“Borrowing tablets was the perfect solution for us” – Association of Blind Asians & 100% Digital Leeds team up

Association of Blind Asians (ABA) is a charity-based organisation providing support services to visually impaired South Asian Community in Leeds.  They have been running since 1989 with the mission of to reducing social isolation and improving health and wellbeing of individuals, to raise awareness of issues that affect people with visual impairment and to reduce stigma within communities and overcome the barriers that affect people with visual impairment.  They provide comprehensive information sessions, activities and advocacy.

Tablets and mobile phones have revolutionised the way people who are visually impaired or blind interact and use technology.  They also enable people with visual impairments to do things that were previously impossible.  Due to the benefits, Association of Blind Asians want their service users to be digitally included and approached 100% Digital Leeds in December 2019 to borrow five iPads from Leeds Libraries award-winning tablet lending scheme to help with their social sessions at Moor Allerton Library.

The ABA Moor Allerton group is for Asian people with sensory loss, most group members are visually impaired and some are hearing impaired too.  Many of the group struggle with communication and need support with viewing, hearing and reading text. 

ABA understands the importance of development and helping their members to explore new skills and during January 2020 wanted to focus specifically on digital skills.  Some of their attendees brought their own devices and those who did not have a device, or couldn’t bring theirs along, were able to borrow Leeds Libraries iPads.

Paul Wilkes, Digital Inclusion Coordinator, Leeds Libraries:

“I attended and met the group in December where the session was focussed on chair exercise.  I spoke to some of the members and they had some worries about using digital technology and didn’t feel confident.  The January groups focussed on using digital and embedding it into their lives to make it helpful for them.  When I attended the final session of this run at the end of January I was astounded by the difference.  Everybody was using tablets or laptops and they were learning how to organise their appointments in the calendar apps. 

“One gentleman told me that he has short-term memory loss and was missing several appointments as he’d forgotten they were arranged.  By using the calendar app to enter his appointment details he was able to attend, saving himself time, getting his health concerns addressed more quickly and giving him peace of mind.”

“In the class many of the members were helping each other out and learning from each other and this was great to see.  Week on week they have been building their confidence and progressing to the point where they are comfortable with using digital solutions and the fear has gone. Many are also using the tablets outside of the groups for things like playing games, keeping in touch with family and shopping online.  Having the confidence and the digital skills to keep themselves safe, organised and happy will be of massive benefit to these people and their families.”

Support workers Fareen and Jaya are multilingual and provide invaluable help to the group members in various different languages.  The sessions are an excellent example of social inclusion and many friendships have been formed at the group.

Fareen Hasan, Support Worker, Association of Blind Asians:

“It has been hugely beneficial to work with 100% Digital Leeds and be able to borrow tablets from Leeds Libraries to use in our group.  To purchase five iPads would have cost us a lot of money, without being sure that they would be used, so borrowing some was the perfect solution for us.  From this we have been able to pilot using technology in the groups and build up evidence of the positive effect it can have.  It has been a success with our members learning new skills which will help them in their daily lives.”

You can follow Association of Blind Asians on Facebook and Twitter @ABALeeds or their website: http://www.abaleeds.org.uk/