1998 Conference Proceedings

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DOOR ONLINE: DISABILITIES, OPPORTUNITIES AND OTHER RESOURCES "JUMP ON THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY AND OPEN THE DOOR TO ONE-STOP SHOPPING FOR DISABILITY-RELATED RESOURCES..."

Beverly J. Hennessy
Project Manager
DOOR Online
6626 Chantilly Place
Colorado Springs, CO 80922
Voice/Message: (719)591-1639
FAX: (719)591-1654
Internet: hennessyconsult@sprintmail.com

Introduction:

One-stop shopping! Being the mother of three children, I am a huge supporter of this concept. The huge "SUPER STORES", where you can get your film developed, do your banking, pick up your weekly groceries, stop and have a cappuccino and mail your Christmas packages in one sweep is my idea of comprehensive service delivery. Little did I know how much this kind of service delivery would come to mean to me.

When our family moved to Colorado from England in 1993, it was a very traumatic time for us. Our twin sons had just celebrated their 3rd birthday and had also received a diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) with autistic characteristics. They were completely non-verbal and had very poor coping skills in large crowds or with people they were not familiar with. The Air Force had shipped us home in order for us to have access to a wider array of services. Our daughter, who was 6, did not remember the U.S.A. and missed her playmates from the village school. We all missed the simple, uncomplicated lifestyle and close military supports we had grown accustomed to in being stationed overseas. We were directed to the Air Force Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) at Peterson AFB, CO. "They will give you all the help you need in accessing services for the boys", we were assured. RIGHT! They gave us a one-page handout with different therapists in town who accepted Champus (military insurance) and said, "Welcome to Colorado". I soon embarked upon making countless phone calls and visits to find services that our children needed: schools, babysitters, therapists, doctors, support groups, play areas, etc... Several times I was told that this or that program no longer existed, they didn't have trained staff for "those kind of children", they didn't accept Champus, the phone numbers were disconnected and so on. The thought kept running through my head that there should be one phone number to call, one directory with adequate information, anything to make this process easier; surely, I wasn't the only person to feel this way. If I could have opened just one door to find all the resources together that I was searching for, I could have saved valuable time as well as my sanity. I began working for an organization in Colorado Springs that helped families who have children with disabilities like ourselves . There I began to meet other people who also felt that a disability-related resource database was sorely needed and we were given the opportunity to make the vision a reality.

Overview:

The conference presentation is a hands-on look at such a one-stop shopping area for disability-related services in Colorado while this paper describes how the project was developed. The individuals contributing to the development process were made up of Information and Referral (I & R) providers, direct service providers, educators, assistive technology people, computer programmers and most critical, the people who need to access these resources.

The reasoning behind the decision for an Internet based and maintained resource database will be discussed. The problems associated with the maintenance and provision of quality and timely data as well as the "turf issues" associated with I & R collaboration will be reviewed. DOOR Online's ongoing problem solving and program enhancement techniques to overcome these difficulties is presented. Outlined are the ways this type of resource delivery can be accessible, educational and adaptable for all types of users.

History:

For several years, the need for a standardized and combined state-wide I & R database had existed in Colorado. It was not only the individuals in need of resources asking for help, but also the service providers who did not have the time to explore all options available for their clients.

A group of I & R providers began meeting in 1993 to identify common interests and goals in establishing a statewide database:

* An established I & R system with the program design such that changes in funding or staff would not diminish its service provision

* That the use of technology not prohibit any user due to accessibility or lack of computer knowledge

* Ensuring information that is accurate, current and of quality, not merely adequate

* Developing a collaborative I & R system as opposed to a competitive I & R system

* Information available in an accessible location such as the library network

* No cost to the user

Observations of the existing systems were:

Our mission:

To provide information on resources and services supporting the diverse needs of Coloradans, particularly those interested in disability-related information, at no cost to users.

At this time, one of the members of the original consortium, Colorado Department of Education - Early Childhood Initiatives Unit, was required to provide a Central Directory of resource information for families with children who qualified under Part H (now Part C) of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Part C - Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, addresses children at-risk for and with handicaps, from birth to age three, and their families. The consortium agreed to use this requirement as the foundation for DOOR Online development.

