Digital Inclusion, Homelessness and Literacy by Raphaele von Koettlitz
Raphaele von Koettlitz works for Diversity and Ability (D&A) - an award-winning social enterprise specialising in technology training for neurodiverse learners. D&A run digital inclusion programmes across the homelessness sector, providing tailored training to service users with diverse learning needs at charities such as Crisis and St Mungos. They support individuals to access technology in a meaningful way, helping them access opportunities and vital services.
Recognising that literacy rates among those affected by homelessness sits at around 50%, it is critical to support people to use devices in a way that suits their needs. Digital inclusion is not only about providing physical devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops etc), but also ensuring that technology is usable and accessible.
Why is digital inclusion so important?
Now more than ever, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many services are only available online. We are living in a time where technology facilitates access to information, vital services and communication with loved ones. Without online access, many of us would be socially and economically isolated.
So what does this mean for people impacted by homelessness?
With the closure of libraries, day centres and cafes not all people have access to technology that allow them to stay connected. For example, accessing health care or emergency accommodation may be reliant on accessing information on the internet. Even simple human connection that ordinarily would be found at hostels or via outreach workers is massively reduced. Loneliness and mental health issues that stem from this are not to be underestimated.
Organisations such as Citizens Online and Just Life are doing great work to provide devices to those who need them. Jangala is also working to provide low-cost easy-to-use internet access systems.
D&A have been providing webinars and resources to enable people to adjust to working online and connecting remotely. They have compiled many useful apps and software to support people with diverse needs on their resources page. This includes links to free trials for assistive technology or comparison guides to online-meeting platforms for example.
The Assistive Technology Scholarship is providing access to all the major assistive technology packages that can support learning, working and day-to-day life. The scholarship is open to absolutely anyone, and winners receive Global AutoCorrect, Read & Write, Mindview and Sonocent Audio Notetaker. Winners would also get access to tutorials and videos, and personalised training on the software.
One Digital has put together some great tips on supporting homeless learners, including useful software links and things to bear in mind as a digital champion.