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    Digital participation of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities during the Covid‐19 pandemic in the UK

    Caton, Sue ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9013-8721, Bradshaw, Jill, Gillooly, Amanda, Hatton, Chris, Flynn, Samantha, Oloidi, Edward, Jahoda, Andrew, Maguire, Roseann, Marriott, Anna, Mulhall, Peter, Taggart, Laurence, Todd, Stuart, Abbott, David, Beyer, Stephen, Gore, Nick, Heslop, Pauline, Scior, Katrina and Hastings, Richard P (2023) Digital participation of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities during the Covid‐19 pandemic in the UK. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 51 (2). pp. 163-174. ISSN 1354-4187

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    Abstract

    Background During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a worldwide increase in the use of digital technology. Many people with learning disabilities have learned new digital skills, taken part in online activities, and kept in touch with family and friends using video calls. However, the experiences of digital participation or nonparticipation for the people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) is less understood. Method Between December 2020 and August 2021, family carers or paid support workers of adults with PMLD completed an online survey around the experiences of the person they care for during the Covid-19 pandemic, including questions on Internet use. We draw on the findings of this UK-wide study to explore the digital participation of the people with PMLD during the pandemic. Findings Around half of the people with PMLD had Internet access at home. Around half of the participants interacted with others on video calls like Facetime or Zoom and most commonly used the Internet for being with family and friends online and streaming TV and films. In the event of another lockdown, 27.5% of the people supporting someone with PMLD said they would like support with technology to make seeing friends and family easier. For some the people, digital participation during the pandemic was not beneficial enough to want to continue when restrictions eased. For others, the new online experiences had the potential to be developed in their postpandemic lives. Conclusion Around half of the people surveyed participated in digital activities during Covid-19. Future attention is needed to afford more people opportunities, and respond to access barriers experienced for the people with PMLD and those that support them.

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