Interactional power and support in digital inclusion of an adult with intellectual disabilities: A case study analysis

Darren D. Chadwick (Lead / Corresponding author), Susan Buell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Digital inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities is not commensurate with those without disabilities. Societal, political, financial, individual and interpersonal barriers help explain this disparity. Caregivers can act as both support and gatekeeper to internet access and use by adults with intellectual disabilities. This study investigated micro-level interpersonal factors influencing access and use of the internet by an adult with intellectual disabilities to explore the balance and interplay of power and support around the processes of digital inclusion and online risk taking. Taking a case study approach, perspectives of three key stakeholders were gathered via interviews: the person with intellectual disabilities, his mother and a paid support worker. Perspectives and experiences were contrasted using systemic functional linguistic analysis of discourse to explore the ways power and support were represented in the language of negotiated digital inclusion. Dynamics between the parent and person with intellectual disabilities and between the parent and paid staff clearly influenced processes of digital inclusion and were affected by varying priorities, positions and perceptions of power to allow, disallow and monitor access and use of the internet. These had the power to shape and drive internet access. Language choices by the person with intellectual disabilities showed that he was not fully aware of the risks involved in engaging with certain aspects of digital inclusion but how he spoke about the internet indicated some autonomy in technology use. Supporting the development of digital competence, confidence and resilience in people with learning disabilities should be combined with support to increase self-awareness regarding digital risk. Those supporting people with intellectual disabilities towards digital inclusion need additional guidance on how to do this effectively for the people they support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-261
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Research in Special Educational Needs
Issue number3
Early online date29 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • digital inclusion
  • information & communication technology
  • intellectual disabilities
  • online risk
  • power
  • self-determination
  • support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Interactional power and support in digital inclusion of an adult with intellectual disabilities: A case study analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this