One of the prerequisites of developing accessible software for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is truly understanding how they use technology, and what their needs and requirements are. Therefore, to facilitate the creation of the accessibility layer, the final goal of the Able to Include Project, partner Building Bridges Training (BBT) from the United Kingdom has held six focus groups with people with intellectual disabilities, and has so far analysed 53 questionnaires.

The results are extremely telling. BBT has found that 74% of the people interviewed have access to the internet, and 58% of them can go online from home, either using their own or their parents’ devices. Five respondents found the internet too complicated or a risk to their personal or financial wellbeing, which suggests they would have greatly benefited from training on using a computer or hand-held device and on data protection. The focus groups showed that Facebook, Google, YouTube and gaming sites are visited by the majority of the respondents, while shopping, general interest, hobbies and sport websites are popular as well.

In terms of the type of devices used, 46 respondents had mobile phones, 25 of which had Smartphones. Out of these, 22 respondents used apps to wants online TV and films, use Facebook and Twitter, listen to music and read e-books. The persons who had Twitter accounts, mainly used them to follow celebrities or get news about sport.

Tablets were also quite popular, white 43 of respondents having used tablet devices and 17 showing a preference for them. People with intellectual disabilities valued tablets for their portability, speed of start up and number of available apps.

Focus group participants also pointed out some concerns they had when using the internet. For example, search engine results are heavily reliant on verbal accuracy, which can be a problem for people with intellectual disabilities, and were also very wordy. Participants were also deterred by the many passwords required, and the complex nature of payment systems. They were also unclear about personal security matters, particularly the visibility of personal data.

Facebook tops list of preferences for people with intellectual disabilities