‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ – A Resource Manual of Initiatives Enabling People in Disadvantaged Groups to Gain Access to the Internet

Developed by the Telecommunications Group of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA). Edited by Sue Salthouse. Copyright WWDA September 2002.

1. Abbreviations

ACIF: Australian Communication Industry Forum
AIMIA: Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association
CASE: Computing Assistance Support and Education
CCNR: Centre for Community Networking Research
CIRSACT: Community Information and Referral Service ACT
CIT: Canberra Institute of Technology
CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information (School of Health Related Professions, University of Buffalo)
COTA: Council of the Ageing
CREEDA: Capital Region Enterprise and Employment Development Association
DCITA: Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
DD: Digital Divide
ECNA: E-community Networking Association
GSA: GSA Information Consultants, principal Gunela Astbrink
IAP: Internet Access Point
ICT: Information and Communications Technology
IIA: Internet Industry Association
IT: Information Technology
MEDIAC: Manor and Castle Multimedia Company
MLA: Member of the Legislative Assembly
NGOs: Non-government organisations
NMIT: North Melbourne Institute of TAFE
NZ: New Zealand
OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
RMIT: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
UK: United Kingdom
US: United States
TEDICORE: Telecommunications Disability Consumer Representation
WWDA: Women With Disabilities Australia
WWD(ACT): Women With Disabilities (ACT)

2. Introduction

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the recipient of an October 2001 – September 2002 Financial Grant (under Section 593 of the Telecommunications Act 1997) for Consumer Representation in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The Grant is funded by Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA), and supports WWDA members in their representation of the interests of women with disabilities on a number of Government and non-Government ICT bodies. WWDA has a Telecommunications Group consisting of eight members who undertake the work of representation, research into ICT issues, and feedback of information to members. Members of the Telecommunications Group are representatives on the Australian Communication Industry Forum (ACIF) Disability Advisory Board and the ACIF Consumer Advisory Group, the Telecommunications Disability Consumer Representation (TEDICORE) Group, the Telstra Disability Forum, and the Telstra Disability Equipment Program Consumer Advisory Group. In addition, under the period of this Grant, members of the Telecommunications Group have undertaken an exercise to gather information about Digital Divide (DD) initiatives in Australia and overseas.

2.1 About the Digital Divide for Women with Disabilities

Women with disabilities are over-represented in low socio-economic groups compared to men with disabilities and women in general. This affects their ability to access ICT that further disadvantages them in a range of activities that are now conducted over the Internet. Many E-commerce activities – for example bill paying and banking – offer discounts for business conducted over the Internet. Thus lack of Internet access further penalises people who are already under financial strain. Moreover, the lack of access to the Internet deprives women with disabilities the social interaction afforded by email contact with family, friends, disability support groups and other special interest groups.

Women with disabilities are part of one of the groups of people who are seen to be on the wrong side of a DD, where lack of access to computers, the Internet and information technology (IT) training, precludes them from participating in ICT. These disadvantaged groups include people in low socio-economic stratum, people with disabilities, women, seniors, youth (homeless youth, female students), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from other cultures. There are many initiatives underway both internationally and Australia-wide which seek to bridge the DD. The impetus for their development comes from community, non-government and government organizations.

2.2 This Resource Manual

During the grant period members of the WWDA Telecommunications Group looked at a range of initiatives aimed at bridging the DD. This was done with a view to finding models that may be applicable to the development of projects specifically designed to assist women with disabilities, or to locate existing projects that women with disabilities can use.

An overview of ICT was made by Rebecca Minty (co-opted to the Telecommunications Group) who undertook a web search for DD, virtual communities [1] and assistive equipment/technology related websites. Although there are a number of DD projects in the states and territories of Australia, this publication only addresses initiatives in the ACT and Victoria. A review of the former was undertaken by Louise Bannister and Sue Salthouse, with the latter investigated by Jo-An Partridge. Further information about DD initiatives was gained at a major conference on ‘E-networking – Building Communities’ which was held in Melbourne in July 2002. Three Telecommunications Group members – Margaret Cooper, Margherita Coppolino and Jo-An Partridge – attended this. A synopsis of reports on conference sessions attended by two of the representatives is included here. The content of all reports has been the responsibility of individual contributors.

The WWDA Telecommunications Group hopes that the following information will assist WWDA to assist it members in gaining access to existing DD initiatives and to focus WWDA’s attention on how to directly address DD issues for its members. In addition, we hope that it will serve as a resource manual for other organizations whose constituents form a DD disadvantaged group. Electronic, large print, or audio versions of the report are available on request (WWDA Telecommunications Group, as are the full reports of contributors.

3. Web Search of Digital Divide, Virtual-communities and ICT Assistive Technology [2] – by Rebecca Minty

3.1. Introduction

The aim of this web search was to evaluate the range and depth of information on the Internet with respect to people with disabilities. Information gathering was focused on three main areas:

  • digital divide – initiatives which seek to bridge the DD;
  • virtual communities – for people with disabilities to share their experiences and diminish their sense of isolation (note that the term ‘virtual communities is interchangeable with the term ‘cyber communities’); and
  • assistive equipment – innovations that can make access to telecommunications and the Internet possible for people with disabilities.

The process of searching the web for relevant information was a fairly ad-hoc one. Many of the sites examined had numerous links – far too many to consider all but few. The web search therefore aimed to produce a general coverage of sites of interest, rather than considering particular areas of information technology or particular disabilities in detail.

The summaries and findings below give some indication of what sort of information is currently available on the Internet. From this, it is possible to get an indication of the areas where further developments, which would be of use to people with disabilities, may become more apparent. Appendix 1 includes an outline of the websites searched.

3.2 Digital Divide

3.2.1 Types of websites
The majority of the DD web sites searched were Government sites; including local, state and national. The Australian Federal Government sites tended to be of good general application to all Australians regardless of region. Some of the state and local government sites looked to be fairly useful and relevant however are only applicable to the locality at which they are directed. The other major category of sites found were those run by not-for-profit organsiations or community groups, such as the extensive ‘Infoexchange’ sites. There were relatively few commercial sites – ‘Recruitnet’ was one of the few commercial sites for a company whose business was specifically bridging the DD. There seemed to be many international sites relating to DD issues, the majority of those found being United States (US) based. Canadian and UK sites were also covered in this search.

3.2.2 Relevance of existing sites to women with disabilities
Although there are many sites relating to DD issues in existence, many are of little relevance as they are locality specific. The overseas sites (the US ones in particular) seemed to be useful for obtaining general information on broad DD issues (such as journal articles, book reviews etc). However, in general the sites did not make reference to practical DD bridging activities outside their country.

A similar situation occurs with Australian sites, as regional specific ones bear little relevance for those out of that region. ‘Rural and Peninsula Disability Support’, and ‘Tasmanian communities online’ were well-structured and informative sites, but of no application outside the region at which they are aimed. They could provide good models in devising other sites for people in different regions.

The most practical DD sites seemed to be those that had search facilities where users could locate their nearest DD bridging facility (such as an Internet Access Point). This was generally limited to Internet access, and in many cases they assumed basic IT skills.

Few sites were found that were specifically for women with disabilities. It may be worth investigating if there is a greater demand for these sites that needs to be met.

3.2.3 Potential for future developments
There were many DD sites that provided information about access locations for public Internet facilities. However none of those viewed included basic information about accessibility (for example wheelchair accessibility and so forth). It seems that a priority should be to improve the suitability of information on the sites to make them of more use to people with disabilities, as often it is these people that become stranded by the DD. One way that awareness of disability issues on the web could be improved is by sending informative emails to webmasters to encourage them to include practical information on their site for people with disabilities. Some of the sites visited had developed networks with similar sites, through the inclusion of links and information pages. This seems to be a positive development as it creates a greater ease of access for users.

3.3 Virtual Communities

3.3.1 Types of websites
The majority of virtual community sites specific to people with disabilities were US-based. All but one site found was set up by community and not-for-profit organizations for people with disabilities. The other site ‘Opening Doors’ was a mentoring site set up by the University of Washington. Despite the lack of large Australian sites, the nature of a virtual community does not restrict its application to national boarders, and many of the US sites seemed to have a variety of international visitors. Some of the larger sites had disability-specific chat rooms, and most sites also had discussion boards and email broadcast lists.

3.3.2 Relevance of existing sites to women with difficulties
Many of the websites searched could provide the opportunity for women with disabilities to develop friendships or share experiences with others. Chat rooms are generally for the relatively technology savvy, as conversations often move in a rapid, disjointed fashion, and some disabilities may prevent people from interacting in this way. The web casts and discussion boards seem to be an inclusive way to become more involved in virtual communities at a self-controlled pace. A unique site encountered was ‘Disability Friends Webpals Around the World’, where users could leave details about themselves and an email address, to facilitate one-on-one communication through email. For those with at least a basic competence in computer, Internet and email skills, sites such as these provide relatively simple ways to become involved in virtual communities.

3.3.3 Potential for future developments
As most of the sites accessed were based in the US, it could be more relevant to Australian users to develop a comprehensive Australian cyber-community site. This may prove to be a less threatening environment in which new Internet users could become involved in cyber-communities.

3.4 Assistive Equipment

3.4.1 Types of websites
Most of the large assistive equipment sites were based in the US, although there are some comprehensive Australian sites as well. They ranged from government sites (eg. AccessAbility) and university sites (CODI) to commercial sites for companies selling equipment (eg. GSA Information Consultants). In addition there were community organizations listing the range of equipment available (eg. Multicap). The range of equipment listed on each site varied greatly – from just a couple of devices to thousands. There seemed to be a great range of equipment available online, including items such as computer programs, specialised keyboards and mouse pads. Many of the sites also included generally day-to-day assistive equipment for people with disabilities. The majority of sites had facilities to order online and almost all had contact details (phone or email) of the company that produces the equipment.

