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THESES OF TALLINN TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY
USING THE INTERNET IN REHABILITATION OF PEOPLE WITH MOBILITY IMPAIRMENTS CASE STUDIES AND VIEWS FROM ESTONIA
VÄITEKIRI ON TALLINNA TEHNIKAÜLIKOOLIS VASTU VÕETUD TEHNIKATEADUSTE DOKTORI KRAADI TAOTLEMISEKS
Informaatikainstituut Tarkvaratehnika õppetool
Herewith I declare that this thesis is my own, unaided work. It is submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering at Tallinn Technical University, and has not been submitted before for any degree or examination in any other university.
Signature of candidate: Signature of supervisor:
I would like to thank the following people for their assistance and support: Academic personnel of TTU: Prof. Rein Jürgenson for his tutelage Prof.. Leo Võhandu, Mr. Rein Paluoja, Mr. Rein Kuusik and Mr. Jüri Vilipõld, my experienced elder colleagues: for their invaluable help and counselling Foreign counsellors: Prof. Harry Frey, University of Tampere, Finland Prof. Michael C. Johnson, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK Mr. Roger Bates, Inclusive Technology, UK Mr. Ilkka Saarnio, International Committee of Technology and Accessibility Mr. Matti Kuorelahti and other staff of the Special Education Department of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland Estonian disability specialists: Prof. Jaan Kõrgesaar, Department of Special Education, University of Tartu Mr. Tõnu Karu, City Government of Tallinn Mrs. Kai Kukk and Mrs. Merje Kaps, Estonian Ministry of Education Mr. Mihkel Aitsam, Tallinn Society of People with Mobility Impairments Helpers in collection of data and carrying out the survey: Mrs. Pille Hiiemägi, Estonian Board of Social Security Mrs. Jaana Priidel and Mrs. Signe Teder, Tiger Leap Foundation Mrs. Elgi Saare, Estonian Union of People with Mobility Impairments Mr. Jaak Võsa, Independent Living Estonia Other supporters: Mr. Aare Puusepp, Mr. Taavi Tuisk, Mr. Eiki Rump and Mr. Indrek Ehtla – my colleagues and assistants from the Rehabilitation Technology Laboratory: And last but not least: All my friends and my family for their support
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements.................................................................................................................... 4 List of abbreviations...................................................................................................................9 1. General introduction........................................................................................................... 0 1 2. Historical, cultural and political background.....................................................................14
2.1. Early days...................................................................................................................................14 2.2. The Soviet period.......................................................................................................................15
2.2.1. Public image.............................................................................................................15 2.2.2. Disability concept in the USSR................................................................................15 2.2.3. Special Education in Soviet Estonia.........................................................................15 2.2.4. Unreliability of statistics.........................................................................................16 2.2.5. The national movement and the short rise in disability issues................................16
2.3. Present situation.......................................................................................................................16
2.3.1. General situation.......................................................................................................16 2.3.2. Education...................................................................................................................17 2.3.3. Employment..............................................................................................................19
2.4. Factors influencing Estonian people with mobility impairments........................................21
2.4.1. Positive factors..........................................................................................................21 2.4.2. Negative factors.......................................................................................................22
3. Literature review..................................................................................................................24
3.1. General issues............................................................................................................................24 3.2. Legislation..................................................................................................................................26 3.3. Education...................................................................................................................................26 3.4. Employment..............................................................................................................................27 3.5. Accessible technology and Internet..........................................................................................28 3.6. Estonia – background, statistics, comparisons......................................................................29
3.7. Conclusions.......................................................................................................................30 4. Aims of the study..................................................................................................................31 5. Case study - Estonia............................................................................................................33
5.2. Ike...............................................................................................................................................35 5.3. Henry..........................................................................................................................................35 5.4. Tina.............................................................................................................................................35 5.5. Jack.............................................................................................................................................35 5.6. Mark..........................................................................................................................................36 5.7. Gert............................................................................................................................................36 5.8. Ellie.............................................................................................................................................37 5.9. Greta...........................................................................................................................................37 5.10. Marge........................................................................................................................................37 5.11. For conclusion: Estonian reality and persons reviewed....................................................38
6. IT and Internet survey among people with mobility impairments....................................40
6.1. Main questions of the survey...................................................................................................40 6.2. Realization..................................................................................................................................40 6.3. Representativeness of data......................................................................................................41 6.4. Results........................................................................................................................................43 6.5. Conclusions................................................................................................................................50
7. The Internet as a compensatory measure...........................................................................51
7.1. Overview of the Internet..........................................................................................................51
7.1.1. Short history of the Internet.....................................................................................51 7.1.2. Special features of Internet communication ...........................................................52
