Partner profile: Canal Connections

A service user is sat at a desk and using an iPad as a drawing tablet.
A service user at Canal Connections

Canal Connections is a Community Interest Company (CIC) that is passionate about sharing Leeds’ beautiful canals with local people. The team has been working closely with 100% Digital Leeds to embed digital elements into the organisation’s offer.


Canal Connections is a member of the Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Network (ALaDDIN), made up of over forty organisations working to support autistic people and people with learning disabilities living across the city. The organisations meet monthly to share training and opportunities related to digital inclusion, to promote their work and to share good practice. Through this network that Canal Connections was able to identify and secure NHS funding to support health, wellbeing, and safe relationships for learning disabled and neurodiverse communities. The funding was used to support the formation of a new social group for adults with learning disabilities called ‘The Happy Wednesdays Group.’

The Happy Wednesdays Group

The Happy Wednesdays Group is an opportunity for adults with learning disabilities and their parents and carers to come together once a week. The members go out on a canal boat where they admire the beautiful scenery and spot wildlife including kingfishers, swans and hawks.  They also have the opportunity to drive the boat and learn vital skills for navigating the canals.  When they are not on the boats the group have the opportunity to partake in a craft activities such as rag rugging.

“People relax when they are on a boat in a way that is so difficult on dry land. The group love talking and admiring their surroundings, and they have formed healthy relationships with one another and with our staff. We hope that they will be able to build on their new skills and volunteer with future groups who meet on the boats. It’s so fantastic to see their confidence grow.”

Peter Forrest, Project Manager at Canal Connections.

Canal Connections bring digital elements into this programming in a way that is accessible and relevant, allowing members to develop their digital skills and confidence at their own pace by doing things meaningful to them. The group takes iPads with them on their boat trips and take photos and videos of their trips.  The have also been using the tablets to create digital artwork, to download apps around health and wellbeing and to learn other transferable digital skills.  Canal Connections has also joined the National Databank and are actively gifting SIM cards to members struggling to afford data. 

Arts in Care Homes Day programming

Canal Connections were part of the Arts in Care Homes Day digital arts programme, which was a collaboration between the 100% Digital Team and the Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network. Canal Connections used this as an opportunity to live stream a canal boat ride into Care Home settings citywide, allowing vulnerable residents to enjoy the experience of a boat ride without risking their health and safety.