3.4.2 Relevance of existing sites to women with disabilities
Much of the equipment listed online is fairly specific, and most sites do not provide enough background information for a user to rely on the website alone. These sites would be best utilised by users to browsing and investigating the range of equipment that is available, and combining this with advice from specialists, friends, physiotherapists etc.

3.4.3 Potential for future developments
A possible future development could be to compile a web page listing all the Australian producers/distributors of assistive equipment to make the information more Australian specific and accessible for Australian users.

3.5 Conclusion

The Internet has a wealth of information related to DD, Virtual Communities and assistive equipment for people with disabilities. A large percentage of these sites are US based, although there are many relevant Australian sites. Site hosts range from government, and educational institution’s sites to non profit, community organizations and commercial companies selling a good or service of relevant to women with disabilities. There are some areas where a need may exist to develop more relevant Australian sites – for example virtual community sites. The potential use of the Internet could also be maximised if community organizations such as WWDA added comprehensive links to sites that are of specific relevance to their members in the 3 areas investigated in this web search.

4. Digital Divide Projects in the ACT – by Sue Salthouse

In January 2001, the Chief Minister of the ACT Legislative Assembly appointed a Digital Divide Taskforce under the leadership of Jacqui Burke (MLA) [3] to develop guidelines for projects that would enable community groups to set up IAPs in the ACT. People in groups defined as being disadvantaged in their ability to access Information and Communications Technology would then have free or subsidised access to the Internet. After an investigation phase by the Taskforce, the Government allocated over $500,000 to the Project, with a proportion of that dedicated for use in school locations. Applications were invited from the community and community groups. There were 22 Digital Divide Grant Recipients, including three schools. In addition the grant enabled the setting up of a ‘Roving Tutor Scheme’, to be operating out of the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT). These tutors give technical/training support to users at the various locations.

Of the Grant recipients, seven nominated ‘people with disabilities’ as one of their target groups. This section looks at these projects – Belconnen Community Service Inc.; Community Information and Referral Service of the ACT [CIRSACT]; Council of the Ageing [COTA]; Canberra Region Enterprise and Employment Development Association [CREEDA]; Koomarri; Northside Community Service; and Communities at Work (Weston Creek Community Centre location).

With the change of Government in October 2001, some of the projects did not get underway until 2002. In August and early September 2002, each of the projects that had nominated people with disabilities as one of their target groups was approached for information about their uptake of the initiative. Some of these grant-funded projects had been launched for only a short amount of time; hence the project managers were not in a position to make any generalisations about use of the facility.

Following is a synopsis of the current operation of each of these projects.

4.1 Summary of selected ACT Digital Divide Initiatives

4.1.1 Roving Tutor Scheme
The Roving Tutors were funded under the DD funding and the scheme is managed by the CIT. The Roving Tutors are primarily focussed on providing dedicated training to users of the IT facilities at the DD grant recipient centres. On average, they provide a couple of hours a week to each recipient organization. The Roving Tutors provide vital support to the DD Grantees and the people using the facilities. A number of Grantees said that their facilities could not function without the input of the Roving Tutors.

4.1.2 Belconnen Community Service Inc.
The DD facility is located in the Belconnen Community Centre, in the northern suburbs of Canberra. The project has been operating for a limited amount of time. The Grant enabled purchase of six computers, including purchase of two large screen monitors, and a printer. The facility manager expressed interest in having access to an assistive equipment pool. A number of programs catering for people with disabilities operate at the centre. These have the potential to use the DD facility. Use would be limited by the availability of adequate support.

4.1.3 CIRSACT (Community Information and Referral Service ACT)
This Internet Access Point is located within the CIRSACT shopfront in the centre of Canberra. It is in a high traffic area for Canberra residents of all ages, as well as tourists. CIRSACT acts as an information dissemination point for ACT community, government and non-government organizations. Shopfront customers have increased by 33 per cent since the improvement of signage in 2000. The number of people accessing the Internet on the single DD grant computer remains low. There has been no use by people with disabilities to date.

4.1.4 Council of the Ageing (COTA) ACT
COTA acts as the peak body for older people in the ACT. Only those who can use computers with minimal assistive equipment can be catered for. COTA operates self-paced training programs. If the learners are on low incomes, and have disabilities (for example, intellectual disability or use of only one arm following stroke) support is given per two students. The assistive equipment available is limited to a trackball and using the computer’s inbuilt disability options [for example, adjusting screens to larger font and using ‘sticky keys’ option (keyboard adjustment to not respond to repeated or prolonged tapping of a key)]. Of the 66 people currently enrolled for IT training, six are people with disabilities. In addition six members of the 30-strong Southpaw Stroke Club have enrolled for the weekly sessions. Clients who had higher needs would be referred on to other organizations.

4.1.5 CREEDA (Capital Region Enterprise and Employment Development Association) Business Centres
CREEDA has used its Digital Divide Grant to fund a computer at its Phillip office. The facility is open to holders of Centrelink benefit cards, including people with disabilities, and is oriented to assisting people to undertake self-paced training programs to gain word processing and Internet skills. There is one computer from the DD Grant, in a bank of 11 computers. Of the 17 people using the DD computer, three are on a Disability Support Pension (two males and one female).

4.1.6 Koomarri
The Koomarri Association is a support service primarily for people with an intellectual disability. It operates a number of different ‘business services’ across Canberra which employ people with disabilities. The Digital Divide Grant contributed to the set up costs for installing IAPs at four different business service locations. Since the only clientele at the centres would be people with intellectual and some physical disability, the management purchased some assistive equipment at the outset. This included larger monitors (to assist users with vision impairment), screen filters to minimise screen flicker (which may cause epileptic seizures), track balls (rather than ‘mouse’, to overcome co-ordination difficulties), and large button keyboards. Clients mostly volunteered to become involved, although support workers encouraged some clients to use the facilities. At present there are more than 50 clients using the facilities. This is expected to increase as the benefits and success of the facility is spread by word-of-mouth.

Training is provided within Koomarri by support workers, general staff, visits from the Roving Tutor and through the use of self training programs (for example, Scholastic New Media Computer Classroom software, designed for school children, but acceptable and accessible for clients). Feedback from clients is that their level of satisfaction is extremely high. Clients’ skill levels are increasing and computer-related achievements are boosting their self-esteem.

4.1.7 Northside Community Service
The facility is located in the Majura Community Centre. The facility has three units located in a separate, purpose specific room. There had been no use by people with disabilities at the time of contact. However, the facility was in its early stages and too new to gauge what use it will eventually have. The Service called for volunteers to assist with the running of the facility, with a full contingent of volunteers available. In addition, the Roving Tutors support the facility.

4.1.8 Communities At Work (Weston Creek Community Centre location)
Since being awarded the Digital Divide Grant, the Weston Creek Community Service has amalgamated with the Tuggeranong Community Service, and the two services are now jointly known as ‘Communities at Work’. The Digital Divide facility was set up at the Weston Creek complex. The Grant enabled the purchase of three computers with printer. Weston Creek Community Centre runs programs for children, youth and young adults with disabilities. Potential use of the DD facility is therefore high, but limited by lack of software, supports workers, and instructors.

4.1.9 Training
Access to training is important for people in all Digital Divide disadvantaged groups. For people with disabilities, a greater number of hours may need to be devoted to a training course. A CIT initiative offers courses in computing and IT to people in disadvantage groups for the cost of the Student Association fee. This entitles the person to use the CIT classroom facilities for 18 weeks, following self-paced self-teaching courses, with access to attend two 2.5-hour teaching sessions during the semester.

4.2 Discussion

The Internet Access Points created by the ACT Digital Divide Grant program have not yet reached their full potential. Moreover, statistics monitoring their use have not yet been gathered. This discussion considers the facilities with respect to their patronage by people with disabilities.

Uptake has been low to non-existent at all IAPs except Koomarri. Although the former six IAPs had nominated people with disabilities as a target group, in fact their publicity and promotions did not target these groups. The lack of uptake by people with disabilities may be attributable to lack of knowledge about the existence of the DD facility; lack of motivation to use ICT; motivation, but lack of confidence to make a start; lack of skills and need for training; need for specific assistive equipment; and lack of mobility to travel to the IAPs. These problems are a feature of all ACT programs promoting ICT use by people with disabilities.

In all locations (other than Koomarri), the use of the facility by people with disabilities is limited. It is not logistically possible to cater for people with complex needs. All seven IAPs had reasonable to very good physical access to the facility and to the computers themselves. Of seven of the IAPs, only Koomarri had specifically budgeted for assistive equipment, a reasonable inclusion since their clientele are people with disabilities.

The idea of setting up an assistive equipment pool is worthy. Such a facility is being developed under the TasOnline project, funded by DCITA under Networking the Nation program.

There are some limitations to the ACT DD facilities that operate regardless of the disadvantaged group targeted. An inherent difficulty with such programs is their sustainability [4]. As so often happens with these initiatives, the funding enables purchase of the hardware, but only funds Internet Access for the term of the Grant (usually 12 months).

