Hello and thanks for your interest in Where I Want to Live.
My name is Ben Pearce, and I am the Chief Technical Officer for an app development company called Starfish Labs UK. I am also currently writing up my PhD thesis in theoretical physics at Durham University. I recently became involved with this ambitious new charity through a meeting with Louise Keevil, and through working alongside another of the trustees, Neil Bevan.
I have worked on several exciting projects within the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities sector, including working alongside a leading UK SEND college to develop innovative mobile applications to aid their students in developing important life skills and to transition from a school environment into their adult lives.
I don’t just have experience in working within the sector however – I also have a deep personal interest in the goals of the charity. I have an amazing younger brother called Michael, who has grown up with severe developmental delay and is sadly unable to communicate with us verbally.
I have often witnessed my parents struggle to find useful information on what happens at the various stages of Michaels life. What are the choices available to him? And why is it so difficult to find these out? Unlike myself who had a straightforward path to where I am today – school, university, and then into employment, for Michael the next stage in his life always seems to be an uncertainty. Most importantly – how can we be sure that the right choices are being made for Michael, without him being able to voice his thoughts to us?
This is where the toolkit that Where I Want to Live is developing comes in, by giving young adults with learning disabilities access to an inclusive and engaging platform where they can communicate and express their choices in a meaningful way.
Over the past decade, technology has become more accessible than ever. Whether it be a smartphone, a tablet, a watch, or a smart speaker, almost all of us have access to one or more of these devices, and the ubiquity of these devices has given rise to the world’s newest most valuable resource – data.
So, what if we could use this technology all around us to gather data from young people with learning disabilities, such as whether they want to live at home with family, or live on their own in sheltered accommodation, in a way that is accessible to their individual needs – this is exactly what the platform is designed to do.
The Where I Want to Live digital platform will not only start these young people on a journey of self-discovery but also provide their families and carers with vital signposting to important resources so they can make informed decisions on extremely difficult and life-changing choices.
Aside from helping individual young people, the anonymous data collected by the platform could have much more far-reaching benefits. With enough information, the dataset compiled could be used to shape future social care reforms or new social housing policies. This is ultimately the main goal of the charity – to strive for positive change in the community by giving a voice to all young people living with learning disabilities.
I am excited to become a part of the journey here at Where I Want to Live, and I am thrilled to be leading the technical aspects of the toolkit development. I look forward to discussing some great ideas for the project with the charities’ stakeholder working group, such as incorporating gamification into the platform to provide an engaging experience whilst still ensuring the seriousness of self-discovery. By working alongside young people, their families and the professionals involved in planning and support, we will be able to create a person-centred engaging online toolkit, that also enables all stakeholders to achieve their personal and professional objectives.
Do you think you could help us? We’re only at the beginning of this ambitious and disruptive project that could really make a difference in the lives of so many people – we would be delighted to hear from you!