Co-producing social media in a learning disability service

Co-producing social media in a learning disability service

Recently I blogged about how we were collaborating with people with a learning disability to develop a social media presence. You can find the post here

Our next step was for @digitalastair and me to spend a morning with a group of people with a learning disability, and workers, to have a shared think about how we might make this happen in practice.

We found that whilst some participants had heard of Facebook, almost everyone was unfamiliar with other forms of social media, and only a few people had an active account.

We had wondered whether the highly visual content of Pinterest might be appealing – and we weren’t wrong. It is no exaggeration to say that people loved it. We found out about everyone’s interests and then invariably we were able to track down a Pinterest site that matched. Everything from Freddie Star, through to Westlife, through to pubs in Leeds. The only thing which eluded us was Shakin’ Stevens – a gap in the world of Pinterest that has yet to be filled!

This practical approach, directly connecting to people’s personal interests, was a great way to engage them in the possibilities of social media. The service already has a healthy eating group and participants immediately saw the advantages of keeping a photographic record of recipes as they are made and then sharing them with others through the site. People saw this as an opportunity to share their activities with friends and families. Workers saw it as a means of keeping colleagues, managers and commissioners in touch with their work.

And as @Digitalastair pointed out: ‘On Facebook we [NHS Trust] are only going to get found under ‘learning disabilities’ or ‘NHS’ or something like that. On Pinterest we’d be found under ‘making a tuna sandwich’. Now THAT’S inclusive social media’.

Facebook was a bit trickier to conceptualise for people who were unfamiliar with it, but the basic site we had already developed ‘Blue-Peter-stylie’, was again a good starting point. Participants were keen on the possibilities of sharing photos, music and YouTube clips they like with others. The Facebook fan page will be part of our Get Me? campaign, which aims to raise awareness of learning disabilities, and reduce the stigma and discrimination people often experience. The page will be co-produced by people with a learning disability and workers, talking about their lives and what they are doing to support the campaign.

We had a great discussion and agreed some shared ground-rules for only uploading content (such as photos) which people have agreed can be shared. We also agreed that email alerts for comments will go to our communications team, as well as the workers, at least initially so we can pick things up and respond quickly. Workers will make sure that families are aware of our plans so they are not surprised to see photos of the people they care for on the web.

Our next step is a practical session where people put things in to practice and begin uploading content – I have no doubt there is going to be lots of it.

Thank you to @digitalastair for leading the session and contributing to this post.

Here are a few useful resources I’ve come across:

Inclusive New Media Design aim make sure that people with intellectual disabilities are included in the Web are are part of the University of Leeds. You can follow them on Twitter @INMD_09

I think  Change have a fantastic website. They are a human rights organisation led by disabled people, who campaign for rights, inclusion and easy read information for all people with learning disabilities. You can follow them on Twitter @changepeople_

The Rix Centre is a charitable research & development organisation committed to realising the benefits of new media technology to transform the lives of people who have learning disabilities. They deliver a rolling programme of research & development projects as well as providing teaching & learning in Multimedia Advocacy and implementing wider Multimedia Advocacy based initiatives across the fields of health, social care and education.

Cognable is run by Simon Evans, a researcher and developer with particular interest in use of the internet, assistive technologies and new media by and for people with Intellectual Disabilities (ID).


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestFlattr the author


  1. Wonderful!! I love this concept, the work you’re doing…. So inclusive, a really ‘naturalistic’ use of Social Media. My favourite of your many excellent projects so far. Great to see this happening. I’m dead proud of us in Leeds!! (Big kudos to @digitalalastair, too)

  2. Hello! Thank you for the very kind mentions 🙂

    From a purely selfish point of view, I love this project because it took me away from the strategic/corporate/’what was our Klout score this morning? OK, but what is it now?’ – thinking about social media, and back into the realms of “Oh, you know what? This is just cool”.

    In the space of 24 hours there are likely to have been two major Twitter storms and Facebook will have quietly changed at least one of its settings. For a lot of people who deal/live in this world, that’s just business as usual.

    We like to think we’re the cool kids, but really it’s like the Bruce Lee line about the finger pointing at the moon: we can get so fixated on the finger that we miss the moon.

    This project is not about the trends, or the tech, or the profile, strategy or analytics – it’s just about content and the meaning people find in it. And it’s that inherent inclusivity which I’m really excited about. To embarrassingly paraphrase myself – a tuna sandwich is a tuna sandwich, no matter who makes it or who likes it.

    I’m fairly sure I just actually paraphrased myself; hope this comment doesn’t make it past moderation…

  3. Very interesting insight and learning – genius actually, thanks for sharing.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *