Trinity College Dublin: Overcoming the challenge of digital inclusion for adults with intellectual disability

E-health applications have become more prominent, particularly since the arrival of COVID-19. Without digital skills citizens with ID will experience much poorer health and wellbeing. Research informs us that people with ID have high levels of communication difficulties, with one in three reporting difficulty when talking to their healthcare professionals.

The Digi-ID project team recently hosted an online webinar to celebrate and share their co-creation story so far.

The virtual event, led by Dr Esther Murphy, the Principal investigator of Digi-ID, along with Dr Darren McCausland the social inclusion advisor and research assistant Sara Fiori showcased multi-stakeholder perspectives on the innovative Digi-ID digital skills education programme co-created with and delivered by adults with intellectual disability, for adults with intellectual disability.

The attendance of members of the Digi-ID Citizen Advisory Panel (CAP), who truly are the voices of the project, was the highlight of the event. CAP is made up of seven people with intellectual disabilities employed to work with the project for key decision-making milestones.

Fionn Angus, a CAP member, shared a common feeling saying:

It is important that people like me are included in the research. When we help each other we all learn much more.

Dr Murphy explained how, as a team, they have collaborated to address the challenge of digital inclusion through the co-creation of their new DigiAcademy accessible digital skills education app.

She said:

We have pushed the co-creation process to an optimum level, through supports and coaching to enable CAP members to become our ‘digital educators’. This demonstrates the power and potential of people with intellectual disability to be the ‘face’ and ‘voice’ of our Digi-ID accessible education programme”. Their programme is comprised of short video tutorials on priority topics identified during the focus groups, delivered by three of their CAP members.

She continued:

We hope that our digital educators – three people from the CAP – inspire others to join us on our mission as we continue to grow our community and develop our solution into the new year together to ensure people with accessibility needs can live the digital lives of their choice.

There was a strong representation from the Irish Services’ Collaborators at the event, who contributed to the discussion. They included:

Liz Phelan, Brothers of Charity services’ Quality Officer,
Natalya Jackson CEO and Stephanie Lynch, Clinical Nurse Specialist, from Daughters of Charity,
Emer McPherson, Stewarts Care’s Day Service Manager.
Anne Marie McDonnell, Head of Business Development, National Learning Network/Rehabcare
All highlighted the benefit of collaborating to achieve the common mission of digital inclusion – to empower people with intellectual disabilities with the knowledge, skills and confidence to manage their health and social inclusion needs digitally. All speakers expressed the need for staff training, which is in line with the Digi-ID goals next year.

Professor Kevin Kelly, from the School of Engineering, facilitated the final panel discussion with Dr Murphy and the Digi-ID technology partners WaytoB’s CEO Talita Holzer. The panel focussed on the importance of the value of user-centered design and the essential need for an iterative process. The benefit of monthly meeting with the CAP to ensure regular feedback on the design was identified as vital to the success of DigiAcademy.

James Delaney, who featured on RTE’s coverage of the event, closed the webinar with a short demonstration of the DigiAcademy app. James is a CAP member and one of the new DigiAcademy digital educators. James presented the app design along with a number of the digital skills video tutorials, made with our digital educators: Mei Lin Yap, Fionn Crombie Angus and James Delaney.

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