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Enhancing quality of life for those with a learning disability

Vodafone Business Ventures and learning disabilities charity, Mencap, say their newly launched ‘Connected Living’ scheme aims to use Internet of things (IoT) technology and connectivity to enhance the quality of life for people with a learning disability via ‘bespoke software adapted to meet the unique needs of its users’.

The former said: “This is a ground-breaking project, co-designed by Vodafone and 127 people with learning disabilities using Mencap’s supported living services. The partnership is a great example of how mobile and digitally enabled technologies provide a solution to help alleviate the costs of social care, while improving the quality of life of people with learning disabilities so they can continue to live as independently as possible.” Mencap says it became increasingly aware ‘of the growing digital gap creating further inequality for people with a learning disability’, and hopes the project will start to address this issue.

The Connected Living initiative offers ‘intuitive’ IoT-enabled devices, and a bespoke Vodafone MyLife ‘app’ that ‘increases users independence and communication, while allowing support workers remote access’. Vodafone Business Ventures said: “Although there are many standalone devices – such as fall detectors, sensors, and GPS trackers, available, this is a single integrated solution that connects all the sensors and offers an easy-to- use common interface.”

Connected Living was piloted successfully over a year in locations across Hampshire, Sussex, Somerset, Cornwall, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Suffolk. 

The pilot focused on how to make everyday activities – such as household tasks, time planning, and socialising – easier. IoT-enabled devices were installed in Mencap Supported Living homes controlled by the MyLife app, which offers ‘a simple user interface integrated and accessible via a single tablet’. This gives Mencap’s clients control of their smart devices, while enabling their support workers to have remote access. Features include:

  • My Room – enables residents to manage ‘smart’ plugs, ‘smart’ locks, and ‘smart’ lights via the app.
  • How To – allows residents and support workers to create visual guides for everyday tasks.
  • My Day – is a personalised diary management tool that enables users to create daily reminders for everyday tasks. 
  • My Talk – provides those with speech problems with another way to communicate, via personalised images, text, and a speech function.
  • Call Support – allows prompt remote support via a digital ‘panic button’ that allows two-way video calling between resident and support worker with one touch.
  • To Do List – enables tenants to create easy-to-manage ‘to do’ lists to encourage them to carry out and tick off tasks throughout the day.

My Front Door – enables residents to answer their front door and check who is calling from anywhere in the house.

Other IoT technologies trialled include activity sensors, which detect unexpected movement and alert support workers, and ‘smart’ locks, which can be used to enhance residents’ privacy and sense of security in their own rooms.

Steve Baker, Operations director at Mencap, said: “There are over 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK, and they face inequalities in every area of their life. They are more likely to live in poverty, be isolated, less likely to be in employment. and often don’t have access to technology – a barrier in itself. Day-to-day tasks which many of us take for granted can be a real struggle. Technology can provide simple solutions to enable them to take control and have greater independence. We are committed to improving the lives of people with a learning disability – we don’t want them to be left out, and we know that in an increasingly digital world, we need to be innovative about our approach. 

“It was important to us to make this a truly collaborative project. This wasn’t about off-the shelf tech – so as world leaders in IoT, Vodafone was the perfect partner. The most rewarding thing has been to see it working, and the life-changing impact it can have for the people we support and their support workers.”



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