvy is absolutely key to opening up opportunities for the people we support. Used wisely and with care, the internet can open up so much life opportunity. Have a bit of a surf about, see what you can dig up, and then look at ways to enable service users to benefit from the World Wide Web.
Ginny Tyler – QCS Expert Learning Disabilities Contributor