Assistive technology has huge potential for people with learning disabilities to become more independent. When used in the right way, technology can enable individuals to have increased choice, control, dignity, privacy and communication. It can also keep people safe. But what is the ‘right’ way to use technology?
Putting the person at the centre and considering their wants and needs, rather than focusing on the technology itself, is key to making the technology right for individuals. Technology solutions can only be successful if they are tailored around each individual’s needs and challenges. Hft has been using assistive technology with people with learning disabilities since 2004. We call it personalised technology as our recommendations are personalised to individuals: we always start with the person and what they want to achieve, focussing on their abilities and not their disabilities.
Anyone with a learning disability, from mild to multiple and complex needs, can benefit from using technology. There are many other groups who can benefit too, such as the elderly or people with mental health conditions. The intended outcomes of using technology in this way are often clear but technology can also create unexpected outcomes, such as positive changes in behaviour.
Assistive technology can give individuals the ability to take control and do things they have never done before, helping people to:
- Gain independence
- Communicate what they want to say and do
- Stay safe in their home and out and about
- Monitor their health and wellbeing
- Make choices about the way they live
- Achieve personal goals
- Increase their dignity and privacy
- Be and feel more connected to family and friends
Once people start using technology and experiencing the benefits, both they and their families are often encouraged to explore what else might now be possible with the help of technology.
Technology can also reduce reliance on staff support for basic needs, meaning that the support time available can be dedicated to helping individuals achieve their goals. Technology can also reassure staff and family carers.
Technology also has the potential to reduce support costs and increase efficiencies within services. It can be used to reduce the need for night-time support or provide the means for individuals to call for support, removing the need for staff to check in regularly. The primary reason for using technology should always be improving outcomes for the individuals; however the importance of increasing efficiencies in services and allowing support to be more meaningful should not be ignored.
Technology as an enabler
Hft’s supported a couple who lived together in an Hft property. They both had staff around the property 24/7. The property was closing down due to building works and a change of service plan and they decided they wanted to move in together. A bungalow was found close by for them to move into.
Hft’s personalised technology team conducted individual assessments for both of them and a suite of technology was recommended costing around £900. This included; a lifeline phone, pendent alarms for both individuals, a bogus caller alarm for the front door, a temperature extreme sensor, a smoke detector and a talking microwave. One of them also had an easy to use mobile phone and a medication dosette box.
They have now settled into their new home and enjoy spending quality time together just the two of them. The technology has given control back to them. They no longer have staff 24/7 but are able to call for assistance when needed.
They are able to stay in regular contact with their family and support staff if needed with her mobile and can now take her own medication using a dosette box. The talking microwave has also enabled them to have more flexibility around when they can eat.
Hft is a national charity supporting over 2,900 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales. Hft’s personalised technology team offers a range of training, assessments and advice in assistive technology. We can show you how technology can support people to live safely and with more independence.