System Design:

The original system, created by John Budd, was designed as a stand-alone X-based relational database system with a custom end-user application program. This system was developed to support the Part C coordinators throughout Colorado in maintaining their community resource information.

John Budd and Dan Cutler, Programmer/Webmaster, now joined forces to write a Perl(R) program that loaded the database into an internal Perl(R) structure. They continued to write a Perl(R) program that would "push" each profile page along with several other static pages onto a web server for browsing. This new "web" interface became a prototype for developing the same type of online application but would use a much different technology. The new program would create the pages on the fly. This new technology is called Cold Fusion(R). The site was then developed with Cold Fusion(R) that creates the pages on the fly using ODBC queries and Cold Fusion(R) templates. This new version of the program incorporates great flexibility in making it possible for other organizations to incorporate their data directly into our database system.

Colorado Easter Seals, now an active member in the consortium, volunteered to merge their resource database with the existing Central Directory information. File structures and the taxonomy were further enhanced to support this merger. At this time, we decided to make the site remotely manageable. More Cold Fusion(R) templates were written and new tables were added to the system to incorporate ownership and make delegation of certain administrative functions possible. The system also has Open Text's LiveLink(R) searching capabilities and custom error/comment reporting form.

We are currently working on the following:

I & R Management:

The most critical as well as costly component of an I & R system is ensuring accurate, current and detailed data on service providers, publications, training projects, etc. By utilizing individual community managers (i.e. Part C Coordinators) in the data maintenance of their respective service areas, you are using experts in the field who respond directly to their constituents' needs.

In addition to these managers, we are currently staffing two Data Qualification assistants who will be responsible for performing an overall annual data qualification of each agency represented in the database. As more and more agencies set up e-mail accounts, this process will become increasingly system-initiated as requests for timely up-dates will be automatically generated to the registered e-mail addresses.

Collaboration:

The "turf issues" associated with I & R provision have contributed to a lack of comprehensive resource information provision for several years. Some organizations would like to develop "one" database that would support any type of resource information delivery. There are several obstacles to this type of system:

* Pre-existing systems already developed and established at considerable cost

* Funding requirements that require agencies to maintain an independent database or resource system

As referenced in the System Design section, under Mass Searching, DOOR Online seeks to conquer this problem by collaborating with existing Internet I & R providers in Colorado to provide a common search spider that a user could choose if they wished to have their search conducted in a number of different I & R sites simultaneously.

This system would credit each site with the number of hits provided and automatic linking to the resources returned by the query. This type of search would provide comprehensive resource provision while protecting the integrity of existing system structures.

In the future, we hope to extend this collaboration to:

* Centralized technical assistance, data quality management and administration

Accessible, Adaptable and Educational

Because DOOR Online is accessible directly on the Internet and through the Access Colorado Library Information (ACLIN) system, anyone with a computer, modem and phone line can access DOOR Online. Due to the built-in individual agency web site links, e-mail links, the collaborative SEARCH and additional disability-related links, we are trying to offer our users access to as much information as possible at one time. This spring will see us work in conjunction with the Colorado Assistive Technology

Project to provide training for SWAAC Team members on DOOR Online. Trainings and demonstrations are being scheduled for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation counselors and the CAEYC (Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children), among others.

Setting up computer access sites where individuals who may not have access to a computer at home is also being implemented. Trainings have already been provided to parents in El Paso County by the local Part C Coordinator's office to assist them in accessing information or resources for their family. The Children's Hospital in Denver is currently making plans to provide a computer access site and training for families having to spend considerable amounts of time in the hospital.

The DOOR Online database system is designed to be able to support any type of resource information provision. Due to the flexibility of our system design, we are able to adapt our system to support agencies wishing to get their information out to the people who need it. Although we designed DOOR Online as a vehicle for a disability-related resource database, our goal is to provide the ultimate resource delivery to our users.

Conclusion:

We are committed to the provision of disability-related resource information to Coloradans. This paper demonstrates the concept, development and on-going system design in utilizing Internet-based technology to provide an open DOOR to one-stop resource shopping!


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