Innovative IoT technology is supporting those with learning disabilities living in assisted housing. Here’s how it works…

Everyday activities – such as cooking meals, scheduling appointments or remembering to hang up laundry – can be a chore at the best of times. But for people with learning disabilities these tasks, which many of us take for granted, can be a real struggle. In fact, for the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK, they are often road blocks to independent living.

At Vodafone, we believe that everyone deserves to live more independent lives through access to technology. It’s why we’ve been exploring how digital innovations can help improve the quality of life for people with learning disabilities, their families and carers through ‘Connected Living’.

Connected Living

Connected Living, launched in partnership with Mencap, the UK’s leading learning disability charity, is a ground-breaking project which aims to put control back in the hands of those most in need. How? By providing people with learning disabilities greater independence, choice and access to technology through Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices and personalised digital services.

In order to ensure the success of Connected Living, we knew that it had to be a truly collaborative project, which is why it’s been co-designed by people with learning disabilities and their support workers. It’s also why we decided to pilot Connected Living’s in Mencap Supported Living homes across the country. Over twelve months, homes in Hampshire, Sussex, Somerset, Cornwall, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Suffolk, were installed with innovative technologies including a range of user friendly, intuitive IoT enabled devices controlled by our bespoke app, Vodafone MyLife.

Changing Lives

Adam Miller, 32, has Down Syndrome and Dyslexia, but has always been very independent despite living in Supportive Living facilities for over 15 years. Since joining the Vodafone Connected Living pilot in July 2018, he has found a new sense of confidence and freedom thanks to the “really helpful” technology provided.

The MyLife app, in particular, has helped enormously with the practicalities of his daily routine and living with his housemate, Matt. As a keen cook, one of Adam’s favourite features is the Shopping List and How To, which helps him remember which ingredients to buy so that he can cook for himself. “I can now cook using my tablet – for the first time I made dinner by myself,” he enthuses. His mum Nicky adds that as a “very visual learner” the ability to create visual guides with step-by-step instructions has bolstered his independence. Plus, the shared functionality means he can sit down with housemate Matt, to talk about food planning and create a shared list.

The Connected Living project is also giving support workers, such as Sophie Baldry, the opportunity to work on developing more independence and skills with their clients. Sophie, who works at one of Mencap’s home in Basingstoke, says she has seen both her tenants (Martyn and Ashley) thrive with the new technology. A trip to Marwell Zoo, for instance, wouldn’t have been possible without the reassurance of the Vodafone technology to help them feel safe and confident when out and about.

Overcoming Obstacles

In a world not designed for those with learning disabilities but which is becoming increasingly digital, Connected Living is providing much-needed support. Steve Baker, Operations Director at Mencap, notes that people living with a learning disability face inequalities in every area of their lives, explaining that: “they are more likely to live in poverty, be isolated, less likely to be in employment and often don’t have access to technology, which is a barrier in itself.”

For Sophie, the technology provided by Vodafone, particularly the MyLife app, has been a fantastic support in her role: “The app isn’t replacing the care of a support worker, it’s helping us to do our jobs in a more effective and compassionate way. It’s been wonderful watching Martyn and Ashley grow in confidence since using the technology.’

It’s a sentiment shared by Adam’s mum Nicky, who says she has noticed her son flourish and make the most of his independence with the support of the MyLife app, noting: “The more he uses it the more he will become more independent over time.”

An Exciting Future

For people with a learning disability, technology is more than just a convenience – it’s a means to gain greater control and independence. Connected Living is paving the way to a more accessible future for those who need support in a digital world, all with the tap of a button.

Looking for more accessible tech? Check out our roundup of handy apps or head to the accessibility section on vodafone.co.uk here.

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact  0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email help@mencap.org.uk or visit www.mencap.org.uk