Often the organizations have no ability to find ongoing ISP costs in subsequent years. Even within the current funding, maintenance (for breakdowns once the guarantee period has expired) and running costs (for consumables such as printer ink, paper and so forth) may not have been budgeted for. Staff support costs and administrative costs may also have been overlooked. In addition, training support is needed, as many people accessing the computers do not have basic computing skills. The training concession scheme offered by the CIT is a valuable initiative, but may still be too expensive for some people with disabilities.

Using volunteers for computer support and peer-tutoring schemes is not a viable option in many cases, especially where they will be working with minors. Police checks must be run on potential volunteers, adequate insurance coverage obtained, and rosters drawn up. The administrative input required to set this up is beyond the staffing capacity of many organizations. The Roving Tutor Scheme was praised by all the organizations with access to it. However, the number of tutors and the hours allotted to organizations are not sufficient to meet facilities’ needs.

Many difficulties are magnified when people with disabilities use the facility. There is often a need for a greater number of hours of training, skill reinforcement and a higher level of support when actually using the equipment. The Koomarri experience demonstrates that positive benefits abound where users enjoy using the facility, improve their self-esteem, and acquire useful skills.

The experiences reported by managers of the Digital Divide Grant facilities mirror those of the IAPs set up by WWDA in capital city community facilities in the course of its Accessibility Online project [5]. Sustainability of Digital Divide initiatives is a major difficulty.

Nevertheless, the ACT Digital Divide IAPs are making a start. It is difficult to predict the degree to which people with disabilities will increase their use of the facilities in the future. It is early days for all projects. Word-of-mouth promotion may prove to be the means to greater facility use.

4.3 Contacts

1. Sam Moskwa
Manager, Belconnen Community Centre
PO Box 679, Belconnen ACT 2616.
Ph: 02 6253 1166; Fax: 02 6253 2901
TTY: 02 6253 3002
Email: sam@belcomserv.com.au

2. Elgar Starkis Manager, CIRSACT
Griffin Centre, Bunda St Civic
GPO Box 669, Canberra ACT 2601.
Ph: 02 6248 7988 (Infoline) 02 6257 1687 (Office); Fax: 02 6257 7383
Email: information@cirsact.org.au
Web: www.cirsact.org.au

3. Evelyn Bray
Manager of Projects and Public Relations
Hughes Community Centre
Wisdom St, Hughes ACT 2605.
Ph: 02 6282 3777; Fax: 02 6285 3422
Email: cota@cota_act.org.au

4. Mary Piechowski
Training Manager
CREEDA Business Centres
Head Office, Bradfield St, Downer ACT 2602.
Email: creeda@creeda.com.au
Web: www.creeda.com.au

5. Michael Hagstrom
Koomarri Association
88 Wollongong St, Fyshwick ACT 2609.
PO Box 636, Fyshwick ACT 2609.
Ph: 02 6280 6143; Fax : 02 6239 1603
Email m.hagstrom@koomarri.asn.au

6. Michelle Whyard
Northside Community Service
Majura Community Centre
2 Rosevear Place, Dickson ACT 2602.
PO Box 453, Dickson, ACT 2602.
Ph: 02 6257 2255; Fax: 02 6257 5993;

7. Mandy Eagle
Communities at Work
Weston Creek Community Centre
Parkinson Street, Weston ACT 2611.
PO Box 3004, Weston ACT 2611.
Ph: 02 6288 1144; Fax: 02 6288 0144
Web: www.communityact.org/westoncreekcommunitycentre/index.htm

8. Pam Bossard
Roving Tutor Scheme
Canberra Institute of Technology
Ph: 02 6207 4051

5. Digital Divide Projects in ACT Schools – by Louise Bannister

Three ACT schools were successful in being awarded Digital Divide Grant projects under the ACT scheme. These were: Erindale College, Palmerston Primary School and Ginninderra High School. Each of these schools was contacted in June 2002.

5.1 Erindale College

This project targets senior citizens in the area. The project was in its concluding stages, and at the time of contact, there was no indication as to whether funding would be continued. The Grant enabled the purchase of two computers, one of which as placed in the Goodwin (Retirement) Village in Farrer, and the second in the Goodwin (Retirement) Village in Monash. In addition, a ‘drop-in’ centre was established at the College, on Thursday afternoons from 2.00pm – 6.00pm. This centre gives senior citizens access to the Internet and to computing advice. It is staffed by volunteer students, who are able to assist people with their queries. On average, 16 – 17 people attend each Thursday. About 75 per cent of the people attending the facility at the College are women.

The facility was not set up to cater for disabilities so there are no resources to purchase assistive equipment, although the computer Lab has large screen monitors. The College tested trackballs, but found that senior users preferred to use the standard ‘mouse’. They didn’t want to be seen as ‘different’, and wanted to use the same equipment that had been set up in both Goodwin Villages. If project funding were to be continued, the school would continue its contact with the Goodwin Villages, but extend the target groups to include women from diverse cultural backgrounds and single women. Selection of these groups reflects the demographics and needs in the area.

5.2 Palmerston Primary School

The target group for the Palmerston Primary School is women from diverse cultural backgrounds. The project commenced in September 2001, and finished at the end of June 2002. The project has included conducting a 6 – 8 week evening courses in computing and IT skills. Lessons were for 2.5 hours. More than 180 people accessed the courses. Student enthusiasm has been high with many students re-enrolling for intermediate, advance and Excel courses. If project funding were to be continued, the school would add another target group. This group would be selected according to the concentration of representatives of any particular group in the area. The school facility does have some assistive equipment for people with disabilities, and demonstrated its willingness to install additional equipment if the need arose. At present, they have one computer with an ‘intellikeys’ keyboard (a large size keyboard with touchpads, backed by appropriate software, beneficial for people with fine motor co-ordination difficulties.

5.3 Ginninderra District High School

At the time of conducting the investigation, Ginninderra District high School teachers were not available. Their facility targeted seniors.

5.4 Discussion [6]

As with the other ACT Digital Divide Grant projects, lack of ongoing funding was a limitation. However, both schools demonstrated that their initiatives had had a good community reach, and had been effective in achieving goals. Palmerston Primary School was able to reach its target group through contact with students’ parents. Erindale College was able to reach its target group by confining the contact to two Retirement Villages. Both schools valued the projects for the opportunity it afforded them to strengthen their community ties.

5.5 Contacts

1. Peter Fenwick
Information Technology
Erindale College
McBryde Cres, Wanniassa ACT 2903.
Ph: 02 6205 8111

2. Helen Strokowski
Palmerston Primary School
Kosciusko Cres, Palmerston ACT 2913.
Ph: 02 6205 7241

6. Digital Divide Initiatives in Victoria – by Jo an Partridge

6.1 Overview

The object of this study was to investigate initiatives in Victoria that address the DD. For the researcher the first hurdle to overcome was the plethora of acronyms and pseudonyms applied to this particular area of ICT. One of the main complaints from consumers was that ICT information is couched in such ‘technospeak’ language as to make it almost impossible to understand. Access to information was greatly assisted by the willingness of those contacted to talk about their particular interests. While the investigation was Victoria specific, earlier enquiries had brought out amazing response from continents as diverse as Africa and Europe.

The idea of access for all is idealistic but not necessarily economically viable for most organizations and Governments. Nevertheless, everyone contacted was enthusiastic and determined to ‘make it happen’. The research was greatly assisted by being able to attend the ‘Electronic Networking 2002 – Building Community’ conference at Monash University in July 2002.

There is a need for a central organization to monitor and disseminate ICT information to persons in DD disadvantaged groups, whether or not they have access to ICT itself. Similarly, there is a need for all organizations and Governments to be able to feed information about local, national and international DD initiatives through a central body.

6.2 Building Bridges and Bridging the Gap

Digital Divide is a term used to describe the inequity of access to ICTs for people in disadvantaged groups. Social isolation is a priority need that must be addressed.

Equitable Access to ICT for all persons is a worthy goal. Some of the most advanced ICT hardware is not compatible with assistive equipment and software, making it inaccessible to some people with disabilities.

Home Access is of the utmost importance to the housebound. The costs of access to ICT can be prohibitive. Schemes that provide low-cost or free ICT hardware do assist some. Often recycled computers do no have the necessary capacity to meet current software needs. Adaptations and assistive equipment can be too expensive.

Local Access is provided by many local governments in places such as libraries and Council offices. Physical access to these facilities can be difficult for some disadvantage groups. From personal experience the researcher can understand the difficulties faced when trying to access public facilities. How do you get from A to B without a vehicle or the ability to use public transport?

6.3 The Victorian ICT Initiative

The Victorian Government ICT Vision boldly states ‘by 2010 Victoria will be a globally recognised ICT industry hotspot’. The four objectives of the vision are quoted as:

  • the Victorian ICT industry generates substantial exports, jobs, and wealth for the State;
  • Victoria is home to internationally recognised and globally competitive ICT companies that are integrated into global industry supply chains;
  • Victoria is an internationally recognised centre for ICT research, development and commercialism; and
  • Victorian industry fully leverages the competitive advantages provided by ICT.

While these objectives are laudable they are in the main concerned with the growth of industry and wealth not with ICT access for individuals in disadvantage groups. One has to assume that with this newly created wealth of knowledge and technological advances, assistance to disadvantage groups will automatically follow [7].

6.4 Current Programs

Tremendous work and advances were made during the term of previous Liberal Government through the former Minister Alan Stockdale’s work with ICT. The State Labor Government has undertaken to ensure that work on DD continues with its ‘My Connecting Community’ program. Current initiatives include:

Multi Media Victoria supports publishing and communication on the web. VICNET, the community network is a business unit of the State Library of Victoria. It aims to create an electronic environment where people can publish, share and find information and form online communities. The VICNET Multimedia Centre offers free web page hosting and a call centre.

