Design is intelligence made visible.
What is Digital Inclusion?
Digital inclusion to me, means everyone having an opportunity to experience the benefits of technologies and online resources, equipment and applications. It is the everyday relationship between people, ideas & technology.
For Angie, the benefits of digital inclusion are multi faceted and have grown and changed over time including:
Improved access to useful information about her, mobile input & feedback from support workers, saving and future proofing information online, building meaningful evidence, changing the type & quality of feedback about Angie’s daily experiences, and importantly providing motivation, creativity and a fun way of interacting with the many support people in Angie’s life.
What is assistive technology?
For Angie, this means:
Right environment, right set up and using the right tools and technology for inclusion.
Being modular & wireless – needing to be able to access and use my equipment at home or when out and about or visiting others – without complication.
Engineering success – working with Angie’s family and supports to determine her needs and find readily available solutions to trial, implement and provide ongoing tech support – to ensure things work the way they are supposed to.
Online accessibility – using readily available platforms & networks, personalising, tailoring, adapting, minimising costs – basically using what everyone else uses.
Video: An overview of using a switch for greater choice & control
Benefits – expected & unexpected
Angie has improved her skills and understanding of cause & effect – when I touch a button or switch, something happens or changes. When I press a screen I can choose between this or that. When I hit a button, I can change the music I am listening to. When I don’t like what I see on the screen, I can press a button to change what I see, or another button to see it again.
This helps to improve Angie’s choices and control.
Sometimes when people meet Angie for the first time, her ‘disability’ is not the focus – her ability to control her equipment and her enjoyment of what she is doing becomes the talking point.
For Angie’s family, when she is busy interacting and using her computer, playing her own music, or watching personalised videos – it can be a short form of respite to get on with everyday life and family activities.
The ‘ricochet’ of skill development and adaptation – Angie’s family have developed and improved their understanding and use of technology to be digitally included, through osmosis!
Angie’s neuroplasticity – observational, anecdotal changes and improvements in other areas ie. positive behaviour reinforcement, improved self awareness, better acceptance of environmental changes, seeking to control external factors – eg. noises like turning off the neighbour’s lawn mower – via her computer switch!
Ownership – of equipment, protectiveness, not wanting others to touch or intefere – in a positive sense.
Angie’s family feeling supported and at the ‘cutting edge’ of exploring up to date technologies, equipment and methodologies…
in balance with…
Having an attitude of “whatever works”, trying new things, making mistakes and moving on quickly if things don’t work.
Time & consistency – all this developed through weekly sessions for approx 4 years. Not an overnight success.
Setting up workflows and practices for Angie’s family and supports to be the main contributors & directors of the content and it’s delivery.
“Creativity is the fine art of non verbal communication.” (Sukant Ratnakar)
$$$ Investment – risk vs reward
Equipment costs associated, consultations, mentorship & training – part privately funded.
Time costs & ongoing input from family – persistence – unique fit and attitudes and willingness to learn, invest and take risks – regardless of experience, age or previous failures.
In summing things up, this approach to digital inclusion for Angie has been successful for many reasons, the main contributing factor has been Angie’s family support network.
Angie’s mum Bev is a woman of many quotes, and I’ll finish with one she may not have realised I took note of one day. I think this quote sums up Bev’s energy and attitude to supporting Angie, and is lighthearted and refreshing in the context of our approach to sharing personal information and contant, having fun and being creative – while supporting Angie’s ‘digital inclusion’.
“I was having a look at that YouTube thingy the other night, and have you seen some of the freaks that are on there? Angie’s mild compared to whats out there, she has every right to be there and she will fit right in – she can just be.
Like everybody else!”
Bev Nugent – the mother from hell!
Brendan is Angie’s ‘Multimedia Advocate’ and the Creative Director of In the Loupe