Autism and learning disabilities

100% Digital Leeds supports the ambition to make Leeds the most digitally inclusive city for all. Autistic people and people with learning disabilities are often at much higher risk of being excluded from digital participation due to myriad barriers, yet have plenty to gain from being online, such as being able to take advantage of opportunities and live with greater independence.

The barriers that autistic people and people with learning disabilities can face when it comes to doing things online are often more pronounced than those without:

  • Only 1 in 4 adults with learning disabilities is in work, which tends to mean reduced spending power.
  • Many people with learning disabilities miss out on the life-enriching experiences that the internet can provide if their carers, support workers, or families think they are too vulnerable to the potential dangers that the internet can present and therefore restrict their access and usage, limiting their personal choice and freedom. 
  • There are limitations on accessing wifi in some residential settings, such as some who live in certain supported accommodation aren’t allowed to access the wifi on personal devices as it is deemed to be a security risk.
  • Internet users with a learning disability are more likely than non-disabled internet users to use the internet via publicly accessible computers (23% vs. 16%), so the lack of community spaces offering free internet access and support has affected those people who need those to participate in an increasingly digital society.  
  • It may be more difficult for some people to learn some online skills due to differences in processing new information. 
  • 70% of UK websites are not compliant with accessibility standards, and only 2% of the world’s most popular websites meet the legal minimum requirements for accessibility, so even if someone has the equipment and skills, they may still be ‘designed out’ of using digital products and services.
  • Literacy needs can also obstruct comprehension of online information, and there are not always alternative options such as video, audio and images which can help to facilitate a better understanding for more people in an inclusive way.

100% Digital Leeds recognises that there are many benefits to being online for people with learning disabilities and autistic people, which is why we are building digital inclusion capacity in the city: from increasing access to digital devices with internet access, to empowering staff at organisations to make use of resources that help provide the right support for people in the right way for them.

Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Network

Working with community partners and people with learning disabilities and autistic people, 100% Digital Leeds facilitates the Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Network, supporting organisations working with people with learning disabilities and autistic people to reduce and remove the barriers to digital inclusion faced by people. It is our collective aim to create an inclusive, person-centred model of digital activity and participation.

Due to the success of this network, Leeds has a dedicated Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Coordinator. The role is funded by UK Social Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), and is matrix managed by Pyramid of Arts (third sector) and 100% Digital Leeds (Leeds City Council), with a focus on digital inclusion for financial resilience.

Progress blogs and articles

Supporting employability for people with learning disabilities and autistic people

Partner profile: Royal Mencap’s Positive Changes Group

Leeds Beckett University research project on hybrid service delivery