Disabled learners broaden scope of digital inclusion
By Mark Smith, Marketing Officer, Digital Communities Wales
Earlier in the summer I visited Scope Cwmbran with Angela Jones, Digital Communities Wales Adviser, to see how her client had been using IT kit that had been loaned to them by the project.
I’ve worked in digital inclusion for nearly ten years but never fail to be surprised by what I experience, when I see how people overcome all sorts of obstacles to do more online. This was certainly the case at Scope Cwmbran.
Kath O’Dwyer, Team Leader at Scope Cwmbran had contacted Digital Communities Wales (DCW), as a previous form of support that had enabled her customers to get online had ended. DCW provided a kit loan to Kath and her team, which included a number of laptops and tablets (iPad and Android).
The tablets proved particularly popular and user-friendly among a number of customers attending the Centre, at Scope Cwmbran, due to their disability. In the case of Marley, he was supported to use a tablet to engage with sensory apps that helped to stimulate him. They were apps that made the screen particularly colourful, while one would vibrate when touched. I was told that Marley engaged with this activity more than others he had done at the Centre, such as artwork. This, for him, was digital inclusion.
I was made aware of another success story – Tommy – who had used the kit to create a CV and learn new skills to the point where he became the first member of the Centre’s day services to secure a volunteering position. This was real progress.
I also met a number of other people who are regular customers at Scope Cwmbran, who were all passionate about using computers. One was going through courses to do more online, while another was writing a book!
Disabled people are far less likely to be online and reaping the benefits of the internet and digital technology, compared to other people. The people I met at Scope Cwmbran that day put that theory on its head. They were incredible, driven and so inspirational. They were not fazed by the technology at all and if there was a challenge to be had, they were up for it.
I would certainly hold them up as an example of good practice when it comes to supporting disabled people to engage with digital technology. This, for me, is what digital inclusion – and the work of Digital Communities Wales – is all about.