Libraries Online gives Victorians access to the Internet and an online library service. It is increasing access for multilingual users and users with disabilities through the use of assistive technologies.

Virtual Library provides 24-hour online access to online searching of library catalogues; a database of reference queries; recent events/hot topics; book suggestions, and a directory of free web-based email facilities.

Skills.net provides free or affordable Internet access to those Victorians who would not otherwise have access. The program makes available new technology, multi-media equipment and training workshops to meet Victorian citizens’ ICT needs. The Skills.net Roadshow is a traveling Internet classroom reaching Victorians who live in rural and remote areas.

My Connected Community is another VICNET initiative which provides community groups the training and online resources they need to establish a website, publish online, network with members, extend group membership and activities, and communicate with other communities.

Access@schools provides funds for schools to offer ICT resources to their communities.

6.5 Non-government Organizations (NGO’s)

Non-government organizations include those run on a not-for-profit basis as well as commercial operators. NGO’s are generally concerned with grass roots level issues and have initiated a variety of plans of action to assist disadvantaged groups in the community. They address the specific needs of their members. Meeting these needs in a cohesive and sustainable program is vital. While the intentions are of the highest order and the workers’ enthusiasm is endless, finance is required for projects to run. Corporate businesses could be the catalyst for reform by providing project funding within areas specific to their own business activities, thus ensuring NGO’s of ongoing financial and technical support. Reliance on governments to fund activities is becoming increasingly difficult. However, governments can play an important part by providing funds for project ‘seeding’ and by working with, supporting and promoting the outcomes of programs initiated by NGO’s. For NGO’s and consumers, information on the Internet and in manuals must be in plain language.

6.6 Conclusion

Humankind has made many advances in communication:

  • knotted ropes were used to send information with runners from village to village;
  • bonfires were used, lit from hill to hill to tell of momentous happenings;
  • Post Chaise introduced the first mail service to England, (and ironically by today’s efficiencies) gave same-day delivery in most towns;
  • telephone and Morse Code became available to the community; and
  • now we have mobile phones, desktop, notebook and palm computers. What next?

Improvements in ICT are not always available to those in most need. ICT is still regarded as a business tool and not necessarily as an enhancement to the social fabric. The diversity and range of needs of disadvantaged groups exclude the development of a single DD model. Finally we can only help those who will help themselves; it will not be possible to be all things to all men and women. To quote from ‘Alice in Wonderland ‘ by Lewis Carroll:

Where shall I begin, please your Majesty” he asked. ‘Begin at the beginning’ the King said, gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

And that is all we can do.

7. E-Networking – Building Community Conference

From 3 – 5 July 2002, three members [8] of the WWDA Telecommunications Group attended an ICT conference, ‘Electronic Networking 2002 – Building Community’, the Fifth Community Networking Conference held at the Caulfield Campus of Monash University, Victoria. The conference was organised by the Centre for Community Networking Research (CCNR), under the management of the Enterprise Information Research Group of Monash University. Abstracts of papers presented at the conference can be accessed online at http://www.ccnr.net/2002/. Although many of the papers drew on experiences gained from DD bridging projects, the thrust of the conference was in looking beyond the DD and using ICT to empower communities as instruments of equity and social change. Endnotes in this section indicate the main instigators of the projects reviewed. At the conference, an E-Community Networking Association was formed and held its inaugural meeting. Following are the reports from two of the WWDA attendees at the conference.

7.1 Report on the E-Networking Conference (1) – by Jo An Partridge

7.2 Introduction

This was to be my initiation into the realm of electronic networking from the perspective of others working in ICT as a tool for the whole community. It was an exhilarating, exciting and humbling experience. Having worked in the field of communication for most of my life and having taken advantage of technological advances I now realised I had only scratched the surface just to meet my immediate needs and those of the organizations with which I work. My steep learning curve was reaching a peak. At last I was beginning to make sense of the technospeak/jargon used by the experienced ICT operators and to have a better understanding of the Digital Divide and Assistive Technology. My experience at this Conference has been of enormous value to me personally and I sincerely hope that WWDA will also benefit. The accident I experienced the week before Conference severely limited my ability to keep to the original planned program. However, I believe this became an advantage, as in the proverb ‘When one door shuts, another opens’ and the different sessions thence chosen became my gateway to gain more knowledge and experience.

7.3 Sessions Attended (Thursday 4 July 2002)

7.3.1 Visions of the Future (Panel Session)

Chairperson: RMIT University – Leone Wheeler
Manor and Castle Multimedia Company (MEDIAC) Ltd, UK – Steve Fox
Independent Theorist – Gert Lovink
Infoxchange – Andrew Mahar
Ourcommunity.com.au – Rhonda Galbally

Steve Fox: Spoke of ‘UK on-line’ and raised the question of the Internet as a short-term initiative. (The question of sustainability was a recurring theme throughout the Conference).

Gert Lovink: Raised the issue of Australian fibre optic culture and communities fostering conflict to achieve change. Lovink also spoke of economic democracy and how to deal with ‘spams’. Gert condemned the behaviour of some list servers.

Andrew Mahar: Talked of the technological advances such as voice recognition, eye identification and assistive equipment access in general.

Rhonda Galbally: Spoke of inequity in funding and business; information overload; application of business tools; advocacy development; and community alliance.

Question time elicited many questions. The constant theme was the question of sustainability.

7.3.2 Smart Wellington [9] – – Annette Gittos, Strategy Manager, Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, New Zealand

Ms. Gittos spoke of how technology must work for people, not the reverse. She also emphasised that ‘people’ meant ‘all people’, not just a privileged few. In Wellington the connectivity is one of the highest in the world with 53 per cent of people online, with the national average being 37 per cent. NZ is conscious of the vast Digital Divide gulf in the e-world. In 2001 the Wellington City council became the first signatory in Australasia to the Helsinki Declaration committing the City to resolving DD issues. A number of projects have been set up to address this issue.

7.3.3 Keynote Address: ‘Juggling with No Balls’- Experience of Community Networking in Sheffield, UK [10]. By Steve Fox, Manor and Castle Multimedia Company (MEDIAC) Ltd. UK

Steve Fox began by stating that Community Information Networking is a powerful mechanism to engage people from many different backgrounds and social groupings. Unprecedented opportunities exist today for communities to embrace technologies and develop ideas. However, there are dangers that we leave behind groups and individuals that have, or may, become excluded from mainstream ICT. Within Community Information Networks across the world, there are a wide variety of practices in place. This diversity is so great that at a surface level there would appear to be very little that these projects have in common. However, good community networking can be done when the similar intent of these groups is recognsied. Access for many is still a major hurdle, but nevertheless we must think beyond this and develop skills for the future. At the core of this must be a process or mechanism to really engage people and give them ownership rather than being passive recipients of other people’s programs. This will help them to build real community-led information networks. The mindsets of established providers, political organizations and funding regimes within our communities must change. Many see our communities as passive groups of people in defined geographical blocks. Historically, areas like Manor in Sheffield are ‘done to’ not ‘worked with’. It is necessary to engage and involve people in the process of creating Information Networks so that they can address local problems and issues to better their neighbourhoods and quality of life:

  • we must allow ownership and trust people with the energy and time to create;
  • we must ensure a non-threatening and open way of working alongside and with people; and
  • we must allow the community to create its own content.

7.3.4 Making the CASE for Electronic Empowerment [11] – By Darrell Burkey, Computing Assistance Support and Education (CASE) and Karin Geiselhart, RMIT

CASE was born when volunteers in ICT identified a gap in services available to community organizations. CASE is committed to the development of community services, and has a strong desire to enhance the ICT effectiveness of communities. It operates as a brokerage agency to match volunteer skills with member needs. Member projects are subsidised as resources allow. CASE Projects include registration of domain names; hosting of websites; mailing lists; email services; website development (OzOC.net); online database (OVMIS); setting up networks; research and advocacy.

7.3.5 Infonorth – Community Building- Using Information Communication Technology as a Tool for Sector Networking [12] – By Natalie Ryan, Infoxchange (http://www.infonorth.infoxchange.net.au)

The idea for Infonorth sprang from discussions between the Regional Respite Network and Infoxchange Australia. The Regional Respite Network was looking to develop its own website on which information could be shared and through which people interested in respite could communicate with each other. A web-based community site for respite and other health and community services in Melbourne’s northern suburbs; Infonorth is truly a local solution to the global challenge of linking up community sector health and welfare organizations. Infonorth resulted from strong collaboration between the regional office of the Victorian Government Department of Human Services, numerous community organizations, networks including from the Northern Metropolitan Regional Respite Network and Infoxchange Australia. Infonorth provides e-networking by linking service systems in the Northern Metropolitan Region such as: aged and disability; health; community networks; primary care partnerships; housing and support organizations. At one Internet site, the linking of 13 intranet sites, an extensive service directory and a best practice library, makes Infonorth a powerful tool for all community agencies in Melbourne’s north. Each site has information on services available; latest news, and discussion forums.

7.3.6 Assisting Literacy Through the Internet [13] – By – Kirsty Wilimason, Louise Stockfield, Steve Wright,and Fran O’Neill and Don Shauder, Monash University

Since the Internet is predominantly text based, people for whom English is a second language and people with physical and intellectual disabilities often face difficulties. Certain literacy skills are required to use the World Wide Web. To attempt to develop literacy skills, websites with content focussed on sports, arts and recreation have been developed for three different educational groups at the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT). The first group involves people with mild to moderate physical and intellectual disabilities; the second group are people with severe multiple physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities. A third website has been developed to assist the deaf who predominately use English as a second language.

