Royal Mencap’s vision is a world where people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to, and included. Matt Bellbrough, Community Partner at Royal Mencap, has worked with 100% Digital Leeds to set up the Positive Changes group.
Royal Mencap is a member of the Autism and Learning Disabilities Digital Inclusion Network (ALaDDIN) and the Positive Changes group of community connectors are taking steps to make life easier for people with learning disabilities in Leeds, including supporting digital inclusion.
Developing the partnership with 100% Digital Leeds has been one of the best connections I have made with my role. Through the excellent ALaDDIN network 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. For the Positive Changes group, 100% Digital Leeds have been there to offer advice, encouragement and directly work with the group so that digital inclusion plays a big part in the project.Matt Bellbrough, Community Partner, Royal Mencap
Matt works alongside two paid employees with learning disabilities, Maisie and Robert, and a team of volunteers with learning disabilities. The group meet regularly to explore community assets in Leeds and to give out small pots of funding to organisations who are working with people with learning disabilities. Maisie, Robert and the Positive Changes volunteers are involved in all aspects of the group’s work. This includes deciding which organisations the group can offer funding to, planning and making digital ‘How to…’ guides, and helping to organise the Positive Digital Walks. Their work has enabled them to learn new digital skills, as well as passing these onto others.
After borrowing iPads from Leeds Libraries’ tablet lending scheme to explore how access to tablets could support the Positive Changes volunteers to bring more digital in to their activities, the group have received a grant which will be used to purchase digital equipment which the group will use for their activities in the future.
Digital ‘How to…’ guides.
The Positive Changes volunteers are keen to share their talents with other people with learning disabilities and to inspire others to try new activities. Matt has worked closely with several members of the group to coproduce short ‘How to…’ video guides which help people to learn new skills, from Zumba to sign language.
This work is important as traditional digital instruction guides can be inaccessible for people with learning disabilities. These ‘How to…’ guides are made by people with learning disabilities, for people with learning disabilities. The Positive Changes group are inspiring their peers to try new activities while building their own skills and confidence.
The Positive Changes group have worked closely with 100% Digital Leeds to make accessible guides which can help people to complete activities online, such as using google maps to plan a journey.
Follow this link to see the Positive Changes ‘How to…’ guides.
Positive Digital Walks
Working closely with the 100% Digital team, the Positive Changes group organised Positive Digital Walks. These are an opportunity for people with learning disabilities to visit a new place in Leeds, get some exercise and to be social.
There are always a range of digital activities available for people on the walks, from using apps to identify bird songs to using apps which can count steps and help people improve their fitness. This means that staff and members can experiment with digital technologies in a non-threatening environment where there is support on hand.
There are many Leeds groups who attend the walks, including the Halo group from the Hamara Centre and the friendship group from LEEP One. The first walk was hosted at the Hamara Centre and was attended by over 70 people.
“It was really nice to see the Positive Changes volunteers helping our members to learn digital skills. We are going to start using that app with the guys back at the house as I think they would get a lot out of it and it will help them to build their digital confidence.”Staff member, Aspire
“I really enjoyed seeing a new place and learning something new. I’ve downloaded this Seek app and I’m going to use it at home.”Customer, Aspire
Royal Mencap are passionate about breaking down barriers to the workplace. In the United Kingdom, only 4.8% of adults with a learning disability known to adult social care in England are in paid work (NHS Digital, 2022).
One of the Positive Changes volunteers applied for his job with a video CV. Matt has also worked closely with Positive Futures to ensure that Maisie and Robert receive the support they need to flourish in the workplace.
The Positive Changes project is funded until June 2024, and is working on securing funding to continue longer term. The project is looking to develop its work with a focus on supporting families and carers.
Royal Mencap will continue to work closely with 100% Digital Leeds to make digital activities fun, relevant and accessible for people with learning disabilities. They are currently working closely with Leeds City Council’s travel task group to create an accessible video guide which will show people how they can feedback on public transport.
There are also plans for more Positive Digital Walks, where people with learning disabilities will be able to enjoy a variety of digital activities.
If you would like to find out more, or are interested in working with the group, please contact: Matt.firstname.lastname@example.org