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INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY, INFORMATION -COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT) AND EMPOWERMENT

Karin Renblad
Doctoral student
Stockholm Institute of Education
Disability and Handicap research
P.O. Box 47 308
S-Stockholm, Sweden
Tel + 46 8 737 96 26
Fax + 46 8 737 96 30

Introduction

Information and communication technology (ICT) have an important role for establishing contacts with the extern environment and maintaining social networks, also for people with intellectual disabilities. Intellectual disability include problems with an individual's information processing but the magnitude of difficulties depends on the brain injury as well as the environment. Studies since 1990 have shown that ICT for ex. still picture, fax and video telephones has a potential even for people with intellectual disabilities to broaden and outreach their social network and make them more in depended (Brodin & Renblad, 1999; Renblad, 1999). Still picture and fax support communication and the social network. Technology is relatively easy to use for this population (Pereira, 1992). Several studies have showed that technology make people with intellectual disability more interested in their environment and developed their communication skills (Brodin, 1993; 1997). Fax, still pictures and video telephones can be used in training and educational situations (Holand, von Tetzhner & Steindahl, 1991; Magnusson, 1994; von Tetzhner, 1991). Video telephones can support, develop and facilitate communication. It helps people to establish contacts outside their homes; which usually is difficult for people with moderate intellectual disability without support from staff or families (Renblad, 1998; Brodin & Renblad, 1999). To have a social network and to have the ability to communicate is important for people. But it is even more important to have the ability to have influence and control in other word empowerment in every day life. The question now is if ICT can empower people with intellectual disability.

We know that ICT is positive also for this population but to be able to answer that question we have to know, what did people with intellectual disability think about influence and ICT themselves.

Aim and method

The aim with this study is to investigate what one person thinks about influence and ICT, in this case technology as watches, computers, CD, tape record's, TV, radio. This paper is a case study. The respondents name is simulated. Anders was thoroughly interviewed about his experience and evaluation of influence, attitudes about his possibilities to influence, knowledge about how to get help and how to influence, behaving when he got problem, ICT, his disability and this kind of studies.

Results

Anders is 36 years old and lives alone in an own apartment. He has Downs's syndrome and the consequence of that is that he has an intellectual disability. He does not need help with the every-day housework. He can get support and help from the staff at a group home in the neighbourhood. Anders is shopping independently and prepares his own shopping list. The list is however not adequate according to the staffs that usually tell him that he has calculated an excess of food. Anders mother provide the staff with money. The personnel help him to economize. Anders keeps a job at a sheltered industry for people with various disabilities. His girlfriend works at the same place. He likes his work, the co-workers and most of the staff. He has a lot of leisure activities like dancing, dining at restaurants, listen to music, swimming and badminton. He likes meeting new friends but it is important that they show respect and that he can trust and rely on them. Anders is also active in a national association organisation for people with intellectual disabilities (FUB). FUB has a house of their own and a newsletter. Anders tells that he is the manager of the house and editor of the newsletter "What's happening in FUB". He argues that editors should allow every one associated with FUB to contribute with material to the newsletter Anders friends are all members in FUB, with the exception of his girlfriend. But she will soon associate the organisation.

Influence

Anders has attended courses and conferences on democracy. He has participated in discussions At the course they have talked about how to decide about life and families who tend to interfere to much in the life of disabled. They talked about how to live in an apartment, how to dress and about personal hygiene. Love and issues co-existence with others was also addressed.

He thinks he has the possibility to influence. For example at work he decides when to start in the morning. Other issues have to be deciding together with his workmates for example how to act on problem at work. Anders thinks that he can influence at work and in his one home. He wants to decide about what to eat and how to dress. He talks a lot about the importance of personal hygiene and clean clothes.

Evaluation of own capacity

Anders considers that he can do what he wants. He thinks he is competent also when it comes to decisions everything even deciding. His friends say that Anders is happy, nice and positive. They want to interact and do things with Anders. He usually meet people who are nice but at the water palace he sometimes meet people who are silly. They talked about him and considered him as stupid. He finds that it is mostly older people that behave that way. The younger ones are okay. Anders considers that people around him care about him and show respect.

Coping skills

Anders is not in need of help for every day life. He knows how to ask for it when he needs support. Staff at the group home can help him when he has troubles in his apartment and with housekeeping. He claims that he has learned at the courses and conference on democracy how to act and make decisions. When he goes to town he takes bus, taxi or bicycle. He usually uses a certain store for his main shopping. He takes the bus but on the way home personnel help him to call for a taxi. The taxi driver helps Anders to carry the goods in to the apartment. Anders didn't think that there is much that is difficult for him. But at the moment he has troubles with a friend who temporary has moved in his apartment. She steels from him and he is very angry. He decided to talk about that with the staff. Sometimes when he has problems he asks his friends for help. When he is confronted with new things he asks the staff to show him before he tries by his own.

Information/communication (ICT)

Anders has everyday technology as watch, alarm clock, telephone and a computer. He knows the watch but he has problems to be on time to work. At the computer he writes for the newsletter. He also plays games from which he has learned things for example Swedish, maths and English. He finds the computer very valuable. Anders also has a radio on which he listen to different program. He watches TV, mostly sports and he has a CD and a tape recorder. Anders has a local newspaper that alerts him about world news and if it is sale in the local community.

Summary

Anders is averring of his disability and that he has a brain injury. "I know more people how has that he says". Anders dislikes the term mental retardation. He claims that courses and conferences about influence have been very important. The handicap has become easier to bear after the inputs he had. He argues for the importance to talk discusses the problem and possibilities people with intellectual disabilities have. He claims that ICT are beneficial for his daily life. He considers it important that someone discusses and writes about people with intellectual disability especial their possibilities to make a difference in their own life.

Reference

Brodin, J. (1993). Telefax communication for people with mental retardation in: B. Granström., S. Hunnicut and K-E. Spens, (eds) Speech and language technology for disabled persons, Stockholm:ESCA Workshop; KTH, pp. 119- 120

Brodin, (1997). Fax communcation a new vay for distance communication for people with mental retardation. Innovations in Education and training International 34 (2) (1997), 135-143

Brodin, J. & Renblad, K. (1999). Videotelefonen. Ett medium för socialt samspel för personer med utvecklingsstörning.[Video telephone. A medium for social interaction for persons with intellectual disability]. Research of No 24. Technology, Communication, Disability. Stockholm: Stockholms Institute of Education. Department of Special education

Holand, U., von Tezhner, S. & Steindahl, K (1991). Two field trials with videotelephones in Pychiatric and habilitative work, in: Issues in Telecommunication and Disability, S. von Tezchner, ed., Bruxelles: COST 219, 1991, pp.306-371.

Magnusson, M. (1994). Visual Interaction for speech impaired people, in: , L.M. Periera and J-I. Lindström, (eds)., Videotelephony for disabled and elderly people COST 219 Brussels: Commission of the European Communities, pp 56-59

Renblad, K. (1998). Social Network. Adults with mental retardation and their social network. An interview study. Research of No.21. Technology, Communication, Disability. Stockholm: Stockholms Institute of Education. Department of Special education

Renblad, K. (1999). The potential for advanced technologies to broaden the outreach and social network of persons with mental retardation. A literature study. Technology and Disability Vol.10, p 175-180

Periera, LM (1992), Videotelephone and people with mental impairment, Lisbon: Department of Special Education and rehabilitation.

Von Tetzhner,S., Hellelberg, F. &Langeland, H. (1991).Supervision of habilitation via videotelephone, in: S. von Tetzchner (ed) Issues in Telecommunication and Disability, Bruxelles: COST 219, 1991, p 306-371.


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