How disabled people can adjust to lockdown - free help from AbilityNet

The COVID-19 pandemic means we’re spending the majority of our time at home, in what is increasingly being referred to as ‘the new normal’. As a member of the AbilityNet team, I’m passionate about how this new normal may be impacting the 13.9 million disabled people living in the UK - and how we can help them get through these difficult times.

Our mission is to build a digital world accessible to all, and our volunteer network, webinar programme and other free resources are here to help deliver just that

Social isolation and disabled people

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While the world adjusts to being physically distant, social isolation was already a daily reality for many disabled and older people. 

According to Scope:

  • Half of disabled people of working age “always or often feel lonely”
  • 1.2 million older people in the UK are chronically lonely
  • 45% of pension age adults are lonely. 

The good news is that with the right tech, and with the right support, we're seeing how the digital world can bring people together, keep them working and support their learning and wellbeing.

Using technology to stay connected

Laptop showing a zoom meeting

People have been embracing video-conferencing tools as a means of keeping in touch; visits to Zoom, for example, have jumped from 10 million active users per day to over 300 million. 

Our free webinar explored ways of staying connected using technology including video, social media and chat apps.

These technology tools can help bridge the physical gaps between us and reduce social isolation

How to adapt and use your technology

We’ve all become more dependent on tech, but we also know that it isn't always designed in a way that's inclusive or easy to use. That’s where AbilityNet's help can make a huge difference.

Our 300+ trusted (and DBS-checked) volunteers have made it their mission to empower disabled people, and older people, by helping them adapt their technology so it's more accessible. 

Right now, we can’t visit you at home, but our FREE Helpline is still open 0800 048 7642.

Clients tell us they feel more knowledgeable, independent, better able to use technology and less lonely after they’ve received our help.

Our webinars help empower people through technology

I'm very proud to be leading AbilityNet LIVE! our weekly series of webinars designed to help disabled and older people sty connected.

In particular it's been amazing to work with an incredible range of charity and business partners, inclduing Action for Carers, Age UK, Amazon, British Red Cross,  Care for the Carers, Citizens Online, Microsoft, RNIB, Stroke Association, Business Disability Forum and many others.

We've had over 2,000 people sign up for our events since the start of April, and have another round of webinars running through to June and beyond.

How to adjust to working at home

Image shows a person working on a laptop with a dog on their lap

Working From Home (WFH) is a big part of the new normal. The good news is that thanks to advances in technology many office-based workers can be just as productive whilst working at home

For me, home working was already normal as part of a remote AbilityNet team; for others, it’s can bring big challenges. This is especially for disabled people. 

By law, employers must make 'Reasonable Adjustments' for disabled people (Equality Act 2010). These adjustments need to be ‘effective, practical and significant’.

It's been made clear that this legal responsibility applies equally when asking people to work from home, so employers and employees need to act swiftly to ensure that adjustments are made, such as furniture, software and adjustments to working patterns.

We’re keen to play our part and so we’ve launched a working from home review offering 1-2-1 support from one of our assessors (£99) to help you make adjustments. 

 

Our FREE online tool My Computer My Way can also show people how to make adaptations to any mobile or desktop device to make it more accessible.

Part of the new normal means we’ve all become used to seeing video conferencing calls on news channels and our home computer screens. 

It’s important the needs of disabled people are considered when delivering these – a topic we covered in our webinar on how to run accessible meetings.

Neurodiversity can also create particular challenges for this medium and we hope to deliver a webinar on this topic soon – keep your eyes on AbilityNet LIVE! for details.

How to keep learning, including if you’re on furlough

sign saying Love to Learn

Not everyone’s still at work, however. Many people have been furloughed but are keen to keep learning, while others simply want to learn new skills at home. The good news is that there’s a host of options available, which we’ll be exploring in a future webinar. 

Having a regular course of learning can provide a regular schedule instead of work, which can be helpful in terms of mental health. 

Others learning from home include students, some who are disabled. AbilityNet offers support through My Study My Way

We developed the platform powered by My Clear Talents to help universities and colleges create an inclusive education environment as part of AbilityNet's vision of a digital world where higher education is equally accessible to all.

Using the tool students can identify specific learning needs, which they can share with their current or a prospective University. 

Support if you're studying from home

We also have tips on our website for tools for people who are studying:

Technology and mental health

sign saying phone a friend

Many column inches have focussed on the negative impacts of technology on mental health – with the emphasis on social media – sometimes with good reason.

However, technology can also connect you to essential services during this difficult time. For example, there are forums to support people living with MS, and online peer support for stroke survivors

Mental health charities including MIND and the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) also offer support forums, and access to help online. 

How to stay safe online

One of the downsides of spending so much time online is it acts as a honeypot for unscrupulous scammers, some taking advantage of the pandemic. 

It shouldn’t act as a barrier, though. My belief is that we can stay one step ahead of the scammers if we understand a little about how their minds work – not dissimilar from old-fashioned confidence tricksters.

  • Security expert Graham Cluley joined us for a webinar where he revealed their mindset by introducing us to social engineering, scams and how to Stay Safe Online.  

Speaking of staying safe, keeping our distance remains the safest option. That doesn’t mean we can’t play an active role in our communities, talk to friends and family – including seeing them face to face – and access keys services. 

As for AbilityNet, we’re still here to ensure that the digital world is accessible to all. 

Support from AbilityNet

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people.

  • Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm on 0800 269 545.
  • We have a range of factsheets that talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. 
  • My Computer My Way. A free interactive guide to all the accessibility features built into current desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
  • My Study My Way can help you identify support if you're studying