Merton Mencap film helps people get connected

A new film featuring Merton residents demonstrates how digital technology can enhance the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism.

The film, produced by Merton Mencap, was released before Learning Disability Week (20-26 June 2022). During the week the charity aims to show how people with a learning disability are reconnecting with friends and their communities, and talk about the issues many people still face after the end of COVID-19 restrictions.

If Amelia had not become more digital, she would have been a very lonely young lady

Technology was a big part of life before the pandemic, but since lockdown it has become fundamental. So much so, that people who aren’t digitally savvy, can feel left behind.

Maria’s 24-year-old daughter Amelia has a moderate learning disability and autism. During lockdown, Maria helped Amelia improve her digital skills and access Zoom sessions. Having picked up the basics, Amelia is now starting to use email. Maria said: “If Amelia had not become more digital during lockdown, she would have been a very lonely young lady.”

It was good to see carers using the internet for shopping, medication and booking appointments

The Promoting Digital Confidence film shows the everyday ways people with learning disabilities and autism, and their parents and carers, benefit from digital technology. Examples range from taking part in a remote job interview to watching AFC Wimbledon match highlights on YouTube, and from checking a bus timetable while out to shopping to ordering prescriptions online. The film also shows how someone who is non-verbal can use a tablet to communicate.  

Maria welcomed the film. “It was good to see carers using the internet for shopping, medication and booking appointments with their GP,” she said. “I am now thinking that I should really make the effort to learn to use the NHS app and Patient Access to book appointments.”

Merton Mencap created the three-minute feature following research by the charity that revealed the extent of digital exclusion still experienced by many people with learning disabilities and autism and their parents and carers during the pandemic.  The film was made with support from the NHS Mind the Gap funding programme for carers from vulnerable communities. The charity also worked with South West London NHS to understand barriers to using digital technology and how they can be overcome.

This film is a fantastic example of the benefits of great partnership working

Andrew Whittington, Chief Executive of Merton Mencap, says seeing people routinely using technology with life-enhancing results might help those who, understandably, regard the internet as inaccessible. “We hope the film may lead people who don’t currently use the internet to want to explore doing so, and local support exists to help them to do that”.

Dr Vasa Gnanapragasam, Merton’s lead GP said: “This film, which is a fantastic example of the benefits of great partnership working and is available for anyone to watch, will help support some of the more vulnerable members of our community build the confidence to improve their digital skills and reap the benefits of being online and using new technology.”

Anyone who feels inspired by the film to do more online can get help from their local library in Merton.