7.3.7 Enabling Community Networking: What is the Government’s Role? (Panel Session) [14]

Web Words (chairperson) – Ken Young
The National Office for Information Economy – Peter Huta
Community Builders, NSW Premier’s Department – Carolyn Leigh
Multimedia Victoria – Donna Martin
Moreland City Council – Jo Lindley
2020 Trust (New Zealand) – Ian Thompson

The panel covered a variety of issues. The question of sustainability was again raised. The panel expressed the need for democratic representation on ICT advisory groups and increasing dialogue with governments. The question of cost effectiveness was also raised. Sustained effort is needed to counteract the development of an ICT bureaucracy. This will mean promoting access issues and engaging with community, political and organizational processes.

7.4 Sessions Attended (Friday July 6, 2002)

7.4.1 The Web of Life and the Web of Learning, Electronic Networks and Learning Communities (Keynote Address) [15] – By Ron Faris Ph.D, Consultant – Joint Federal – Provincial Learning Initiative in British Columbia, Canada

This we know, all things are connected like the blood, which unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does he does to the web, he does to himself. (- Ted Perry, inspired by Chief Seattle, – cited in Fritjof Capra, 1996, The Web of Life).

Globalisation, and its accompanying rapid technological change and knowledge expansion are transforming the world we live in. The first force, globalisation, is largely based on a market economy model that is chiefly driven by the short-term economic interest of a relatively few transnational corporations that are making decisions and transactions that effect even the smallest communities. The rapidly increasing pace of technological change sparked by research and innovation – especially in ICTs, enhances this process. The third associated driver is the explosion of new knowledge and learning – chiefly in the sciences and technologies – that has been increasingly harnessed to aid in the promotion of the first two drivers – technological change and globalisation.

In such conditions of rapid change and increased risk, increasing numbers of citizens are questioning the direction and purpose of such change. Land, labour and financial capital – the three forms of traditional capital – are now being augmented by an understanding of the important role on human, social and environmental capital – the intangible assets of a knowledge-based economy and society [16]. Those engaged with communities to develop electronic networks that serve the social, economic, cultural, environmental and spiritual aims of community members are in the vanguard of the struggle for a more sustainable, equitable, humane and democratic world. Learning communities are neighbourhoods, villages, towns, cities and regions that use lifelong learning as an organising principle and social goal in order to promote collaboration of their civic, economic, public, voluntary and education sectors to enhance social, economic and environmental conditions on a sustainable, inclusive basis. ICT is a tool that helps to keep the community in communication.

7.4.2 Cultural Diversity and Flexible Learning – How to Reap the Benefits of Cross-Cultural Diversity Through the Purposeful Construction Flexible Learning Models [17] – By Lyn Goodear, Flexible Learning Unit, South West Institute of TAFE

Within education circles it is generally agreed that online learning can create a strong sense of community for a wide range of students. However we must never presume that the technology can generate this sense of community and flexibility in its own right.

7.4.3 The Stages Of Telecentre Development: A Case Study [18] – By Julie Abbott and Pak Yoong, School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa NZ

The Kapiti Telecentre is unique among telecentres in that it is a collaborative project between business and community organizations. Several workers from city-based business organizations are using the telecentre as a teleworking hub whilst the community users have initiated a major community IT educational programme to be based at the centre. A Board of Trustees provides governance of the telecentre and the trustees come from business, community and academic organizations.

7.4.4 Infoxchange Respite Care Projects [19] – By Betty Haralambous, Infoxchange (http://www.infoxchange.net.au)

Infoxchange Australia’s mission is ‘Technology for Social Justice’. It offers services to the not-for-profit sector that include computer recycling and Internet Service Provision, database and online information/content management, website design and hosting, and a wide curriculum of computer training. Over the last decade it has become focused on the delivery of a wide range of Information and ICT solutions for community building purposes. It has become an active player in developing public, private and non-government partnerships to this end. Infoxchange has an impressive track record in successfully using ICT means for social justice outcomes. The emphasis is with interactivity and two-way communication flow. Some Intranets built by Infoxchange show that ICT can be used as a primary tool to deliver services to particular sectors of the community. People with disabilities (consumers) and their carers can self-organise respite care through Respite intranets. Consumers and carers can alter respite care online in response to crisis situations; organise regular scheduled respite hours; arrange respite as required at irregular times; arrange respite that can last a few hours, overnight or for several days, and may take place in the client’s own home or in community facilities. Through respite intranets, Infoxchange Australia has shown that ICT can be used as a critical tool to deliver services and information effectively to customers and member agencies.

Plenary Session and Conference close

Members of a panel were given a set of questions and each presented their perspective on the subjects. I also attended the inaugural meeting of ‘E-community Networking Association’ (ECNA) [20] Meeting, which followed the conference close.

7.5 Conclusion

I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead and the need for ICT to be driven by the community and not technology. There is a real concern about sustainability and access for all. While Governments at local, state and national levels may feel they are being supportive by installing IAPs in public places such as libraries and council offices, the issue of adequate access (physical and to training courses) still remains. There is a tremendous amount of goodwill on offer. However, it is inevitable that the competitive spirit will creep into the agenda of some organizations. Ownership may be an issue in the future. There was some emphasis on Government funding, but the projects that appear to be the most successful were those where there was a component for self-funding by using marketing strategies.

7.6 Report on the E-Networking Conference (2) – By Margaret Cooper

7.7 Sessions Attended (Friday, 5 July 2002)

Thanks to the WWDA Telecommunications Project, I was funded to attend some sessions of the ‘E-Networking – Building Community’ conference. I would have liked to attend more but pre-existing commitments prevented me from doing so. As Jo-An Partridge had a fall-related injury, we swapped sessions to prevent her walking far.

7.7.1 Spackle in the digital divide – lessons from the Skills.net program [21] – By Colleen McCombe (presenter) and Paula Wright (writer), VICNET: (http://www.vicnet.net.au)

The Skills.net program was established in 1997 aimed at providing Internet access and training to communities in Victoria. It ran 124 projects, involving 78,000 people, providing 17 support workers for training, community website hosting, course design and website design. Critical success factors included flexible budgets; use of volunteer trainers; input of extra funding from non-government sources; and an awareness/training travelling ‘Roadshow’. Skills.net had to address the varying needs of different communities to enable them to use ICT; the role community organizations need to play to encourage groups to use ICT; the way programs cope with variations in skills level and technological needs, and identify which resources are needed in common by all organizations and which are specialised needs.

7.7.2 Older People and the Digital Divide [22] – By – Deborah West, Flinders University of South Australia

‘Learning IT’ must address the individual’s intrinsic motivation or purpose for using IT. Older people place high priority on remaining independent, in control of their own lives, and in maintaining connections with family and community. These motivations need to be considered when setting up learning programs. Remaining barriers to ICT use include the costs, design of software and hardware, and lack of exposure to technology. Success factors include having lots of hands-on work, using peer educators, keeping class sizes small and of uniform age range, and slowing the pace of classes.

7.7.3 Harnessing Social Capital: the Smart Newtown Project [23] – By Barbara Crump, Professor Judy McGregor, Dr Andrea McIlroy, Massey University, Wellington, Aotearoa NZ {http://www.smartnewtown.org.nz)

The harnessing of social capital in a ‘wired community’ project is the subject of a unique urban experiment in New Zealand. The Smart Newtown Project’s vision is to create a ‘digital divide free zone’. The first step was to ‘wire up’ the primary school to high-speed broadband width and implement a ‘Computers in Homes’ scheme. Computer centres (hubs) were set up at 4 community locations. Problems encountered in sustaining the project include management issues; unequal resourcing of centres; time delays leading to disillusioned participants; different expectations of various sectors; volunteer ‘burn out’, and community meetings became unruly.

7.7.4 What have we learned? (Plenary Session)

A vision statement was read: ‘Technology that supports the quality of life for individuals and community organizations.’ Key issues presented during the conference were defined as including: helping to make creative communities; building trust (between individuals and between organizations); having a voice (what are people saying to governments); identifying government agendas; maturing as communities and building capacity; coping with diversity; having sustainability, and promoting life long learning. Participants were invited to go forth and network [24]. Recommended websites are http://www.positiveoutcomes.com.au and http://www.digitaldividend.org.

7.8 Miscellaneous Initiatives – By Christine Tilley [25]

7.8.1 ICT Access with the Brisbane City Council

In October 2001, the Brisbane City Council put a number of initiatives to bridge the DD. Some of the packages on offer include the sale of ‘recycled’ computers at low cost (from $500); subsidized new computers with CD-ROM, modem and printer (from $1600); free trial Internet connection and cost-effective Internet vouchers; and free Internet access via 155 terminals at Brisbane City Council Libraries.

7.8.2 Internet Industry Association (IIA) – By Sue Salthouse

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) is Australia’s national body for the Internet, supported by the Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association (AIMIA). Their aim is to improve access to the Internet, especially for people with disabilities. They plan to address this problem through ‘Accessible Web Action’ that may be viewed at http://www.iia.net.au/awap.html, ‘Towards a More Accessible Internet’.

