2001 Conference Proceedings
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Data Tracking: A Necessary Evil
Abbie O'Sullivan, MSW
Coordinator of Adaptive Computing
University of Missouri
S5D Memorial Union
Columbia MO 65211
Intro Background Info
The University of Missouri-Adaptive Computing Technology (ACT)
Center has existed on campus for over a decade. One of the
original founders, Darren Gabbert, who was a graduate student
with a disability and now Project Director of ACT, wanted to make
sure that he and other students had equal access to computing
resources. They started developing a program and called it the
Adaptive Computing Technology Center. The focus has been the
practical use of adaptive and standard products and excellent
individualized training. We are located in Mid-Missouri, Columbia
with a population of 75,000. The University employs the majority
of the workforce in Columbia. Columbia is touted as a very
disability friendly town, by the transit systems, physical
buildings and curb cuts, and services.
Since the Adaptive Computing program has been in existence for
over a decade, there has been staff turnover and no consistent
means to track data. What if we would have started tracking all
of the information ten years ago, that we track today? We would
have compiled a Doctoral dissertation! The paper records that
were once utilized have been filed in storage, computerized
records that were not backed up have been lost, and the
inconsistent record keeping has lead to this great tracking
system that we utilize today.
Everyone needs to keep track of data in some capacity in our
lives. For example, each of us have address books or palm pilot
technologies for phone numbers and addresses, and our own
calendars. If you have a business you must keep records and
generate reports. Some of us have customer and client information
that has to be recorded, and reports written. There is data that
everyone has to keep and be responsible for when upper management
or someone asks for a report. It seems so logical that we would
choose and use a tracking system that is as simple or complex as
we need to assist us in keeping track of our information and one
that will assist us in writing good reports. So we decided to use
technology to make our lives easier.
We wanted to develop a database that would help us work smarter
and not harder. Our upper management always states we can’t
be "burning diamonds for heat." My manager was always asking me
for numbers on this or how many students have we worked with that
have learning disabilities, which products did they use, what
were the outcomes, how many training hours did we spend with
Humpty Dumpty? We also spend a lot of time on adaptive technology
reports for customers and agencies outside of the University. We
wanted to develop parts of the database to assist with writing
the reports, and then are able to keep the data there as a
reference point. We needed more information, than our current
database provided, to answer all of these questions.
There are many database programs available on the market and
quite a few have been tested for accessibility. Within the field
of adaptive computing it is common for service providers to have
various disabilities, therefore driving the need for accessible
databases. At the University of Missouri, we use Microsoft Office
(R) products and Access 2000 is the database we have chosen to
utilize. An article written by Crista Earl, for the American
Foundation for the Blind detailed the accessibility of many
databases, and included Access through screen reading
technologies. The article ranked Access in Group 2, it is the
database that persons with visual impairments want to be able to
use the most. There are some limitations listed for Access 2000,
yet improvements have been made over Access 97. Our staff has
utilized Access with Dragon Dictate and NaturallySpeaking.
Dictate has some limitations and so does NaturallySpeaking.
Access seems to work well with Zoomtext. Currently our staff
members use Dictate and NaturallySpeaking; so we needed to make
sure that access to Access was important.
We started using Access in a very basic table to keep the most
necessary information on our customers, students, faculty and
staff members. Then we decided that it would make our lives
easier if we fully utilized the features of the program. We
decided we could use it to assist with writing our Technology
Assessments, our billing procedures, tracking customers,
students, faculty and staff, tracking our training hours,
tracking our technical support hours per customer, to have
information for grant writing and reporting, and writing reports
for upper management. We wanted a system that was practically
paperless, so all of our immediate staff had access to the
information at all times via computer. We also wanted to make
sure it was going to be on a secure server and backed up
regularly so it information would not be lost. So after we had
our main idea, we decided to expand our current simple database
into a more relational, robust database.
Our first step, was to map out what we wanted to develop and
why. After we mapped it out, we increased our knowledge on Access
and found an expert within our computing department that could
assist us with all features that required some programming in
visual basic. After we started developing the tracking system, we
saw things in it that we felt needed to be different or changed.
We implemented the database by putting in bogus data and testing
it by doing various queries and reports, changing customer
information, and making various forms for entering data. Now we
are at the step of maintaining our relational database, and
updating as needed.
Since confidentiality was a concern, we had to make sure that
the information was kept confidential for our customers. Our data
was placed on a server called Mizzou2. Mizzou2 runs on a box
NetWare 5, which I was assured is very difficult to hack into.
The Adaptive Computing folder that exists on this server has
permissions set so that only the current ACT center staff have
access to the information within this folder. The Access Customer
database resides inside this folder. Another benefit of using
Mizzou2 is that if you have the specific IP address, you can
access the information through the web. This could be helpful if
you are across campus or anywhere with web access you can get to
the information you need.
There are several lessons that we have learned through the
process and many benefits that we have gained in time and
knowledge. We would like to show you the database with some
fictional data in it so you can see what we track and how it
looks. The five main categories that we track are Customers,
Adaptive Assessments, Technical Support, Training Plan, and
Session Report. We have Braille handouts for anyone who needs
them as I show the database overhead.
Demonstration of Database and explanation of how it works in
detail. Questions and Answers.
Boyington, Tomlinson & Dougherty. "Using a Relational
Database to Support Nursing Research." Computers in Nursing 17
Earl-CL. "Access to Databases-Which Windows Database Programs
Work Best with Screen Readers." Journal of Visual Impairment
& Blindness 93 (1999): 522-529.
Microsoft (R). "Discovering Microsoft Office 2000 Premium and
Professional: Chapter 6 Using Access 2000." Microsoft
Accessibility. 26 Sept 00
Muralidhar K., Parsa R., & Sarathy, R. "A General Additive
Data Perturbation Method for Database-Security." Management
Science 45 (1999): 1399-1415.
Neely, Ronald. "Mizzou2" E-mail to the author. 25 Sept 00.
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