N E A D S
National Educational Association Of Disabled Students
Newsletter 49 - September 1998
The ADAPTECH Research Project: Where we've been and where we're going
by Jennison Asuncion, Catherine Fichten, and Maria Barile
What exactly is the Adaptech Research Project and why would you want to know the answer to this question? Because we are doing research on the use of computers by Canadian college and university students with disabilities which, we hope, will help students gain access to the computer technologies they need. And because we are doing this with help from NEADS and from many of you who read this article.
The Adaptech Project consists of a team of academics, students and consumers conducting research on the use of computer, information and adaptive technologies by Canadian college and university students with disabilities. We are based at Dawson College in Montreal and are funded by both the Office of Learning Technologies (OLT) as well as by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Our goal is to provide empirically based information to assist in decision making that ensures that new policies, software and hardware reflect the needs and concerns of a variety of individuals: college and university students with disabilities, professors who teach them, and service providers who make technological, adaptive, and other supports available to the higher education community.
To get a general overview of the issues, during a period of about four months, we have gone across Canada and conducted two sets of interviews. First, we conducted telephone and TTY interviews with students in both English and French. For each province, one student came from a college and one from a university. In the Territories, we interviewed one student each in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. We are pleased to report that on the French side, we completed not only interviews in Quebec, but also in Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.
The second set of interviews were carried out by telephone with college and university service providers, again two in each province, one in each territory, and again in English and French. It should be noted that interviews were conducted with students and service providers at some of this country's distance education institutions.
What were we asking about? We were gathering data on such issues as: training; views on advantages and disadvantages of the use of computer, information and adaptive technologies from the student and service provider perspectives; data on what students use, own, and want, in terms of the technology; the types of technologies available for specific disabilities on college and university campuses; issues of funding; among others. As you can imagine, this has been quite an extensive and interesting process that has involved over 30 interviews.
We have had incredible support from a large number of people. Thus, all of us (i.e. Iris Alapin, Jennison Asuncion, Maria Barile, Catherine Fichten, Christian Généreux, Darlene Judd, Jason Lavers, and Evelyn Reid) would like to express our appreciation to everyone who has helped us to carry out the study. The students who answered our questions; the service providers who: found us students to interview, participated in interviews themselves, and some who did both; and everybody who gave of their time and energy - thank you. It goes without saying that NEADS continues to be essential in our success. The data collected from these interviews and from a set of four focus groups held in the Montreal area during the winter months have been invaluable in helping us to construct a [short] two- page questionnaire during the summer. We are distributing this two- page questionnaire to three- thousand or so college and university students with disabilities in English and French, and in alternative formats. With the help of NEADS, service providers, and other channels, we will be sending out the questionnaires in January. Of course, once we have the findings in hand, we will disseminate these in a variety of ways, including this newsletter.
The Adaptech Project is more than just this study. In keeping with our theme of students as consumers, we will be co- sponsoring a Computer Technologies Fair in Montreal at the Mackay Center. This is tentatively scheduled for November 13 and 14 and will give folks the opportunity to have hands- on experience with a variety of mainstream and adaptive computer technologies.
To contact the team, or for more information on our project and its activities, which include a moderated e-mail discussion forum, visit us on the web at: http://www.adaptech.org or contact us at (514) 931- 8731 #1546 (for Dr. Catherine Fichten) and #1533 for everyone else. This is a voice only number, but we look forward to talking via your relay service, e-mail, and/ or by voice.