Exploring the impact of access to technology on the lives of people with learning disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic

Speaker: Professor Jane Seale, WELS, The Open University, UK.


In this seminar Jane will address how support workers in the United Kingdom have used technologies to connect with adults with learning disabilities during the covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, the blanket issuing of ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders on people with learning disabilities and the refusal to prioritise them for vaccinations, despite evidence that people with learning disabilities are 30 times more likely to die from covid, has raised concerns regarding the rights of people with learning disabilities and the extent to which their human rights are being denied. If basic rights such as the right to life can no longer be relied upon by people with learning disabilities during this pandemic this raises important questions regarding their meaningful inclusion in society. Jane will present the results of a survey of 104 support workers and interviews with 26 support workers which illuminate how they have attempted to use technology to connect with and support adults with learning disabilities during the pandemic. The results reveal important issues regarding human rights, digital inclusion and exclusion and have implications for how we build capacity for both adults with learning disabilities and their support workers to access and use technology confidently in order to stay connected in times of extreme stress and threat.




Jane Seale is a Professor of Education in the Faculty of Wellness, Education and Language Studies as the Open University in the UK. Jane’s teaching and research interests lie at the intersections between disability, technology and inclusion. One particular focus of her work is the development and evaluation of methods that promote voice and empowerment for marginalized learners including adults with learning disabilities.  Jane has recently completed a research study entitled “Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems” which used participatory methods to engage people with sensory and intellectual impairments in the design and evaluation of technologies that facilitates their access to museums.


Recent Relevant publications:

  1. Seale, J., Choksi, A & Spencer, K (2019) ‘I’ve been a whizz-kid since I’ve been at college’: Giving voice to the collective memories of adults with learning disabilities about the role that technology has played in their lives. Disability Studies Quarterly (Open Access) 39,4, https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v39i4.6621
  2. Seale, Jane; Garcia Carrizosa, Helena; Rix, Jonathan; Sheehy, Kieron and Hayhoe, Simon (2021). A participatory approach to the evaluation of participatory museum research projects.International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 44(1) pp. 20–40.
  3. Jane Seale (2020) Keeping connected and staying well: the role of technology in supporting people with learning disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic, Milton Keynes, The Open University. http://www.open.ac.uk/health-and-social-care/research/shld/node/371


University personal home page: http://www.open.ac.uk/people/jks282

Twitter: @janeseale

Leave a Reply

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