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Making Online Creative Programmes Accessible

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Today we interview AMP Access Coordinator Elena Mary Harris and take you behind the scenes of At a Distance Together (AADT) - our Digital and At Home Engagement Programme which began during lockdown last Dec. Since then, group members have been sent creative packs filled with materials and creative tasks and taken part in workshops via zoom, instead of our usual in-person events. Elena shares our approach to ensuring all our participants have been able to join in, regardless of their tech knowledge or access to devices or the internet.

Please introduce yourself and your role

Hello! I’m Elena and I have been Access Coordinator for A Moment's Peace since Dec 2020. I was brought in as a Digital Champion through Connecting Scotland to coordinate the distribution of devices to 26 participants (and their families) of our creative programme At A Distance Together. These were 20 Chrome Book tablets, 6 ipads and Myfi - 3G hotspot devices with a 2-year charged SIM.

As well as providing physical items, I provide ongoing pastoral care, training and technical support to make sure that people can participate in our workshops whenever they want to.

What have been the main issues facing participants?

Lack of devices can be a big issue but an often-ignored problem is data poverty – the inability to access a reliable internet source whenever required. A lot of people have phones but no expensive data source, which is needed for long-term engagement with any digital project. Another big issue is lack of digital confidence. One participant said she had felt excluded during lockdown from zoom chats with far-away friends, due to a fear of technology, but having zoom training and support from AMP as part of the creative workshops gave her the confidence to connect with them regularly, as well as take part in our AADT project.

What have you learnt?

I discovered that the language I at first used was not digitally accessible. A lot of people do not have the digital vocabulary that is needed to be trained in, or to access, things online. Words and phrases such as ‘tap on the icon’, ‘scroll’ and ‘swipe left’ need to be explained in different ways and often do not mean the same in a direct translation in someone’s first language.

"I got technical help with Wi-Fi and this was a great help for me getting onto the zoom meetings in particular as I had no Wi-Fi at home" AADT Participant

What happens to the devices at the end of the project?

The devices are a gift. They are not on loan. We gave the majority of devices to families as, especially during lockdown, many people in a family were needing to use devices at the same time – for study, homeschooling, entertainment or to take part in an AMP workshop! So even if a family had a phone, our AADT participant often did not get the chance to carve out that time for themselves on the device.

What advice would you give other organisations regarding digital inclusion?

The main thing is to recruit a dedicated access person, with a work mobile number to be contacted on. Our participants have found this really useful, as they know I am there specifically to help them so don’t feel they are bothering me. People can call or message me (usually through whatsapp) and I call them back on my work day to trouble-shoot any issues they are having.

Also, ask participants if they are interested in attending online workshops before organising them, and what interests them. Then, if positive, ask what they need to be able to attend? It could be childcare, a device, data, training or a zoom set-up guide in their first language (Connecting Scotland have great multilingual guides – see examples here) or training to give people the confidence to use an existing device. That way you can tailor everything to their needs, to ensure maximum uptake. Many of our participants have worked with us for years but they wouldn’t have been to come to our online workshops if we hadn’t provided this support.

Another piece of advice would be not to assume that you know how people will need access support. Everyone has very distinct needs. A brilliant access training course I went on was with Birds of Paradise Theatre company and I would highly recommend it if they are running more.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to say a big thank you to our funders Connecting Scotland who funded the 26 devices, and to the Response, Recovery and Resilience Fund through Foundation Scotland who have funded my post. Also to The Robertson Trust, Glasgow City Council Communities Fund and partners for Shared Space Tramway for their support of our work during this challenging past couple of years.

"It gave me a lot of encouragement and a positive feeling that there are people who care about me and ask about me, so I thought this project was successful and wonderful in communicating with those around in the community" AADT Participant


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