Saturday, November 21, 2009

AutreachIT seeks digitally skilled autistic people

Coming briefly out of blogging hiatus to post this callout from Dinah Murray of AutreachIT:

AutreachIT exists for the purpose of employing digitally skilled autistic people to bring ICT to digitally excluded autistic people.

To be included, empowered, and able to take a real part in decisions about their own lives, autistic people need effective ways to communicate.

Legislation supports the right of access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT)[1]. We want to make that access a reality.

AutreachIT aims to

· promote access to ICT

· raise awareness of rights to ICT,

· demonstrate the effectiveness of ICT,

· employ digitally skilled autistic people to develop ICT for hitherto digitally excluded autistic people.

AutreachIT is a not for profit group founded in 2008 for the purpose of using autistic skills and knowledge to end the digital exclusion of autistic and other adults receiving funded care. We plan to provide a bank of specialists in varied aspects of ICT and digital inclusion. We have an autistic core team, but do not exclude any willing participant. Email us at autreachitaccessproject@googlemail.com to learn more.

See below for some specific possibilities that are already on the horizon.

Our first major project is a research project. The basic idea is to use autistic ICT knowhow to take ICT to adults with autism who cannot meet their needs through speech and are in supported living without digital access, and to find out what if any is the impact of doing so. The plan is to distribute personalised iPhones with voice output software installed to twenty service users and paired key staff in an autism specialist service, and assess the impact of doing so on communication, inclusion, and “challenging behaviours”.

We think addressing the basic communication needs of autistic adults may have a profound impact on their levels of participation, inclusion and quality of life. We want to find out if this is true. Targeting the study at people with pervasive unmet communication needs whilst at the same time attempting to meet those needs is intended to fill a yawning research gap. Our research is aimed at getting proof of concept that major benefits may accrue if appropriate investment in ICT is made.

If it goes ahead, the research will need a full time or minimum 30 hour week, paid ICT and iPhone specialist for a year, hopefully starting mid way through next year. This, or any other AutreachIT employment opportunities that arise could possibly be done on a job share basis. More ICT work will be needed in subsequent years, but probably for fewer hours. A funding application is currently being formulated. The ICT specialist[s] would be

1. capable of developing apps for iPhones, including data capture software to:

a. automatically record usage (eg app launches and exits)

b. collect feedback data from user via user friendly forms, which may be customized to maximize accessibility (eg use symbols if needed)

2. capable of developing an associated web-based database system, with automatic upload of data from iPhones

3. capable of taking responsibility for storing and analyzing data securely and preserving confidentiality as required

4. capable of working constructively with iPhone users, autistic and otherwise, digitally or face to face

5. preferably capable of doing hands-on training in iPhone use and in autism friendly communication and expression, in the London area (twenty half days over two years)

6. capable of working with other members of the AutreachIT team to develop software as needed, to analyse and improve training, and to contribute to other AutreachIT ideas and projects.

We will also need some part-time autistic trainers (see 5 above) since we will use four trainers at each session.

If you think you have or could develop the right skills set either to be an ICT specialist for this, or to be a trainer, or to contribute to future projects, using different platforms, or If you want to know more about the planned research, please let us know on autreachitaccessproject@googlemail.com

[1] Morris 2008 www.dius.gov.uk/~/media/publications/I/ict_user_skills

Having friends who have been in institutions and who have been denied any effective means of communication (while being extremely fluent and powerful communicators if they have access to the right technology), i think this is incredibly important and one of the most radically practical and useful initiatives existing in the autistic rights movement. I have no "techie" skills whatsoever, but i know there are a lot of anti-oppression bloggers (autistic or otherwise) out there who do, and who could contribute to this project - so please spread this to anyone who you think might be able to help...

Overhaul of this blog (or at least the first phase of it) should come within the next couple of weeks. Hopefully something closer to knowing where my life is going will too...

1 comment:

Adelaide Dupont said...

IPhones are the big application now? And very mainstream too.

(Also the One Laptop per Child programme is good).

There is this Cambridgeshire woman who is making one right now, and there are similar ones as well. (No, she isn't on the spectrum, but she is very involved in tutoring neurodiversity).

I am good at making forms and surveys for research.