Communications on COVID19, and the experiences of people with learning disabilities and autistic people

Alison Wilde, Robyn Steward

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    This paper draws on a study which used inclusive methods to seek how people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people gained access to information on COVID 19 from 2020-2022. As high-risk groups, with a range of new communication needs, the pandemic generated greater uncertainty, anxiety, panic, and risks to self and others. Optimising their well-being, and the imperatives of pandemic communications and preparedness - i.e., inclusive forms of communication which build trust and ‘dispel rumors’ (Vaughn and Tinker, 2009, 324), created an urgent need to understand how people with learning disabilities and/or autism are likely to access information and interpret the communications and conditions of rapidly changing pandemic rules, in the face of a vast array of information from all media, and alongside diminished forms of support.

    Thirty-four interviews were undertaken with autistic people and people with learning disabilities, in the UK, focusing on their understandings of media, health-related communications and network information (e.g. from family / carers / friends/ social care agencies). These informed a survey completed in November 2022. Drawing on in-depth discussions with participants, and analysis of survey data I will outline common themes emerging in key areas. These include views on the delivery of offical rules and the exclusionary design of political communications, and the varying experiences of the participants; these were often higly dependent on access to support from family and/or support organisations in circumstances where such services were much diminished. I will also demonstrate how the creativity and resourcefulness of the disabled/autistic people helped to provide much needed new resources, e.g., extending services to co-productive easy read information on COVID-19.

    I will also show how the 'return to normality' is often not the case for many with many feeling ambivalent, even anxious, about the lifting of restrictions and the relative absence of new information.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 11 May 2023
    EventNNDR 16th Research Conference - Rekjavik, Iceland
    Duration: 10 May 202312 May 2023

    Academic conference

    Academic conferenceNNDR 16th Research Conference
    Internet address


    • Media
    • communications
    • autism and learning disabilities


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