At the time of the survey in 2001, less than 10 percent of the respondents mentioned the Internet as a source of information. With the explosion of Internet resources and increased computer use by older individuals and their family networks, the Internet would likely be cited more frequently today. Internet searches may lead people to resources such as ABLEDATA, Technology for Long-Term Care (www.techforltc.org, which was originally funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), and other information resources developed by governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and manufacturers.

Although NIDRR, which administers the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, supports activities to help increase consumer awareness of useful technologies, the agency’s website is (in the committee’s view) not easy to use as a resource to find information about assistive or accessible technologies. Government and support group websites are especially important resources for developing consumer awareness because company advertising and other promotional activities may be very limited for small markets.20

More can be done to ensure that people with disabilities and their families become aware of and educated about the range of technologies that are available to them to meet many of their specific needs. A national task force recently proposed a broad-ranging public awareness campaign “to communicate the existence and benefits of [assistive and accessible technologies], provide mechanisms for consumers to find accessibility features in [other] products, and showcase best practices” in universal design (NTFTD, 2004, p. 43). The committee offers a similar recommendation below.

In addition, further investigation of the extent and quality of Internet and other information resources (including support group and industry websites) would be helpful in developing strategies to improve the availability, reliability, and usefulness of the information available online. To the extent that the Internet is the focus of public education and information programs, it is important that policy makers and advocates be alert to gaps in Internet access and use among low-income and other consumers and that they investigate additional strategies that can be used to reach these groups.

20

The direct-to-consumer television advertisements for scooters and power wheelchairs (which prominently mention Medicare coverage) are the exception rather than the rule, but they also contribute to government concerns about fraudulent and abusive marketing. These concerns have provoked various government efforts to curtail abuse; these efforts, in turn, have been criticized by consumer and suppliers as draconian (see, e.g., Jalonick [2006] and RESNA [2006]; see also Chapter 9).



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