Throughout lockdown, the internet has become an even more crucial part of our daily lives: for many it’s now the only way to connect with friends and family, and access vital services, information, and day to day essentials.
Yet for disabled people – more likely to be shielding, self-isolating, or acutely restricted by lockdown measures e.g. with social care removed – these digital lifelines are too often out of reach.
Disabled people of all ages are up to twice as likely to have no internet access. Poverty, lack of confidence and lack of accessibility are contributing factors. In turn, digital exclusion adds to inequalities we face in education, employment, accessing services, civic participation – and more than ever, now, it adds to our acute loneliness and isolation. Our ongoing engagement of GDA members and disabled people across Glasgow shows that only 37% have internet access at home – while 72% said isolation is a major worry, and 76% were not aware of any local support services they could access.
This is just one of the ways in which COVID-19 has supercharged inequalities – and it’s one of the barriers GDA is pushing ahead to fix!
Following our work on user-involvement earlier this year with the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate, GDA became one of the first pilot communities for the Scottish Government’s ‘Connecting Scotland’ Covid-response: a rapid collaboration to provide a tablet, connectivity and coaching to those in Scotland who need it most right now. GDA’s 5000+ strong membership, in-depth engagement and community learning approach helped this pilot hit the ground running, with 40 devices, set up and made accessible by the GDA team, already starting our members off on their digital journeys – and more still to come!
Through our member engagement by post and phone as well as online, the GDA team has checked in with over 3000 of our 5000+ members so far (since 23rd March) – to listen and offer holistic support during this crisis: from groceries, medication pick ups, and welfare rights advice, to signposting and support with wellbeing, social care or housing issues. With isolation one of the major concerns, we’ve moved our learning and group activities online, and to make sure no-one is left behind, with funding from Digital Scotland we can now provide coaching, equipment and connectivity to those who are digitally excluded.
Cathy (74) said “I’ve got lung cancer and COPD so I’m shielding – 13 weeks in the house – it gets you down. I don't have connection with anyone really. But this tablet is opening new doors - Information, projects, news, communicating skills – it’ll help my medical condition, too, because it’s keeping my brain going. It’s a new venture for me."
For many disabled people of all ages, any easing of lockdown will be meaningless until a vaccine is produced: inequalities supercharged by Covid-19 loom large into the future. So by investing in digital empowermenttoday we hope to both reduce the pain of isolation and lockdown now, and have a lasting impact to nurture equality as we build a New Normal across Scotland.
If you, or someone you know, is shielding from Covid-19 with no internet access and would like to hear more about GDAConnects – please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about GDA’s wider Covid Response contact email@example.com