Learning disability and autism services from across Leeds have joined together to promote digital inclusion, and have released a new video showcasing the opportunities for people to interact online in all sorts of creative ways.

The Autism & Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Network (‘ALaDDIN’) has been formed through the coming together of 20 third-sector organisations in the city to improve digital inclusion and participation for people with autism or learning disabilities, supporting the ambition to make Leeds the most digitally inclusive city for everyone.

Link to video on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oal00E1sKZ8

ALaDDIN’s new short film is released today [19th Oct 2020] to coincide with Get Online Week (19-25 Oct), a campaign by Good Things Foundation.  The film is a fun and vibrant whistle-stop tour of local third-sector organisations, 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.

Jez Coram, Development Worker (Learning Disabilities) at Forum Central explained, “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.”

ALaDDIN member People in Action created online social groups and Stay Active sessions very soon into lockdown, recognising how much members would miss contact with the organisation, and their friends.  A lot of members now see the online sessions as an integral part of their weekly schedule – even those that have gone back to work/college etc still tune in when they’re at home.  A parent commented, “I just wanted to say a massive thank you to you all for all your activities on Zoom. It’s been a life saver for [our daughter]. She loves all the activities and really enjoys the screen interaction.”

Pete Hughes from Leeds Autism Services praised their service users, staff and family carers, saying “when the first national lockdown came into force, we very suddenly lost face-to-face contact with the vast majority of people we support, almost overnight.  Along with many other services in the city we had to adapt very quickly to keep in touch with people, and make sure they were able to get the support they need.  It has been a credit to the people we support, their families, and our staff to see how quickly they’ve adapted to new ways of working.  There has been a lots of trial and error, plenty of laughs, and a few tears along the way, but getting people online has been worth every bit of hard work.”

The network hopes that the film will be widely shared and seen by local people with autism or learning disabilities, alongside carers and professionals, in order to increase awareness of the opportunities and services now available online.  Digital device lending schemes, support getting connected and training sessions on using the internet and staying safe online are all part of the offer.

Sarah Cockburn, Operations Manager at Pyramid said, “ALaDDIN has enabled us to join together to make sure that people with autism and learning disabilities in Leeds are able to get online and access the services that best meet their personal interests and learning ambitions.  The pandemic has brought many challenges to our operations and the resilience, tenacity and determination of the network members to ensure the people we work with aren’t excluded from this new digital landscape has been incredible.”

Organisations involved:

100% Digital Leeds – Aspire CBS – Carers Leeds – Caring for Life – Chapeltown Citizen’s Advice Bureau – Connect in the North – Creative Support – Haqooq Aspire for More – Leeds Autism Services – Leeds Jewish Welfare Board – Leep1 – Mencap – People in Action – People Matters – Purple Patch – Pyramid – Snaps Yorkshire – Specialist Autism Services – Volition (Forum Central) – Yorkshire Dance

Get Online Week – more info at https://uk.getonlineweek.com/