The government has set up a £2.5 million fund to provide devices, data and digital support to people with learning disabilities on low incomes.
The new Digital Lifeline scheme will fund 5,000 internet tablets preloaded with data and free tech support for those facing a combination of digital exclusion – cost as a barrier to internet access and increased social isolation caused by coronavirus.
It comes as recent ONS data found three in four people with a learning disability believe their wellbeing has been affected by the impact of coronavirus, compared with 37% of non-disabled people.
A recent report led by Jane Seale, Professor of Education in the faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language at the Open University, also found technology can help people with learning disabilities reduce feelings of loneliness and support their mental health and wellbeing.
Digital Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “The pandemic has been incredibly tough for disabled people who have struggled to get online for basic things like catching up with loved ones.
“The Digital Lifeline fund will tackle this divide head on by putting thousands of devices in the hands of those who need them most, with free data and tech support on standby to help people with learning disabilities.”
The first devices are being delivered this month.
Commenting on the news, Gary Moore, CEO of AbilityNet, which supports people with disabilities to use technology to achieve their goals said: “Covid has shown how access to technology is a vital part of an independent and fulfilling life for everyone in the community.
“AbilityNet has been helping disabled people harness the power of tech for over 20 years and the Digital Lifeline project offers a wonderful opportunity to help people with learning disabilities get their hands on tech which will transform their lives.”