Both service users and staff from Care UK‘s Learning Disability Service were fully involved throughout the project to put the site together, from initial ideas about using an online platform through several months of research and development work to user testing, completion and 'go-live‘. Along the way, technologies such as 'symbol browsing‘ software helped in the creation of inclusive, accessible content and functionality.
"In line with our emphasis on personalisation, www.careuklearningdisabilities.com was created from a starting point of 'Who are the people we want to value our site? And what will be valuable to them?‘" explains Loraine George, Director of Quality for Care UK‘s Learning Disability and Children‘s Services.
"Only by gaining an understanding of their needs and aspirations were we able to bring together a range of good quality, easily understandable online information about the services and choices available to them as well as ways to be heard and have their say.
We‘ve already seen the benefits for our own service users, who have been visiting the website for advice, to see what's new, to think about the things that are important for them in life, to help them plan and decide what they want from their support package, and how to get the most out of every day."
The site‘s focus is very much upon supporting people to achieve their ambitions and live the way they want. Key pages for people with learning disabilities are grouped under the heading of 'Your Life' and cover areas such as work, money, home and friends, community involvement, better health and access to housing.
Real-life experiences are presented in short audio visual clips – Donna‘s home, Stephen‘s story – and through words and pictures - Sophie‘s story and We are the Listen To Me Group. Put simply, showing individuals who are supported as far as possible to do ordinary things, with ordinary people, in ordinary places, at ordinary times, and to lead happy and fulfilled lives.
The combination of content to watch or listen to, pictures, and plain, jargon-free text helps those who have a short attention span or are easily distracted. This is also useful for anyone who cannot read or is surfing the web with assistance.
Many people with learning difficulties find lots of websites too complex, hard to understand and difficult to navigate through. This site was built by Care UK‘s own web specialists who were dedicated to applying best practice in the design and construction of accessible pages and functions. A great deal of attention was paid to providing simple uniform screen layouts (with the option of only viewing one thing at a time), and avoiding pages overloaded with too many distractions (like flashing graphics) or too many choices (like a large cumbersome navigation system).
'Point enabled‘ symbol-writing software provides visual prompts which illustrate the meanings of individual words, appearing as the user points or hovers their mouse over the writing on screen. This helps to make written information on the web pages understandable to non-readers and people with cognitive difficulties. For those with some text knowledge, the symbols act as a reminder for words that are not immediately recognised.
"We‘re proud to have produced a site that‘s attractive, interesting and easy to access for everyone who uses the internet, regardless of physical or sensory capabilities," continues Loraine. â€•And it will continue to develop and be shaped through the feedback we are given by its visitors - service users, family and friends, advocates, carers, commissioners, or anyone interested in seeing more about our learning disability services and the people we support."
Visit www.careuklearningdisabilities.com to see the range of information and resources that are now available.