Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Network

100% Digital Leeds are working with third sector partners across the city to improve digital inclusion and participation for autistic people and people with learning disabilities and supporting our ambition to make Leeds the most digitally inclusive city for everyone.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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 Wi-Fi in some residential settings (e.g. some who live in certain supported accommodation aren’t allowed to access the Wi-Fi 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 physical closure of community spaces in 2020 has affected those people who need free access and training 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. 
  • 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.

ALaDDIN was created in response to the changes and challenges that organisations faced in adapting their delivery of services as a result of Covid-19.  During the pandemic, and with the closure of physical spaces used by third sector organisations (many of which support people with learning disabilities), 77% of these organisations have reported that a lack of digital access and skills has been a problem when engaging remotely with service users. 

“As Day Services and Opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autistic people have been restricted or closed due to Covid-19, it is critical that there is a digital day service offer until face to face services can resume in full again. The challenge is addressing the digital divide that was present for people with learning disabilities and autistic people before Covid-19.

There is brilliant digital inclusion work happening across third sector organisations in Leeds, helping to maintain the physical and mental wellbeing of the people they support. ALaDDIN is crucial in addressing the digital divide and co-ordinating the third sector’s digital inclusion response.”

Jez Coram, Development Worker (Learning Disabilities) at Forum Central

100% Digital Leeds are working with our partners and people with learning disabilities and autistic people to build a citywide infrastructure that helps provide solutions to these barriers, and to create an inclusive, person-centred model of digital activity and participation.  This includes developing training opportunities for individuals, family members, carers, support workers, and staff/volunteers at organisations, as well as sharing best practice, common challenges, opportunities for funding and partnership working, and promoting the Network as a unified and coordinated entity that has a greater combined influence.

You can watch a video of some of our partner organisations’ work in 2020, showcasing how each has responded creatively to the pandemic by supporting their members to get online and take part in a wide range of activities. 

Leeds now has a dedicated Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Coordinator. The role has been funded by the NHS Leeds CCG, and is matrix managed by Pyramid of Arts (Third Sector) and 100% Digital Leeds (Leeds City Council).   

The Coordinator is working closely with ALaDDIN on 4 key areas of work:

  • Coordination and Cross Promotion
  • Digital Infrastructure
  • Representation
  • Training

The Coordinator continues to work on other initiatives across Leeds to accelerate and maximise digital inclusion to achieve better outcomes for health and wellbeing for autistic people and people with learning disabilities.  As groups and activities move back to face to face delivery it is essential that the progress made towards digital inclusion for autistic people and people with learning disabilities is not lost. Current priority workstreams include:

  • Supporting organisations to use accessible digital technologies to improve the health and wellbeing of autistic people and people with learning disabilities.
  • Supporting organisations to use digital technologies to move people with learning disabilities and autistic people closer to employment.
  • Using digital technologies to enable people in supported living environments and residential settings to learn new skills, access social activities and increase their independence.

If you are interested in finding out more about digital inclusion for autistic people and people with learning disabilities, please feel free to contact Nicky:

ALaDDIN is continuing to grow, and members currently meet monthly.

“Through attending ALaDDIN meetings I have been able to make connections with other organisations and from those create opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to do before.”

Matt Bellbrough, Royal Mencap

The Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Partners include:

  • Aspire CBS
  • Canal Connections
  • Carers Leeds
  • Caring for Life
  • Chapeltown Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Connect in the North
  • Creative Support
  • Haqooq Aspire for More
  • Halo
  • Leeds Autism Services
  • Leeds Jewish Welfare Board
  • Leep1
  • Mencap
  • People in Action
  • People Matters
  • Purple Patch Arts
  • Pyramid
  • Slate
  • Scope
  • Snaps Yorkshire
  • Specialist Autism Services
  • Volition (Forum Central)
  • Yorkshire Dance