People with disabilities consume online resources less than people without disabilities. Since many people with disabilities lack digital skills, they cannot enjoy the benefits of using digital tools, e.g., developing independence and receiving information and support. This situation underscores the need for promoting digital literacy among people with disabilities in a way that is adapted to their needs. The assumption is that family caregivers as well as professional caregivers in residential institutions are influential mediating agents in promoting digital literacy among people with disabilities. Hence, making adapted digital tools available to these individuals and training them in their use are essential for this purpose. The training of caregivers may prove to be highly valuable for both people with disabilities and their caregivers – it may enhance their independence and autonomy and allow them personal decision making. At the same time, it may provide their caregivers with essential tools for navigating the digital world, which may ease the burden of care and improve the quality of support given to people with disabilities.
This report describes the second part of the learning process regarding the development and maintenance of digital literacy among people with disabilities, conducted as part of a study commissioned by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and JDC-Israel Unlimited.
The report describes training programs for caregivers operating in various countries with the aim of promoting digital literacy among people with disabilities who are in need of support and guidance in the digital world. The report is focused on two issues: the training of caregivers of people with disabilities; and the development of long-term support services for people with disabilities and their caregivers. The report deals with three key aspects of the various training programs and services reviewed: (1) types of training – programs for family caregivers and for professional caregivers in residential institutions; while various types of professional caregivers support people with disabilities, the report focuses on professional personnel in residential institutions as they are in ongoing contact with the people in their care; (2) training method – “teaching how to teach”: giving caregivers pedagogical tools for promoting digital literacy among people with disabilities; (3) long-term support services focused on the use of digital tools.
The report is based on two data sources:
- International review of best practices: academic papers, websites of service-providing organizations, and research reports on training and support programs operating at present or in recent years.
- Interviews to locate relevant information among Israeli content experts: five interviews with experts working for organizations that promote digital literacy among people with disabilities.
Information collected on programs and services provided at present or in recent years in Australia, Ireland, the US (Texas and California), and the UK indicates several important practices and key aspects of training programs and support services:
- The training of caregivers is aimed not only to promote the use of digital tools among people with disabilities but also to provide support for the caregivers, particularly family caregivers, and to foster their connection to the surrounding community. Such training is of high importance as it may address a variety of needs and, among other things, enhance the personal wellbeing of caregivers, enable the collection of essential medical and administrative information regarding the people with disabilities in their care, save time and money through the use of online services, and facilitate and streamline care management.
- Program flexibility. Some programs are hybrid and include both onsite and online sessions; others offer a flexible schedule adapted to the caregivers’ needs, including short sessions and/or prerecorded lessons.
- Some training programs are tailormade to suit the needs of both caregivers and the people with disabilities in their care. In some cases, both parties are involved in developing and customizing the program.
- Some programs offer digital devices or an ISP subscription as part of the services provided. This practice serves not only to encourage program participation but also as an essential way of promoting digital access.
- Additional tools were identified that may enable adapting the program to the participants’ needs: conducting a pilot program to examine its suitability to a larger target audience prior to full-scale implementation; and creating a feedback mechanism to collect information from participants and instructors regarding the extent to which the program meets their needs and achieves its educational goals.
- Long-term support for both caregivers and the people with disabilities in their care, provided through troubleshooting centers is essential. It is vital to provide accessible service by troubleshooting centers available for long hours daily and through various channels of communication. In this context, the importance of peer support over and above the support provided by digital experts (“champions”) has also been noted.
The following recommendations were formulated based on the information regarding the training programs for caregivers on the use of digital tools and the long-term support services reviewed in this study:
- Available information as well as the needs of prospective participants in the training programs should be mapped at the preliminary stage of program development.
- The training programs should be adapted to the target audience by involving both people with disabilities and their caregivers in the content development process.
- Flexible scheduling and diverse training channels should be offered.
- Comprehensive digital services (including at least digital devices and an internet subscription should be offered to encourage caregivers to participate in the program.
- Training programs that “teach how to teach” should be developed and pedagogical tools should be provided to caregivers to enable them to serve as digital mentors and impart their knowledge to others.
- The implementation of the knowledge acquired should be monitored.
- Diverse ways for long-term support should be offered.
- A platform should be developed for peer support and knowledge sharing regarding the use of digital tools among the community of users, including both people with disabilities and their caregivers.
Citing suggestion:Hercowitz-Amir, A., & Yabo, M. (2023). Training Programs and Services for Developing Digital Literacy Among Caregivers of People With Disabilities – Best Practices. RR-929-23. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)