Impact to produce assistive technology courseware for disabled and elderly people

Eindhoven 24 September 1999Currently available assistive technology and ICT enables disabled and elderly people to more fully participate in daily life. The Impact project, funded by the European Union's Telematics Applications programme, has produced a courseware package aimed at increasing the take-up of assistive technologies as well as at avoiding their misuse amongst the professionals in health and social services. The educational material applies both traditional paper-based teaching methods and multimedia. It consists of a student's and a teacher's manual, case studies, software and sample data. The project leaders hope to establish a European network to disseminate and enlarge the results by exchanging information and experiences.


To date, assistive technology applications have been restricted to only a small number of individuals. This is mainly due to the low awareness and insufficient knowledge of this area by health care professionals, which has hampered the dissemination of innovative products. Therefore, Impact has the aim to provide medical staff with a basic understanding of assistive technology for different disabilities resulting from physical, hearing, vision, and communication impairments. The depth and scope of the multi-product courseware have been adapted to the limited time available to the caretakers for conveying information on novel assistive technology developments.

As far as the elderly or disabled end user is concerned, assistive technology products often are left aside due to the stigmatising effect of the use of such a device, the perceived complexity of the claiming process, and the lack of information about the available products or services. In this regard, the role of professional caretakers acting as assistive technology intermediaries (ATIs) is very crucial for the patient's initiation into the world of medical assistive devices. The Impact project has tried to address these issues identified by the European HEART study on the training of health care professionals. The team also has built on the achievements of other European projects, such as Cost 219, Include and Promise.

The educational products, developed by the Impact project team for the pre-service and post-qualification training of family doctors, nurses, and social workers, are available since this summer. The Impact courseware is being distributed at production cost in three European languages: English, Dutch and Danish. This choice is motivated by Impact's partnership between the Dutch companies, Fontys and Causa; the Finnish partner Stakes; the Irish Work Research Centre; the British Centre for Human Service Technology, and the School of social work of Aarhus in Denmark. The hybrid multimedia combining CD-ROM with the Internet have been kept open-ended, allowing for translation to other European languages. More details are available at the Impact home page.

Leslie Versweyveld

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