In the spring of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic beginning, there were clear indications that people with developmental disabilities were unduly impacted by both the coronavirus itself as well as the societal repercussions of “stay at home” orders and social distancing mandates. Congregate settings were becoming hotspots of transmission, and the services that people with DD depend on were being shut down or moved to virtual settings.
One long term issue impacting people with DD is a lack of access to the tools of technology that allow for online and virtual connection – due to the costs of hardware, the learning curve to understand how to use devices, and connectivity issues across the state, among other factors. Faced with a pandemic crisis that was changing the idea of “business as usual”, the Council decided that this issue had become a priority.
After shifting funding to this nascent project, MDDC purchased 147 new iPads, built a simple website to collect applications, and reached out to parent and self-advocate organizations, service providers and case managers across the state to solicit applications to receive an iPad, with a focus on the level of need, current access to wifi, and desire to use the device to receive services, connect with family and friends, and better advocate for themselves.
With only a short, weeklong period of accepting applications, MDDC received over 450 requests for an iPad – over 3 times the number of iPads available for this project. The number of applications indicates a clear and pressing need for access to this kind of technology, and it is clear that with greater outreach and a longer application period, we would have received many more requests than that. MDDC is assessing the results of this project with an eye towards how to support broadening access to technology for people with developmental disabilities in the future.
This project gave us much useful data to better understand how getting access to technology changes the lives of people with developmental disabilities. We worked with a Boston University student, Margaret Carter, who helped collect this data and analyzed our results. Here is a slide that expresses her findings:
Language on Poster:
Margaret Carter, OT/s
Robin Newman, OTD, OTR, CLT, FAOTA; Rachel Dyer, Associate Director of the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council
Department of Occupational Therapy
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) experience:
Amid pandemic, individuals with IDD are less likely to engage in virtual social participation using digital technology and are at a greater risk for loneliness
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Knowledge to Action (KTA) Framework
iPads – 147 individuals with IDD receive iPads
Observation – Observe existing Zoom groups for individuals with IDD
Assistance – Assist participants (individuals with IDD and/or staff) with technical support as needed
Data – Gather and analyze data from surveys and focus groups
Conclusion – Compose report with conclusions and recommendations
114 participants responded to two online surveys approximately 1 and 2 months after receiving iPad
At conclusion of iPad project:
-Contact with case managers and providers
Themes from qualitative data:
Providing individuals with IDD with iPads in conjunction with family/staff support, technology assistance, and accessible resources facilitated:
Future directions include: