1998 Conference Proceedings

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PARTICIPANT SATISFACTION WITH AN ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY CENTER: RESULTS FROM YEAR ONE

Barbara E. Bromley, Ph.D.
School of Education and Integrative Studies
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
3801 W. Temple Avenue
Pomona, CA 91768
Voice: (909)869-2326
Internet: bbromley@csupomona.edu

PURPOSE

The purpose of this study was to examine participant satisfaction with "Techsploration Days", a service of the Cal Poly, Pomona, Assistive Technology Training and Resource Center (ATTRC). Techsploration Days are designed for persons with disabilities and their families, as well as professionals working with them, to come to the ATTRC to explore and evaluate hardware and software as part of their decision-making process toward possible purchase of assistive computer devices. Techsploration visits are by appointment, and there is no charge. During the visit, I work with the student, parents, and professionals to try various types of hardware and software. An evaluation form is completed that indicates the student's strengths and needs, what hardware and software was tried, and recommendations. Visits generally last about two hours. Parents and professionals are given copies of the evaluation which they may then use to document a student's AT needs.

I was interested in how satisfied participants were with services they received, how they were treated, and whether the recommendations I gave resulted in the purchase of any hardware or software and/or IEP/IPP/ITP objectives. I also wanted to know what suggestions participants had for improving "Techsploration Days". The overall goal of this study was to help my center better serve the needs of the community of persons with disabilities, their families, and disability professionals.

SAMPLE

The sample consisted of those parents and professionals who participated in "Techsploration Days" during the AY 1996-1997 (N=16). Of these 16, 6 were parents (5 mothers and 1 father) and 10 were professionals (special education teachers, program specialists, assistive technology coordinators). The children who were served (n = 8) ranged in age from 6 to 17 years (average age 11.75 years). The majority were in special education classes; three children were fully included in general education. The majority of children were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and/or developmental delay. One child had Rett Syndrome; one had autism.

METHODOLOGY

A 2-page survey with a cover letter explaining the study was mailed in October, 1997, to each participant. Confidentiality of results was emphasized. The first mailing produced 3 returned surveys. A second mailing (in November, 1997) produced an additional 4 responses for a total of 7 returned surveys. Survey items were developed based upon a review of the literature regarding AT centers and customer satsifaction, as well as based on my own need for specific information to help improve my services. There is very little literature regarding customer satisfaction with AT services. Two articles that were particularly useful for the purpose of this study were D'Allura, McInerney, & Horowitz (1995) and Parette, Brotherson, Hourcade, and Bradley (1996).

The survey consisted of eight forced-choice items using a 5-point Likert scale (very satisfied-somewhat satisfied-neutral-somewhat dissatisfied-very dissatisfied) and yes-no response formats. Each forced-choice item provided space for additional comments from respondents. Items on the survey asked respondents about their satisfaction with services provided and treatment by staff, whether any equipment or software was purchased as a result of Techsploration recommendations, and satisfaction with purchases. Other questions addressed whether any of the recommendations were included in the consumer's IEP, ITP, or IPP. A final open-ended question asked respondents for any suggestions they had for improving "Techsploration Days" services. A copy of the survey is available from the author upon request.

RESULTS

Of the 16 surveys sent, 7 were returned, a response rate of 44%. Because the surveys were confidential, I was unable to identify the specific number of parent and professional respondents. The respondent sample was relatively small, therefore it may not be representative of all Techsploration Days participants. Results may not be generalizable and should be interpreted with caution.

Overall results from the survey were positive. Of the 7 respondents, 5 were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the services they received; 2 were somewhat dissatisfied. Three respondents added written comments to this item; 2 indicated that there was limited software available, and 1 stated that there was not enough time to try everything they wanted.

All 7 respondents were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the treatment they received from the "Techsploration Days" staff (me).

Regarding items about recommendations and resultant purchases, 4 of 7 respondents indicated that AT purchases were made as a result of "Techsploration Days" recommendations. One respondent indicated that purchase was in progress. Two respondents stated that no purchases had been made. Of the 4 who responded "yes" to the above item, all 4 indicated that the items purchased were currently being used by the person with a disability. All 4 also indicated that they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their purchase (the respondent answering somewhat satisfied noted that the equipment purchased does not always work consistently).

In response to the question asking whether any of the "Techsploration Days" recommendations were included on a person's IEP, ITP, or IPP, 4 of the 7 respondents answered yes. One commented that they had called a special IEP meeting to add a technology goal to the student's IEP.

Two items asked whether respondents would bring other students to the ATTRC and whether they would recommend "Techsploration Days" to others. Six respondents stated they would bring other students; 1 respondent wrote in "maybe" with no other explanatory information. All 7 respondents stated that they would recommend this services to other parents or school staff. One respondent wrote, "there is no other service like this locally".

The final, open-ended item asked respondents for suggestions to improve services for "Techsploration Days". The majority of responses here involved the need for more software, with specific comments requesting more Laureate and Edmark software, more for persons with learning handicaps, and more for "varying levels of intelligence". One respondent suggested that I provide a list of where recommended hardware/software can be purchased. One respondent commented that getting to the ATTRC with a wheelchair was difficult. One respondent suggested that companies should provide their software free of charge to the ATTRC as this might promote their sales.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS

Results of this study suggest that Techsploration Days was generally positively received by the persons who used it and, for the most part, is meeting the needs of participants. It is notable that the majority of respondents put something in the IEP relevant to the Techsploration Days recommendations. The majority of recommendations were implemented, equipment and software were purchased, and the majority of it was being used. These results suggest that schools are fairly conscientious about implementing the assistive technology mandates in the IDEA regulations. It is also nice to know that the technology purchased is actually being used. People purchased what was recommended, were using what was recommended, and were generally satisfied with their purchases.

The most common suggestion for improving Techsploration Days was that I need MORE - particularly software. Although the ATTRC has over 50 software programs, most of which are specifically designed for students with special needs, it is clear that more is needed. The challenge then becomes to purchase additional software, on an ongoing basis, that will meet the needs of future Techsploration participants. I think, perhaps, it is best to focus on targeting the needs of a specific group (persons with moderate to profound developmental disabilities) and have these needs guide future software and hardware purchases.

D'Allura, T., McInerney, R., and Horowitz, A. (1995). An evaluation of low vision services. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 87(6), 487-493.

Parette, Jr., H.P., Brotherson, M.J., Hourcade, J.J., and Bradley, R.H. (1996). Family-centered assistive technology assessment. Intervention in School and Clinic, 32(2), 104-112.


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