Craegmoor - the leading independent provider of support for people with learning disabilities, mental health illnesses and older people - launched its new brand identity, which was marked by the announcement of it working with the world's first ever international social networking website specifically designed for people with learning disabilities.
The news was officially announced at Learning Disability Today 2009 on Wednesday 25th November in London. It provides evidence of Craegmoor's ongoing commitment to making things possible for people with learning disabilities, mental health illnesses and older people.
Special Friends Online (www.specialfriendsonline.com) - dubbed by many as a "Friendly Facebook" - provides a haven as safe and secure as possible for people with learning disabilities, their parents, carers and volunteers to meet people and make friends with like-minded individuals from 28 countries around the world. Members also have the chance to interact with many of their learning disabled heroes and hear the inspirational stories of others.
In developing the site, founder Martin Harris wanted to make sure that it was readily accessible to as many people as possible - including those who find communicating tricky. To do so, 'Smiley Talk' was developed - a special language with smiley face icons, 150 questions and 450 answers all pre-set for use by people who have problems using a keyboard or simply knowing what to say. These can all be translated into 14 different languages.
Through its work with Special Friends Online, Craegmoor hopes to encourage the people it supports, and others throughout the UK, to sign up free of charge with the site. A road show set to begin in January will also see Special Friends Online go nationwide and to the people.
Carol Anstee, who is supported by Craegmoor said:
"I know people with learning disabilities often feel very isolated and find it difficult to make friends. Special Friends Online looks great and I am sure it will help lots of people and I am looking forward to using it."
Speaking at Learning Disability Today 2009, Craegmoor's Chief Operating Officer Christine Cameron said:
"At Craegmoor we believe passionately that every person, regardless of the challenges they face, should have the opportunity to get involved in everyday things, including social networking. So our new brand identity is all about celebrating the extraordinary achievements of the people we support."
"Special Friends Online is an amazing and imaginative project that has already seen thousands of friendships blossom in a safe and supportive environment. With Craegmoor's involvement, we hope that even more people will come together chat and make friends."
Martin Harris, Special Friends Online's creator, said:
"The idea to create Special Friends Online came when I attended the World Special Olympic Games held in Shanghai, China in 2007. I saw so many amazing friendships being formed and I wondered how these people could keep in touch in a safe and secure way - so we developed Special Friends Online."
"Through speaking to people with learning disabilities, their parents and carers, we know that they often find it hard to meet new people and make friends. Special Friends Online makes this very easy. The inclusion of numerous safety features - including 24 hour moderation - also means that everyone can have confidence that users are being protected."
"We are really excited about Craegmoor's support for this project and hope that the site's online community will continue to grow and grow worldwide."