8. Discussion

In the course of this investigation into Digital Divide initiatives, it has become evident that the scope of the investigation is much wider than simply looking at models that improve access to ICT for disadvantaged groups, and specifically for women with disabilities. At a basic level where funding is made available, Internet Access Points (IAPs) can be established in the community. A major limitation of such initiatives is their lack of sustainability. Once the funding finishes the IAP ceases to function. The uptake of use of such facilities by constituents of the disadvantaged groups at which their establishment was targeted is often low. In this context, it is important that designers of programs take into account the motivation of the targeted group or individual. Use of generic programs can be counterproductive. There is also a need for positive feedback directed at users to promote their wellbeing and enhance self-esteem. The facilities are examples of ‘top down’ funding, where organizations fund projects according to perceived needs in the community. The actual impetus for the project has not come from the targeted users, even though representative of those groups may have been part of an advisory group. Many of the papers presented at the ‘E-Networking – Building Community’ conference gave examples of ‘bottom up’ projects where the thrust for the project was community generated. As a result the projects were more successful and tended to be more sustainable. Notwithstanding this, e-community projects can have rollercoaster dynamics with many of the characteristics of management of communes.

At a higher level, the investigation uncovered the more esoteric value of inclusive ICT access as a tool in the development of communities. This has a role in increasing social capital; where communities have greater political cohesion and ability to force changes in government and corporate operations. At this level, the collective strength of many e-communities networking together, gives a people-centred meaning to globalization, and seeks to overwhelm its current corporate-centred agenda. This was the thrust of the keynote address of Ron Faris at the ‘E-Networking – Building Communities’ conference, where environment is the world environment, and sustainability becomes that of global environments and not that of DD projects! At this level the focus for organizations such as WWDA becomes one of concentrating efforts on inclusive societies. It means changes that achieve social justice for women with disabilities. WWDA’s involvement in ICT then becomes one such that there is an increased effort to lobby for universal design of ICT equipment, and the automatic inclusion of compatibility with assistive equipment add-ons. Yet this change to a ‘big picture’ outlook may be premature. It leaves us with a dilemma. How can we abandon efforts to bridge the DD at the very basic level? Is the answer to think globally, but act locally even in the field of ICT? This dilemma affects many organizations. WWDA commends this manual to you as a resource for delving into the Digital Divide and beyond.

9. Appendix 1: Website Synopsis

Digital Divide

Website details: ACT Government Digital Divide website http://www.act.gov.au/digitaldivide
Synopsis: Outlines the actions that the ACT Government is taking to bridge the Digital Divide.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): This information could be included as a link on WWDA’s website.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Has a list of different Canberra groups that have Digital Divide grants, and what they are proposing to do with them. Also has a location map of where DD centres (free access to Internet etc.) are located in Canberra. This would be more useful if addresses and contact numbers were included on site.

Website details:National Office for the Information Economy- Digital Divide website http://www.noie.gov.au/projects/access/community/digitaldivide/Digitaldivide.htm
Synopsis:General background about Digital Divide, lists opportunities for DD project collaboration, lists some programs for which Government grants are available. Has links, both Australian and overseas.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA):Useful if WWDA wants to network a DD bridging project with others in Australia.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd):Not really focused towards practical DD bridging.

Website details:Digital Dividend http://www.digitaldividend.org/
Synopsis:Extensive international site, with a focus on developing countries
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA):Could possibly list WWDA DD projects on their extensive database (called ‘project clearinghouse’). Need to meet criteria: 1) Target disadvantaged groups, 2) Require collaboration with other organizations, 3) Have the potential to be sustainable, replicable and scaleable, 4) Are able to demonstrate impact.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd):Has a good database of DD projects and facilities, grouped by region and country. Could be good to see what DD facilities are in other countries (Eg. if traveling etc).

Website details:NetSpots Directory http://www.noie.gov.au/netspots/
Synopsis:Australian site, developed to enable people to find their nearest public Internet access facility. Also lists video conferencing facilities.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Do WWDA have a need for video conferencing?
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd):Useful- lists Internet access facilities Australia wide, has practical details such as opening hours, facilities available and contact details. Doesn’t list ease of access to actual venue, or assistive equipment available for use by WWD.

Website details:Rural and Peninsula Disability Support (RPDS) http://home.vicnet.net.au/~rpds/
Synopsis:A non-profit team organised to provide access to the Internet for housebound mobility disabled and elderly people on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA):Very community based website, creating online community feel in the process of bridging the Digital Divide. Also relevant to the ‘virtual communities’ section. Probably only applicable on a small/ regional scale.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd):This website is Mornington Peninsula specific, the ‘links’ page is comprehensive and relevant, although mostly to Victorian sites.

Website details: Center for International Research on Communication and IT (based at RMIT, Melbourne) http://www.circit.rmit.edu.au
Synopsis: Research institute. Now closed for good (as of June 2002).
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA):Still some research papers online, but maybe not for too much longer. Also still has the email details of staff – possible source of information.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): N/A.

Website details: E-gaps (Victorian Government site) http://egaps.vicnet.net.au/cgibin/welcome.cgi
Synopsis: The e-gaps program is an initiative of the Victorian Government’s Connecting Victoria strategy to increase the level of public access to the Internet.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Grants seem generally aimed at small Victorian country towns- not specifically relevant to WWDA.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): WWD across Victoria could use this site to see if there is public Internet access in their town, however not disability specific, so maybe not too useful.

Website details: Skills.net (Victorian Government site) http://www.skills.net.au/
Synopsis: Skills.net, a Connecting Victoria initiative, is a community-based program to provide affordable Internet training and access to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the Internet.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Victoria specific. Funding round closed at time accessed, but may be a possibility of funding for a group providing skills training for WWD.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Simple eligibility test to qualify for free Internet training. Website has a search engine listing programs, can be searched with keywords. ‘Disability’ brought up 11 specific programs, ‘women’ brought up 15.

Website details: Syn FM www.sra.org.au
Synopsis: Melbourne based community radio station aimed at getting young people involved in radio.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Probably only applicable to a younger WWD who wants to work in radio industry, as part of Syn radio membership includes training and the chance to broadcast.

Website details: Infoxchange- technology for social justice http://www.infoxchange.net.au/
Synopsis: Infoxchange Australia is a not-for-profit social enterprise company focusing on community development using Information Technology as the primary tool to create positive social change. Infoxchange Australia provides services in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): The homepage for this site covers many areas. Would be of use to link to WWDA homepage.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Good DD starting point, as covers a good range and depth of DD issues, both in a practical and theoretical manner.

Website details: ‘Community building news’ (part of infoxchange) http://www.communitynews.infoxchange.net.au/
Synopsis: Part of Infoexchange. Has a discussion board on disability issues, and can sign up for a weekly info cast. NB: only applies to Vic, NSW, QLD and SA.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Could WWDA have a similar info cast? Or alert members about relevant information?
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd):Good for WWD who have the Internet to keep up to date on community news, disability specific.

Website details: Wired- Addressing the Digital Divide in Australia (part of Infoexchange) http://www.infoxchange.net.au/
Synopsis: Part of Infoexchange. This Infocast provides News and Information about the Digital Divide in Australia. It acts as a crucial information exchange mechanism for anyone with an interest in addressing the Digital Divide’ both nationally and internationally.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): See above- also could be good to keep WWDA members up-to-date on DD issues.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Not disability specific, but convenient for those with Internet to keep up-to-date on DD advances etc.

Website details: Green PC (part of Infoexchange) http://www.greenpc.com.au/
Synopsis: Sells former Government computers for discounted price, using recycled components etc.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Could WWDA provide a database of any cheap / 2nd hand adaptive equipment etc that they might have?
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Computers generally in the $300-$500 price range. Can be sent by mail.

Website details: Recruitnet- comIT http://www.recruitnet.com.au
Synopsis: RecruitNet has provided training and employment services since 1984 for people who are disadvantaged in the Labour Market. Includes Disability employment training. Six offices, all in Victoria.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Could be interesting if WWDA were devising ways to provide information literacy services to members. Could serve as a contact point or model for WWDA devise appropriate training.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Applies to Victoria only, courses provide basic IT training, not disability specific, and cost $140-160 per day.

Website details: Australian Computer Society http://www.acs.org.au/
Synopsis: ACS is a society of IT professionals whose mission is to advance professional excellence in information and communications technology. Is affiliated with International Computer Driving License (an international IT competency standard).
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Not especially useful. Under ‘special interest groups’ link, had a few contact details for disabilities IT support contacts (no website links). Computer Driving License didn’t seem to have disability specific area.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): N/A- unless WWD wants to gain international accreditation for IT skills.

Website details: Tasmanian Communities Online http://www.tco.asn.au/
Synopsis: The Tasmanian Communities Online Project accelerates the uptake of information technology by people living in rural and regional Tasmania through the operation of sixty-four Online Access Centres, which provide low cost access to computers and the Internet as well as one-to-one training and assistance in their use.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Tasmanian specific. Not that useful, but could help to see how the website is set out- the search engine for locations of IT access points is good, and it includes street maps.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Of use if in Tasmania. Some site locations do have street maps, but no comments on accessibility of locations.

Website details: US department of Education, Office of Educational Technology (USA) http://www.ed.gov/technology/tool_kit.html
Synopsis: US Government site detailing how to set up programs for community groups aimed at bridging the DD.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Very useful if WWDA wants to set up a DD program, or advise members how to do it in their own community. Well structured step by step process, including template funding letters, advice on how to get grants etc.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Only if WWDA members want to initiate their own DD bridging program.

Website details: Bridges.org: spanning the Digital Divide (USA) http://www.bridges.org/index.html
Synopsis: Bridges.org is an international non-profit organization with a mission to help people in developing countries use information and communications technology (ICT) to improve their lives.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Directed towards developing countries. Site search of ‘disability’ and ‘women’ did not come up with specific info. Does have some ‘toolkits’ relating to IT training.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): N/A.