7.2. Barrier-free communication.....................................................................................................54
7.2.1. Physical vs. virtual access......................................................................................54 7.2.2. Overcoming prejudice – human relations in the Internet........................................54 7.2.3. Cyber-media vs. traditional media.........................................................................55
7.3.1. The oncoming changes.............................................................................................56 7.3.2. Distance education ...................................................................................................57 7.3.3. Open learning and Open University ........................................................................57 7.3.4. Academic cooperation..............................................................................................58
7.3.1. Work – now and in the future..................................................................................59 7.3.2. Teleworking..............................................................................................................60
7.3.3. People with disabilities in the changing work environment....................................60
7.4. Recreation..................................................................................................................................61 7.5. Conclusions................................................................................................................................62
................................................................................................................................................. 2 6
8.1. Disabilities and IT solutions – an overview.............................................................................63 8.2. Technical aspect in the case study...........................................................................................65
8.2.1. Melvin.......................................................................................................................65 8.2.2. Ike..............................................................................................................................66 8.2.3. Henry ........................................................................................................................66 8.2.4. Tina...........................................................................................................................67 8.2.5. Jack............................................................................................................................67 8.2.6. Gert............................................................................................................................68 8.2.7. Ellie...........................................................................................................................68 8.2.8. Greta..........................................................................................................................68 8.2.9. Mark..........................................................................................................................69 8.2.10. Marge .....................................................................................................................69
9. Recommendations for Estonia..........................................................................................72
9.1. Spreading the knowledge........................................................................................................72 9.2. ”Does it pay?” - import and production of assistive IT solutions ......................................72 9.3. Acquiring the technology..........................................................................................................73 9.4. Technical counselling and support..........................................................................................74 9.5. The Internet...............................................................................................................................74 9.6. Conclusions................................................................................................................................75
Final conclusions and results of the thesis ...........................................................................76 Summary..................................................................................................................................77 Eestikeelne kokkuvõte............................................................................................................. 8 7 References................................................................................................................................79 Appendix A. Summary of Americans With Disabilities Act .............................................86 Appendix B. Excerpts from Estonian current legislation concerning disabilities...............86 Appendix C. People with mobility impairment, IT and the Internet survey in Estonia in April 1999 – questionnaire and results...................................................................................87
Appendix D. Overview of projects carried out or participated in by the author of the thesis. 96
List of abbreviations
ADA ARPA CIESIN CP DDA FTP FYROM IRC IT K-9 MUD NGO OCR PCI RTC SBS SE SEN TCP/IP UNDP WAIS WWW Americans with Disabilities Act Advanced Research Project Agency (USA) Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network cerebral palsy Disability Discrimination Act File Transfer Protocol Former Yugoslavian Republic Of Macedonia Internet Relay Chat information techology basic school (kindergarten to 9th grade) Multi-User Dimension (also Multi-User Dungeon) non-governmental organization Optical Character Recognition infantile cerebral palsy (paralysis cerebralis infantilis) Rehabilitation and Training Centre Sanatory Boarding School special education special educational needs Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol United Nations Development Programme Wide Area Information System World Wide Web
1. General introduction
Most of the modern societies nowadays accept the principles of human rights and equity for all citizens, including people with disabilities. Still the level of their practical accomplishment varies from country to country, depending heavily on the general life standard and economical situation. In many countries, extensive reconstruction of existing social mechanisms can face several problems. Firstly, the objective information concerning people with special needs may not even reach the public and those in charge. Many totalitaristic governments, trying to maintain maximum control over the society, tend to cover up any potentially flammable information, including the one concerning such stereotypically ”unhappy” citizens. And even if the government changes, the mechanisms of data collection and processing need not to exist for these purposes. Secondly, the public image of success can seriously hinder spreading ideas of inclusion of all citizens. A society of ”bold and beautiful” as a central value can easily put those labeled ”weak” just conveniently off sight. This is primarily a hazard for smaller, quickly developing societies – examples including the Far East ”tigers” or East Europe (Ajdinski and Florian, 1996; Gargiulo et al, 1997; Jayasooria and Krishnan, 1997). When analyzing accessibility situations in different countries, four different groups of countries (as depicted in Figure 1) can be determined, based on a) recognition of human rights and b) economical situation: Countries with long tradition of human rights and democracy which, combined with high standard of life, have turned much attention to accessibility both in theory and practice. Countries in good economical situation, where accessibility issues have not yet found general understanding and application (due to cultural, historical etc. reasons). Countries with totalitaristic past, mostly former Eastern block. Relatively high rate of economical growth and incoming new ideas (also those concerning accessibility) are witnessed, but the society is still not balanced in some occasions. Sometimes new, often liberal capitalist models of economy have caused ”rat-race”-type phenomena. Developing countries where the accessibility issues are not widely recognized, due to both historical or cultural background and economical situation.
