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

Caton, S., Bradshaw, J., Gilloooly, A., Hatton, C., Flynn, S., Oloidi, E., Jahoda, A., Maguire, R., Marriott, A., Mulhall, P., and others. (2022) 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. E-ISSN 1468-3156. (doi:10.1111/bld.12501) (KAR id:96211)

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Background: During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a worldwide increase in 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 non-participation for 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 people with PMLD during the pandemic.

Findings: Around half of people with PMLD had internet access at home. Around half of 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 people supporting someone with PMLD said they would like support with technology to make seeing friends and family easier. For some 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 post-pandemic 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 people with PMLD and those that support them

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/bld.12501
Uncontrolled keywords: Profound multiple intellectual disabilities, profound and multiple disabilities, Covid-19, online. digital participation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Tizard
Funders: UK Research and Innovation (
National Institute for Health Research (
Depositing User: Jill Bradshaw
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2022 10:07 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 16:35 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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