Website details: Digital Divide Solutions (USA) http://www.ctcnet.org/
Synopsis: American, non-profit membership organization of more than 700 independent community technology centers where people get free or low-cost access to computers and computer-related technology, such as the Internet, together with learning opportunities that encourage exploration and discovery.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): All the current projects seem pretty specific to US institutional structures, ie. not readily applicable here. Could provide useful model for development in Australia.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): All US based, not really relevant.

Website details: Disability Info (USA) www.Disabilityinfo.gov
Synopsis: DisabilityInfo.gov is the federal government’s (USA) one-stop Web site for information of interest to people with disabilities, their families, employers, service providers and many others.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA):N/A
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd):N/A.

Website details: Pat (Project Action Team) 15 Case studies (UK) http://www.pat15.org.uk/archives/case_studies/casestud.htm
Synopsis: A British Government DD bridging site, lists British Government’s policy action, and has archives of different DD case studies.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): The examples in the archives are vague descriptions of community projects. None seem specific to disabilities or women. None of the ones I looked at stood out as ideal models to follow.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Not relevant.

Website details:TV Tech (USA) http://cgi.techtv.com/messageboards
Synopsis: American TV show on technological issues, deals with IT topics, and has a wide range of IT related discussion boards.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Not really relevant- although the ‘discussion board’ is a good part of the site- gives people opportunity to leave a message of their problems, and others to suggest solutions. Might be relevant to virtual communities section.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Detailed topic-specific message board for computer problems. Maybe a good point of reference to troubleshoot IT problems.

Website details: CASE: Computing Assistance Support and Education (ACT based) http://www.case.org.au/
Synopsis:CASE was formed to assist Australian individuals and community organizations in making better use of information technology to accomplish their goals. We do this through education, advocacy and by offering technical assistance including the creation of Internet venues.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): This organization is quite Computing specific- ie., computing as the purpose of the group rather than a means to access other things. Not so relevant.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Website lists meeting and training programs they offer. Only applicable to ACT, training generally pretty specific.

Website details: Online content for Low income and undeserved Americans: the Digital Divide’s new frontier (US site) http://www.childrenspartnership.org/pub/low_income/
Synopsis: Report of American DD Audit, focusing on low income and disadvantaged Americans. No areas of this report appear to be disability or women specific.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): N/A.

Website details: Americans in the Information Age: falling through the net http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/digitaldivide/index.html
Synopsis: American Government site on DD reports (entitled ‘falling through the net’) based on US census data. Seems to be older site, not updated since Oct 2000.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A (unless US DD data is needed).
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): N/A.

Website details: Digital Divide Network (US) http://www.digitaldividenetwork.org/content/sections/index.cfm
Synopsis: General US based DD site, with research, basic DD info, case studies, news items, upcoming events etc. No disability specific items found on a site search.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Has a DD discussion email list.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): N/A.

Website details: The Digital Divide in a liberal state: The case of Canada http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue5_12/birdsall/
Synopsis: A research paper on the DD phenomena in regards to public policy, arguing that it is an effect of liberalism.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): N/A.

Website details: Consumers’ Telecommunications Network http://www.ctn.org.au
Synopsis: Non-profit consumer advocate group for telecommunication issues. ‘Access for people with disabilities’ and ‘Digital Divide’ are topics included in the list of current issues for which it is a consumer advocate.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): There is an annual conference organised by CTN, which could be a good forum where WWDA could be represented. Also has regular newsletters and publications which provide info to WWDA. CTN is a member of many boards and advisory groups so could be helpful for networking purposes, as they claim to consult with community.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Some general info, such as ‘what to look for when buying a mobile phone’ etc. but not specifically disability issues. There are no obvious places on the website to have queries answered or complaints forwarded etc., but has contact details (phone, email) of members, so could be an avenue for complaints being heard.

Website details: Australian Communication Exchange http://www.aceinfo.net.au/
Synopsis: Australian Communication Exchange is a not-for-profit, Australian organization dedicated to empowering those who are Deaf or have a hearing, speech or communication impairment, to obtain access to the telephone and other telecommunication networks.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Comprehensive coverage of issues relevant to people with hearing or speech impairment. Good site to recommend to WWDA members who have these disabilities.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): For hearing and speech disabilities. Has deafness directory (a guide to different organizations for people with these disabilities- listed by state and organization); also has fact sheets, links and provision of the National Relay Service.

Website details: The International Centre for Disability Resources on the Internet (USA) http://www.icdri.org/index.html
Synopsis: ICDRI’s mission is to collect a global knowledge base of quality disability resources and best practices and to provide education, outreach and training based on these core resources.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Has pages on ‘best practice’ that might be of interest to WWDA.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Includes information on computer literacy as well as technological issues and assistive equipment. Very large site, but not Australia specific.

Virtual Communities

Website details:Opening Doors: Mentoring on the Internet (University of Washington initiative) http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Technology/doors.html
Synopsis: Online mentoring program that aims to match up people with the same type of disability in a similar field of interest.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Fantastic initiative. Not sure whether it is available just to Americans, but there are numerous email addresses if WWD wished to investigate further. Also wouldn’t be too difficult to set up a similar program in Australia, even if mentoring was through Internet/mail/phone.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): If WWD can access the mentors in the program (or be a mentor), looks like it would be of great use.

Website details: Disability related resources on the Internet (Brochure produced by University of Washington) www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/PDF/drr.pdf
Synopsis: Thirty-two page document detailing disability resources on the Internet, listing by different topics (such as education, technology, politics) and by different disability. Each topic categorises resources into WWW, usenet newsgroups and discussion lists.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): American site, but an Australian version might be useful.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): There are many newsgroups and discussion email lists- and in a wide range of categories. Potential opportunities to connect with people in similar situations.

Website details: Multicap discussion forum ‘yakity yack’ http://www.multicap.asn.au/disforum/disforum.html
Synopsis: This discussion forum has a number of topics of interest to people with disability, their families, carers, service providers and other stakeholders- with the following topic groups: Therapies, Support Services, Legislation and Policy, Research, Specific Disabilities, Success Stories, and General.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Perhaps WWDA could suggest the formation of a ‘women with disabilities’ discussion board on this site, or else create their own?
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): I had difficulty accessing the discussion boards, so can’t really comment on how useful they would be.

Website details: Ability www.ability.org
Synopsis: Ability’s aims include identifying shortfalls in the general provision of IT for people with disabilities and then initiate projects to correct and overcome such situations. Also, to encourage the active involvement of people with disabilities in the workings of Ability, and seek their feedback and support so that they can have a direct input into decisions which affect them.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Has a very wide range of virtual communities (everything I could imagine and more!). Quite a large-scale undertaking (eg. chat room), so maybe not so relevant to WWDA in isolation. For info/research purposes, has a page of links to journal articles/ info on Women in IT.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Great Resource. Site has three online chat rooms (the one I went in had nine people chatting at the time), a ‘women’s pen pal page’, message boards, graffiti wall, java games, requests and feedback, user’s news, holiday page etc. Very user-friendly set out.

Website details: Yahoo egroups www.yahoogroups.com.au
Synopsis: In this site you can search for pre-existing public ‘e-groups’ that have been set up, or you can create your own.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): If WWDA doesn’t already have an e-group, yahoo e-groups would be a great facility to set one up. Group members can send emails to everyone else with ease, and it’s also easy to join up or unsubscribe. It may be best to publicly list the group??
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): A search of pre-existing publicly listed groups for people with disability (and for women with a disability) came up with no relevant groups. The best option would be for WWD to start their own.

Website details: Disabilites-r-us (US site) http://members.tripod.com/~disabled/
Synopsis: This is an Internet chat site created by and for people with physical disabilities (but everyone is welcome). Users can roam about our web site or chat in the chat room. Online chat had 13 people in it when I looked. Also had a message board.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Is WWDA big enough to set up a chat room? If so, might be worth looking at eg.s like this one.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): People in the chat room seemed friendly! They weren’t all American as well, could be chance to make o/s pen palls etc.

Website details: Disability central (US site) http://www.disabilitycentral.com
Synopsis: Disability central is funded by the United States Department of Education to provide services and information that assists and empowers those with disabilities by providing information, networking, points-of-contact and friendship. Our intention is to be one of the best resources available to the disability community both on and off the Internet. We both employ and encourage those with disabilities as we pursue this first and primary goal.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Quite a useful site, as has some Women specific areas, such as WWD trivia, articles on disability and feminism. No specific Women’s’ chat rooms or message board though.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Although US based, this has more specific interactive communities (such as parenting), with a big focus on teen issues (eg. teen chat room). There are also message boards, polls etc. Good site for varied means of interaction.

Website details: People’s choice chat directory – health chat rooms http://www.chatterhead.net/health-chat.html
Synopsis: Directory of chat rooms, particularly relating to health. Some relevant chat rooms on this site include ‘Women In Balance – health chat’, ‘Disability Chat room’ (which claims to have 25 chat rooms suiting different disabilities).
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Has a few more specialised chat rooms, good if looking for women only etc.

Website details: Disability and gender resources page (US) http://www.disabilitystudies.com/gender.htm
Synopsis: The most specific site to WWD that I have found so far. Has links to five different specific WWD sites, also information, reviews, discussion board etc.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Good background into what’s happening in the US on the WWD scene (lists conferences, book reviews etc).
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Has a fairly lively discussion board (gender and disability, not specifically WWD), opinion page. Not the most interactive page, but good range of fairly specific WWD information/ interesting issues etc.

