Inclusive design is an essential part of effective service delivery. But what exactly is it, and how can we make sure that our services are designed to meet the needs of vulnerable communities? Read on to find out how we’re using inclusive design to make online safety accessible for young people living with intellectual disability.
Inclusive design for online safety is important
The internet plays a big role in our everyday lives, and this is especially true for young people. But online safety can be a difficult conversation to have with a young person, and inaccessible resources makes this even harder if a young person lives with an intellectual disability.
The problem with current online safety education
Current online safety education is not delivered in a way that reaches young people with disability. In most cases, it has not been delivered at all, with more than a quarter of young people with a chronic or longstanding illness significantly more likely to say they had not received any online safety education (Cybersurvey).
In research conducted by the eSafety Commissioner, teens with intellectual disability were more likely to prevent and manage online safety incidents through trial and error rather than through systematic education. This is signalled by their default response strategies to negative online experiences being to simply shut down and retreat.
Tailored support is necessary in this area so that young people with disability are not excluded from the benefits of being an active, resilient and empowered digital citizen.
Lessons from designing an inclusive online safety program for young people with intellectual disability
Lesson 1: Understand why your program is important for your audience
Designing a program takes a lot of time and resources. That’s why it’s important to make sure you are actually meeting the needs of your audience. We invited participants into the early stages of our Cyber Safety Project to find out where they fit into the broader conversation. An early-stage survey revealed some insights into the need for inclusive online safety programs information. One survey participant, a teacher at a special education school said: ‘Teaching cyber safety is like teaching life skills. We need to teach them this otherwise they won’t be taught.”
Lesson 2: Don’t forget to be engaging
When designing a program about something as important as online safety, it can be easy to forget that your audience wants to be engaged and entertained. For a young person, the online world is nothing but fun and entertainment. Online safety isn’t a concern.
Our survey findings showed that delivering the program in an engaging way that meets diverse needs and learning styles is a vital goal. In terms of content delivery, teens preferred cartoon or animated content over real people, as well as the inclusion of people with lived experience in delivering the training. By ensuring meaningful representation in disability service design, our Cyber Safety Project will lead the way in this exciting space.
Lesson 3: Make it easy for your audience
Addressing the sensitivity of some topics is a key concern. Our survey findings showed that parents want to achieve a balance and partnership with their children, especially older teens. For those who experienced online safety incidents involving their child, they struggled with confidently respecting their child’s agency in online spaces. This has been identified as a universal difficulty which the training will aim to address.
Bringing inclusive design to life
When creating and delivering a disability program, inclusivity is never just an end goal. It is always an ongoing process of collaboration and feedback. Throughout all the key stages of developing our Cyber Safety Project, consulting with our community members remains a key priority. This includes conducting various program tests to get a more well-rounded sense of the user journey and experience before launch.
User input should also be continually considered long after the program is launched. By remaining adaptable to any access needs that may come up in the retrospective stages, this will ensure our project stays relevant and has a lasting impact on the people who need it most.