Narrowing the digital divide

For most of us, imagining a world with no access to the internet, email or social media is unthinkable these days. It keeps us connected, makes us informed and opens up the world to us wherever we are.

If you have a disability, the likelihood of not having access to everything that the internet can offer is significantly higher than for the adult population overall. One in four disabled adults has never used the internet, compared to one in nine of all adults.

Talking to our guests at Leuchie House, our feeling is that the number who aren’t online is considerably higher than this. Only one in three of our guests has an email address, for example.

This digital divide has significant implications. 

From bringing down the increased costs of living with a disability by being able to compare the best deals, to finding out what support is available, digital access can make a huge difference to our everyday lives.

As well as practical issues, living with a long term condition can be lonely and isolating. Online communications like FaceTime and messaging can transform our ability to stay in touch with family, friends and the wider world.

For all these reasons, we were delighted to see our new digital project, Leuchie Links, get off the ground last week. Thanks to funding from The Morrison Foundation, we’ve been able to buy two new PCs, plus a range of adapted technologies that make them accessible to people otherwise unable to use a computer. We’ve also been able to bring a new member of the team on board to offer weekly digital skills support to our guests, helping them find local support services and funding advice, as well as getting to grips with everything from email, to social media, to online shopping.

Although the internet is a relatively recent phenomenon, it’s already easy to take it for granted. Seeing the impact on our guests of being able to use a PC for the first time and the new world it opens up to them, is a wonderful reminder of just how incredible it really is. And just in time for Black Friday!

Mairi O'Keefe, Chief Executive, Leuchie House. Published in The East Lothian Courier on 23 November 2017.