Access to IT for people with learning disabilities in the USA is no better than in the 1990s


The use of information technology (IT) is now a fundamental part of education. An earlier study of the use of IT by students with learning disabilities in the USA (Wehmeyer et al 2004) found that they were less likely to have access to and benefit from technology than their non disabled peers.

This USA survey of family members of people with learning and developmental disabilities attempted to replicate the Wehmeyer study by asking a series of questions about the use of technology for mobility, hearing and vision, communication, independent living, and computer use.

The researchers in this study also asked questions about the use of email, mobile telephones and digital cameras.

They found that although the use of computers for individuals with learning and developmental disabilities is more prevalent than in the previous study, the use of other technology was much as it was in the late 1990s.

Family members’ reports of the technology use of family members with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Palmer, S et al., in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56: 402–414.


In the UK, the Rix Centre a national charitable research & development organisation is working to explore the way new technologies and in particular new media could benefit the learning disability community. You can see the work of the RIX Centre here

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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