This year has further highlighted the crucial role technology plays in everyone’s lives. The ability to stay connected has never been so important, especially when we are unable to meet with friends and loved ones physically.
But some people with a learning disability can find it difficult to access and navigate certain technology, such as social media, and with cyber bullying on the rise people do not feel safe on such large-scale platforms. This is why, seven years ago, Camphill Village Trust embarked on a co-produced project, to create a social media site which was safe to use and fully accessible for the people supported by the Trust.
Camphill Village Trust is a national charity supporting almost 600 adults with learning and other disabilities across 10 communities and services in England. With the communities geographically spread across the country people supported by the Trust needed a way to tap into their network and communicate with each other, sharing ideas, stories and inspiration.
CVT Connect has always had co-production at its core, based on the thought that people who use a service are best placed to create, change or improve that service. The creation and development of the digital platform involved people with disabilities at nearly every stage.
A group of 14 people with learning disabilities worked with Made Open, a digital communications company, to produce a closed, accessible social media platform that would meet the needs of its users.
CVT Connect has been co-produced around four key functions
- Create a personal profile
- This replicates a one-page profile as often used in peoples support plans or care files. Each user can choose who they wish to share their profile with including their friends and support workers.
- Share ideas
- Users can create a shared wall around a theme or idea. People can contribute ideas by placing a ‘postie’ with either a photo, symbol, emoji, type their thoughts or attach a document.
- Work together
- People can make plans to co-produce projects together even if they are in different locations. There is also a resource section where people can browse and select from a constantly updated digital library.
- Keep informed
- The digital noticeboards ensure that people with disabilities have updated information that they need to enable them to make choices.
A new look
CVT Connect is an ever-evolving platform with new features being co-developed all the time. The platform recently celebrated a relaunch to encourage more people to sign up. Focus groups, individual interviews and surveys were developed to ask users what they liked, disliked, or would like to see improved on the platform. From this information the site underwent a refresh with new capabilities.
Some of the new features include a ‘Chat with Huw’ section where users can ask the Chief Executive of Camphill Village Trust, Huw John, questions or give suggestions and gain direct replies. More themed walls have been created with competitions such as a recent Autumn photography competition. The platform now also has areas for important easy read documents so people can keep up to date, this includes a new page which was added at the start of the national lockdown in March. Stay health – Coronavirus information page is where people can find and add any information that will help people stay active and healthy throughout the lockdown.
A growing network
The numbers of active users on CVT Connect has grown significantly over the last few months, people are developing the skills and confidence they need to use a social platform online and to do this safely.