ENHANCED INTERNET ACCESS FOR THE DISABLED (EIAD)
(Copy of paper presented at the Third Australian Conference on Technology for people with Disabilities, 25-28 Nov 1997)
The EIAD project is funded by the Department of Communication and the Arts, Online Public Access Initiative, and auspiced by the East Gippsland Arts and Recreation Access Group (EGARAG.). Funding commenced in June 1997 and completion is scheduled for April 1998. The project developed as a natural extension of an EGARAG pilot initiative which aimed to introduce elderly, disabled or home-bound people to the Internet.
The Internet can offer much to people with disabilities who may also be geographically isolated, socially isolated, and information deprived. However,the results of the pilot project highlighted difficulties faced by these groups of people when attempting to access the Internet. These included such things as cost, specific impairments (physical, cognitive, language), motivational factors, lack of experience, difficulty accessing professional advice, and a fear of new technology.
The EIAD project aims to facilitate the process of matching disabled people to appropriate technology and methods for accessing the Internet. It will professionally assess and document a client's physical skills and likely success in using the Internet, using task specific assessment appropriate to the World Wide Web, rather than traditional "desk and paper-based" perceptual, language, memory and physical assessment.
The project consists of -
A predictive tool which we have called the "Awareness and Assessment Protocol" (AAP). It is designed to both offer an introductory experience and also to assess the nature of a person's disability and its impact on their ability to access the Internet.
An enhanced web-browser interface with simplified kiosk type controls and a touch screen interface.
An "Enhanced Web Station" conveniently situated in the local community. It uses a touch screen and the same modified web-browser interface used in the AAP.
A web site to support the AAP material and carry specialised links to clinical and social sources for the clients and project staff.
1. Project Team
The project team consists of the Project Officer and Support Worker from EGARAG, a Speech Pathologist, an Occupational Therapist, and a Computer Specialist.
2. The client population (12 clients)
Four clients previously involved in the pilot project ("Introducing Elderly, Disabled and Homebound People to the Internet").
Six new clients who represent a range of disabilities such as slowed language processing, physical disability, intellectual disability, or perceptual disabilities.
Two new clients who are not disabled but are elderly with no previous computer experience.
1. AAP Development
a) A Client Information Sheet was designed for collection of background information about clients which may affect their ability to use computers, and enjoy the Internet.
b) A set of tasks were developed which introduce the computer concepts necessary for Internet access, and assess the perceptual, language and memory skills required. The tasks are all computer based using materials which are relevant to the Internet.
The client is taken through each of the tasks by a therapist, and the results are recorded on standard sheets. The following areas are covered -
2. AAP Trial
Four clients who were involved in the pilot project used and commented on the AAP before application with the test clients. The results were analysed, and modifications were made to the AAP where necessary.
3. AAP Application
The two groups of test clients were selected. Background information was gathered and the AAP was applied to each client.
4. Enhanced Web Station
Each of the test clients was subsequently invited to participate in independent use of the internet on this station. The usage was supervised by the support worker from EGARAG and their success assessed by both the client and the project team.
At the time of the conference, final results will not be available. Instead the AAP will be demonstrated and the rationale discussed. Preliminary feedback from the pilot clients will be presented.
The EIAD will provide a model to allow clients to "experience" the Internet in a sympathetic, non-threatening way, and assist in the determination of the suitability of an Internet connection for themselves. It will provide clients with an objective assessment which they may present to funding or advocacy bodies, and serve as a clinical tool to assist prediction of client success in independent use of the Internet.
Rob & Toni Seiler
Phone (03) 5156 8309 Fax (03) 5156 8609