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Discussing Online Barriers with Autism Plus

To understand the challenges and obstacles people with autism are facing during the Covid 19 pandemic and online, Recite Me sit down with Katie Mitchell, Marketing Manager Autism Plus, to discuss how they are supporting as many people as they can.

During the pandemic how has Autism Plus helped people with isolating and using the internet for everyday tasks?

For many of the individuals we support at Autism Plus the pandemic increased fears and anxieties, routines were disrupted, and for some people the rules around social distancing were confusing. We quickly adapted our services wherever possible to deliver support sessions online, we have a full zoom timetable now that includes drama group, quizzes, local history, art and wildlife groups, book club, disco’s, and drinks and nibbles!

For the people we support who were unable to see their family and friends in person we helped them to have regular contact via the internet.

We also:

Partnered with ‘Good Things Foundation’ to provide 10 tablets and dongles for people who were unable to access the internet

Provided ‘Make it Click’ sessions to help people with basic digital skills such as online safety, and using the internet

Offered webinars around supporting Neurodiverse individuals to return to the workplace or to support remote working to help raise awareness and ensure employees with autism were kept connected.

What are the common barriers people with autism can face online?

The internet is a fantastic resource for information, news and communicating with family, friends and colleagues.

For an individual with autism, navigating through all of that information can be confusing and overwhelming. Many people with autism rely on structure and routine which can help ease anxieties, but online quite often websites lack structure which can make people feel lost and results in lots of clicks to sites and pages that aren’t relevant for them.

There is so much news and information posted on the internet nowadays, and it can be difficult for some people with autism to understand the difference between real and fake news, and when you search for something it may bring up results from years ago, it isn’t always easy to see when an article was posted.

Why is it important for Autism Plus to offer accessibility and language options online?

As a charity offering care and support for people with autism, learning disabilities and neurodiverse conditions it is vital that the information we provide on our website is accessible and easy to navigate to as many people as possible, in ways that work for them. This is why we love Recite Me as it enables visitors to our site to customise and access content easily.

Toolbar data shows Autism Plus website visitors use the text enlarge styling tool the most to customise their experience. Why would you think this is the most commonly used feature?

The text enlarge feature is great because it means the visitor can completely customise the text size that works best for them, and used together with the speech function means that the information can easily be understood.

We can see that distraction support tools such as Text-only mode, screen mask, and magnifying glass have been used on nearly 100 occasions. Are these online techniques commonly used by people with autism to read content online?

These too are great functions as it means visitors with neurodiverse conditions who may prefer to focus on one area of the page can do this easily and avoid distraction from images and the remaining content in that area.

Autism Plus aims to empower people to live independent lives, how do you think Recite Me helps with this goal?

Recite Me helps us by offering a real inclusive experience when visiting our website, it helps our visitors to take control and process information in a way that suits them and their needs – it's what we’re all about, helping people to take control and make their own choices.