‘When I need them, I call them and they will be there for me’. Experiences of independently living people with intellectual disabilities with 24/7 available online support

Miriam Zaagsma, Dominique van de Velde, Mark H.M. Koning, Karin M. Volkers, Alice P. Schippers, Geert van Hove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic


eHealth applications are increasingly being used in services for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). DigiContact is an online support service that uses videoconferencing techniques to enable people with ID to contact a team of specially trained support workers 24/7. In this qualitative and participatory study we aimed to explore the experiences of independently living people with ID with what it is like to be supported online. Five online support users were each interviewed twice and the transcripts were analysed using a phenomenological hermeneutic method. Choice and control played a central role in their shared experiences, as well as the relationship with online support staff. The results indicate that the suitability of online support depends on the needs, capabilities and preferences of each individual support user. This underlines the importance of a personalised approach to the planning and delivery of online support. Points of interest In this research we interviewed five persons from the Netherlands about what it is like for them to be supported by the online service DigiContact. They felt that DigiContact helped them to have access to sufficient professional support. Without DigiContact this would have been impossible, because of a reorganisation of the national long-term care system and cuts in care budgets. They also felt that DigiContact gave them control over their support and stimulated them to take on an active role towards solving their problems. Online support felt relatively impersonal, because they had contacts with different support workers. We conclude that online support seems not to be equally suitable for everybody. Whether online support is suitable, and in what form, depends on someone’s personal needs, wishes and preferences in support. Service organisations should look carefully at each individual person when planning the use of online support.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability and Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2021


  • e-health
  • independently living
  • intellectual disabilities
  • personalisation
  • phenomenological hermeneutics
  • support

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