Website details: Disability Friends Webpals around the World http://www.disabilityfriends.co.uk/
Synopsis: The unique nature of this website is the web pals, a chance to email people from around the world with disabilities (carers also have their own webpal page). Also has a links page to disability sites, and a chat room.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): It would be excellent to have a webpal list on the WWDA page, or else make use of this excellent one. There is an email address of the webmaster if more info is needed.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Webpal list is great – people with disabilities or their carers can enter details, such as disability and any information that they want to include about themselves on a form and be added to the ‘webpal’ list. Users are then free to email each other. Webpals are from all over the world- US, UK, Romania etc.

Assistive Equipment Sites

Website details: AccessAbility http://accessability.noie.gov.au
Synopsis: Information on issues, products and services associated with access to online services for people with disabilities. Includes info on hardware and software products, standards development, training and education issues, support programs, policy papers and case studies, from Australia and overseas.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): If applying for a grant under the Commonwealth’s AccessAbility program- this site could be useful to assess whether proposal has been duplicated elsewhere, and to identify potential partners active in the field in which you are working.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Very comprehensive database of links to programs aimed at assisting people with disabilities. Seems to be quite a few based in the US though.

Website details: Cornucopia of Disability Information (CODI) http://codi.buffalo.edu
Synopsis: US based site. Comprehensive collection of links on disability information, as well as repository of electronic documents about disabilities.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): The link from the homepage to ‘assistive equipment’ has many links to adaptive equipment sites (for all areas of life, not just communication), under convenient headings.

Website details: AbleData http://www.abledata.com
Synopsis: US site on assistive technology. Claims to have over 18,000 assistive technology products. In a search, I typed in ‘keyboard’ and came up with 854 results.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): May be worth investigating if these products can be ordered in Australia?
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Products seem to have links and details of manufacturer. Seems comprehensive and useful, although as it is US based, may have difficulty ordering etc.

Website details: RESNA- Rehabilitation Engineering And Assistive Technology Society Of North America http://www.resna.org/
Synopsis: Aims to improve the potential of people with disabilities to achieve their goals through the use of technology, by promoting research, development, education, advocacy, provision of technology and by supporting the people engaged in these activities.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Good links page to US sites for adaptive equipment at: http://www.resna.org/wwwrsour_web.html
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Good links page to US sites for adaptive equipment.

Website details: GSA Information Consultants http://www.gsa.com.au/
Synopsis: GSA Information Consultants specialise in telecommunications and disability policy, accessibility R and D, web accessibility, user interface design, database design and library policy development.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Provides general information, rather than anything in great depth. The page ‘Accessible web design’ off the homepage sets out basic issues in making web design accessible and has good links. This site would be useful to any group wanting to ensure that their own websites meet accessibility standards.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): The page ‘telecommunications and disability’ off the main homepage has a useful range of links for WWD- relevant legislation, telecom carriers, assistive equipment sites, and reports on this issue.

Website details: Independent Living Centre (SA govt) http://www.ilc.asn.au
Synopsis: This site focuses on provision of general disability assistive equipment. The product search for ‘computer keyboard’ came up with four different products. Customers can email the site about different products, and an occupational therapist will get in contact.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): The web-layout of this site is clear and easy to use, a good model perhaps for sites that catalogue assistive equipment products.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Only relevant to SA residents. The method of Occupational Therapist contacting the potential customer before any purchase is made seems very useful (not sure how effectively it works in practice).

Website details: Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology (DO-IT) (University of Washington Initiative) (US) http://www.washington.edu/doit/
Synopsis: This website provides information for those living with disabilities, and those who don’t. As well as having adaptive equipment and program info, it has advice and resources for many areas of life such as education, careers and how to make computer labs accessible.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): This good site covers many facets of living with disabilities. An Australian version would be great, (as there seems to be no Australian equivalent. Also has a good page on accessible web design.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): All references are American but some useful info, such as ‘online tutorial’ for people with disabilities accessing IT, accessible web-design page, publications about assistive technology.

Website details: Technology discussion lists http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/DRR/tech.html
Synopsis: This site provides details of how to subscribe to twenty email discussion groups in the field of electronic based assistive equipment.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Good to subscribe to lists to see if they provide interesting material.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Useful if WWD have a specific interest in how IT can be adapted for people with disabilities.

Website details: EPVA Assistive Technology Website http://www.epvatech.org/
Synopsis: A site for assistive technology users, their caregivers and healthcare providers. These groups can post and read equipment reviews, submit articles, and search technology on the web.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Not of great use.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): American Focus- ie., conferences, news etc. Not that applicable to Australia.

Website details: Assistive Technology Inc. http://www.assistivetech.com/
Synopsis: We provide innovative solutions to help people with learning, communication, and access difficulties lead more independent and productive lives. Click on the links below to find a wealth of information about our latest assistive technology products.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): The products are hi-tech computer equipment, but the descriptions wouldn’t mean much to the IT illiterate. Can be ordered online.

Website details: Multicap http://www.multicap.asn.au/assist.html
Synopsis: Australian service directory for people with disabilities.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Invites people with relevant web pages to add theirs to the page of links. Does WWDA have a web page they can add?
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): The assistive technology page simply has links, rather than any substantive information. The links are all good, and have a blurb on what they are about. Not all links are Australian.

Website details: AbilityNet http://www.abilitynet.co.uk/content/alt_tech/intro/Introduction.htm
Synopsis: British charity’s site for information and access for people with disabilities. The technology link provides good information on assistive technology.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Information looks reasonable thorough, and there is a wide variety of products listed. Easy to use links, such as ‘alternatives to keyboards’ and ‘alternative to mouses’. Lists UK suppliers.

Website details: Ability Hub: Assistive Technology solutions. (US site) http://www.abilityhub.com/
Synopsis: Assistive Technology for people with a disability who find operating a computer difficult, maybe even impossible. This web site will direct you to adaptive equipment and alternative methods available for accessing computers.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): N/A.
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Well set out site with a range of products. Has a ‘frequently asked questions’ page, shopping can be done online.

Website details: Royal National Institute for the Blind http://www.rnib.org.uk/wesupply/fctsheet/factlist.htm#technology
Synopsis: This website offers support and advice for anyone with sight difficulties. British site.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): Useful to have a section on ‘questions to ask when buying’ – could WWDA adapt this one, or compile their own for the most popular assistive technology products?
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): These fact sheets cover many aspects of IT, and doesn’t assume high levels of IT knowledge. Orientated towards blind people, but has covers many aspects of IT. Fact sheets have things like ‘choosing a supplier’, ‘questions to ask when buying products’ etc.

Website details:Technical Solutions Australia http://www.tecsol.com.au/
Synopsis: Company specialising in technology for people with disabilities.
Use to Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA): One of the largest ranges I have seen for an Australian site. Good as a link?
Use to individual women with disabilities (wwd): Catalogues can be mailed out or viewed online. Website is categorised into product areas (including toys!) and has a search engine. Can’t order online but gives contact details to the office in Victoria.


[1] That is, special interest groups of people who communicate over the Internet for social interaction and exchange of information.

[2] Table of Website resources is Appendix 1

[3] Member of the ACT Legislative Assembly

[4] Lack of sustainability is a recurring theme in many of the DD initiatives reported on here.

[5] This was funded by the Commonwealth Government under the AccessAbility program through the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts in 1999/2000

[6] Sue

[7] Pro-active schemes for disadvantaged groups are needed. Their instigation is brought about by pressure from group members or their advocates, rather than from an altruistic offer from a corporation or government. – Sue

[8] Margaret Cooper, Margherita Coppolino and Jo-An Partridge

[9] Government initiated project

[10] Community generated/operated project, where community ownership is a driving factor.

[11] Individual initiated not-for-profit organization, promoting/supporting community organization

[12] Government initiated project involving cooperative input from range of organizations, to use ICT as a tool for integrating information to enhance individuals access to it

[13] University sponsored project, using ICT as tool for increasing reach and effectiveness of specifically developed literacy programs

[14] Panel discussion on balance needed between government, business and communities to restore equity, using ICT as a tool.

[15] Joint Federal – Provincial government (Canada) learning project, widening the whole concept of use of ICT to one of using it as a tool for participatory democracy – adding human, social and environmental capital to the traditional economic paradigms of land, labour and financial capital

[16] OECD, 2001, The Well-being of Nations: The Role of Human and Social Capital, CERI, Paris

[17] Educational Institution (TAFE) initiated project, raising question of relationship between program donors and community ownership

[18] Educational Institution (University) supporting Community/business partnership

[19] Not-for-profit community organizations sponsoring development of ICT facility to enable eligible individual’s to access/organise Respite Care.

[20] E-community Networking Association (ECNA). Since the mid-90’s, attempts have been made to form a national electronic networking association. This situation is not yet resolved, even though a number of recent consultations concerning the use of ICT in the community and ‘third’ sector have highlighted the need for some form of coordinated response to government policy and funding initiatives. An inaugural meeting for the Association was held at the conference, and further meetings leading up to an AGM on 24 November 2002 are anticipated.

[21] Government initiative supporting ICT training programs, especially in rural Victoria.

[22] Educational institution (university) initiative developing and using ICT training programs designed to use target groups motivations to dictate course content.

[23] Educational institution (university) support of community ICT access/training program.

[24] This publication is part of that process. (Sue)

[25] Christine Tilley is a member of the WWDA Telecommunications Group, located in Brisbane.