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As Mencap’s digital accessibility officer, I’m passionate about making sure people with a learning disability can get the information they need in a clear way when they’re online.

When things that affect your life directly - like booking a blood test or managing benefits like Universal Credit - are being moved online more and more, it’s vital these are accessible for everyone. There needs to be the right support in place for people with a learning disability to be able to keep up.

Moving important things online might be quicker, or cheaper, or more convenient for the people that offer services. But they should always think about people who might not have the digital skills or confidence with technology.

It’s bad enough filling in a benefit form on paper, but it can be more confusing if you’re doing things online without the skills you need. 

People risk being missed out and made to feel like they’re not part of society in the same way as anyone else. This is unacceptable in the physical world – so why isn’t it the same for the digital world?

I hope that with all the talk of AI, we might be able to get something that helps people with a learning disability online. For example, I can use Google Translate to make a webpage in French or Spanish into English in a few seconds.  

Wouldn’t it be great if AI could be used to automatically translate jargon and inaccessible words into plain English? It would go a long way to making the online world more accessible for people with a learning disability. 

I wish that people who design digital systems involved people with a learning disability from the start. If you can get things right for someone who has a learning disability, the chances are you will have got it right for everyone, because your design will be clear, simple to use, not confusing, and most importantly, accessible.

But it’s important not just to get information that is accessible, it’s just as important for that information to be 100% correct.  

Last year I was invited to attend a conference organised by Google Europe in Brussels - the Fighting Misinformation Online Summit. The summit was a chance to learn more about how we can make sure the people we support aren’t an easy target for misinformation.

I want to make sure that people with a learning disability can safely access information that is true and can use their rights to take part in democracy . I’m really happy that Mencap has worked with Google to do that.

Harry at the Google Summit. He is  wearing a black top and holding a sign that says #GoogleLeadersLab

Harry at Google's Fighting Misinformation Online Summit

We’ve partnered with to make new accessible resources to help to create better information for the learning disability community online. 

This project will really change things for young people with a learning disability, giving them the chance to develop the skills we all need to spot fake news, question the information they’re seeing, and make their own decisions about what’s real and what’s not real online.  

Not only that, but there’ll be new resources to help people safely shop, work, make new friends and feel part of society, helping them access all the positives that can be found online.  

Whether it’s something that sounds too good to be true, a practical joke, or something that’s deliberately misleading, we’ve got to support people around us and stop fake information getting out of control, and our work with Google will do that!