Pathfinder Project in Kirklees with mHabitat.

Victoria Betton.

30th May 2018

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When West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership won funding for a pathfinder project, Good Things Foundation and mHabitat joined forces with them to deliver the local project. The team met with Kate Henry (Director at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS FT @KateHnry) and Pete Nuckley (Delivery Manager at Good Things Foundation @pics_in_clouds) to discuss the project and outline the aims and ambitions.  This project would form part of a widening digital participation pathfinder programme, which is being sponsored by NHS Digital.  There are 20 pathfinder projects nationally to support better access to care,  you can get an overview of the different projects on Goods Things Foundation website here.   

Locally, mHabitat have been focusing on the Kirklees area working with people who are deaf, hard of hearing and/or with impaired sight or blind.  We aim to share our learning  widely, along with all of the other pathfinder projects.  The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnerships (WYHP) have been keeping a keen eye on progress and have supported us through their news and social media channels. You can read a report, by the WYHP, describing the challenges and requirements for accessibility here

During the early stages of discovery, we reviewed the literature and evidence around the specific challenges faced by people who hearing and/or visual impairments when accessing health services.  We found that there were a number of digital aids, such as accessibility apps and assistive technologies that could help.  We also uncovered some of the complexities and challenges in using these, given people’s diverse requirements, cost and personal preference.  For example, we demonstrated a text to speech app to a group who use British Sign Language, and found that for those who are born deaf, the written word may not be a language they can use. Another participant explained that they could text, but as they were quite slow it would make conversing in this way inappropriate for for a health related appointment.   Seeing AI was another app we demonstrated, for some this was a very exciting find, however, it only runs on apple phones at this time so anyone with Android or Windows couldn’t use it without investing in an iPhone.  We also discovered that for those who are blind, using a smartphone app to navigate or recognise a face, for example, can be problematic if they are commanding a guide dog at the same time.

We reached out to a number of charities in the local and regional area and some of them were able to actively support us at the two show and tell workshops we ran in May, such as David from KVIN (Kirklees visual impairment network), Dinos from RNIB (Royal national institute for the blind), Sean Action on Hearing Loss and Jo from BTM (Bradford Talking Media). Molly from Molly Watt Trust also joined us for our GP based workshop, and we’re looking forward to seeing Molly’s vlog of the session, which we’ll share you.  We’ve also found some great work being done nationally by a charity called AbilityNet, who help people of any age and with any disability use technology to achieve their goals at home, at work and in education.

The show and tell workshops helped us to build on what we’d found in the literature, and within two prior discovery workshops. We took all of the information we had gathered in the lead up to the workshops, and shared this with the local people of Kirklees who have hearing and/or visual impairment.  One of the days was run at The Grange Group Practice and we were delighted that staff there got involved too, sharing first hand their experiences and ideas about how things could be changed around the environment and journey through services.

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The show and tell workshops helped us to build on what we’d found in the literature, and within two prior discovery workshops. Here are some of the valuable things we learnt:

Inclusion is the word to keep in mind when getting things right for everyone who accesses health and care services.  For example, something as simple as having information in different formats for those with sight loss, and highlighting important information that might not otherwise be seen



Co design of the smallest things will help inclusivity.  On participant talked to us about the environment, and how signs and notices that are laminated reflect light that makes them difficult to read. Another person explained that even a small change in the layout of the room can make it difficult to navigate



Using the GP systems to flag where people need support would save the embarrassment of having to ask each time, for example needing help to find a seat or being notified when their name appears on the sign to go through to the Doctor.

The next part of our project will focus on sharing this information more widely, and we will be doing this through what has been termed ‘Digital Champions’.  These are people who are willing to listen, learn and share information about the types of digital technology that can support people to have a better experience when they visit their GP, or any other health service for that matter.  Our core Digital Champions will be in the form of the GP staff in the area and local charities, who we will support to reach citizens who are deaf, hard of hearing and/or affected by sight impairment or loss.

If you’re interested in following this project story you can find us on Twitter at @wearemhabitat.

If you live or work in the West Yorkshire & Harrogate district, and would like to discuss becoming a Digital Champion, get in touch with us at enquiries@wearemhabitat.com

Check out Molly Watt's vlog detailing the event here.



Victoria Betton.

Director of mHabitat.