Standard of life Group B (Near East, “The Tigers”) Group A (the U.S., Western Europe, Scandinavia)
Group D (most of Africa)
Group C (East Europe)
Recognition of human rights
Figure 1. The four groups of countries as related to human rights and economical situation
The main circle of problems in different Eastern European countries is largely the same, as all of them, although having notable differences initially, shared the common Soviet domination for nearly half a century. Gargiulo, Černa and Hilton (1997) have described the situation in the former Czechoslovakia as follows: ”For almost forty years special education in Czechoslovakia was shaped by Soviet ideology and theory. Individuals with disabilities were contrary to the desired image of a socialist society. An ’out of sight, out of mind’ philosophy perhaps best characterized the thinking of this era. Many adults with disabilities were concealed from the public in institutions. Those who were not institutionalized encountered a variety of barriers ranging from architectural to psychological.” Ajdinski and Florian (1996) have listed the urgent problems in the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia as follows: people with disabilities are viewed negatively, both among the general population and the professionals; there is an overemphasis on diagnosis and a rigid categorization system; statistical data and clear detail on service provision are unavailable; basic physical and emotional needs of people in residential care institutions are not being adequately met; people in residential care institutions are understimulated and have limited opportunities for learning and developing; institutions and social centres are grossly understaffed, both at direct care and specialist levels; staff do not have the necessary up-to-date knowledge and practical skills to fulfil their roles; residential buildings are in need of upgrading, repairs, adaption and furnishings to make them suitable living environments; services are under-resourced and under-equipped; many children with disabilities are not receiving an education; community services are inadequate to support families in the care of their child with disabilities; opportunities for fostering and adoption, as an alternative to residential care for children, are limited. As will be seen from the following chapters, all these problems can also be found in Estonia. Also, other East European sources like Uršič (1996) support the argument that these problems have their roots in the Communist system, but after the collapse of the latter, were even amplified by the following early capitalism. Nowadays, the level of recognization and integration of people with special needs seems to differ quite greatly in different East European countries. Firstly, the starting level and conditions were not exactly the same - great historical and national differences existed in the Eastern Europe as well. Secondly, after the beginning of general collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe at the end of eighties and beginning of nineties, the changes have had different paces in different countries. This also applies to changes influencing the situation of 11
people with special needs. In some countries this subject got quick recognization - Slovenian Parliament passed a special act as early as in 1991 (Uršič, 1996). In others the subject remained under cover for a remarkably longer period - in Romania, the first nationwide programme promoting integration was launched in 1993, the practical results needing much more time (Vrasmas and Daunt, 1997). Estonia is one of the several societies which after the collapse of the Communist system entered a transition stage which has many distinct features not found in the West, but are perhaps common to former Eastern block countries. The society has given up former habits and structures and is building up new ones according to the Western model. While the situation of disability issues is suffering from the same setbacks that were described above as evident in other Eastern European countries, there are also some unique features that are discussed later in this study. The hypotheses that the work is based on can be formulated as follows: 1. When used by people with disabilities, many technological solutions (including those of telecommunication and the Internet) may often reveal a range of uses wider than they were originally intended for. In the case of the Internet, one of its innovative uses of this kind is its role as access and integration measure for people with disabilities (including people with mobility impairments). See Chapter 7, but also the cases presented in Chapters 5 and 8, as well as the results of an Estonian survey in Chapter 6. 2. In a fast-developing transition society, computer networks may act in complementary and compensatory roles, compared to their regular role in modern Western-type societies. The accessibility situation in many countries in transition - including Estonia - puts extra stress on development of modern telecommunication networks. In some sense, a PC with an Internet connection has to compensate missing ramps, elevators and other access features. See the discussion in Chapter 8 and recommendations for Estonia in Chapter 9. 3. Because of widespread problems with physical access to different facilities and services (see Chapters 1 and 2, but also the cases in Chapters 5 and 8), more attention should be paid to the potential of the Internet as an empowerment measure - Estonia has favourable conditions for developing a nationwide network for distance education and teleworking. See the recommendations in Chapter 9. The thesis begins with an overview of disability issues given above, which is followed by a background study in Chapter 2. Many historical, cultural and political issues from different stages of Estonian history are discussed here from the disability point of view, turning extra attention to the unique phenomena from the Soviet period and also listing the main positive and negative factors having influence on Estonia today. Chapter 3 provides the review of literary sources used in this study. The literature is reviewed according to main topics discussed (e.g. technology and education). Chapter 4 introduces aims of the current study as determined by the author. In Chapter 5, a case study of ten persons with mobility impairments is presented. 12
As a continuation to the cases, results of a survey conducted among Estonian people with mobility impairments are provided in Chapter 6. The aim of the survey was to determine the amount and main branches of use of IT and Internet by people with mobility impairments. This also provides a good basis for finding solutions, making conclusions and formulating practical recommendations. The core of the study is presented in Chapter 7, dealing with complementary role of the Internet for people with disabilities. After introducing the basic features of the Internet, various innovative methods of the Internet use are discussed in this chapter. Chapter 8 discusses different assistive IT solutions, and also the case study is continued in this chapter – the influence of IT and the Internet on the cases is discussed from different aspects (e.g. employment) and sample solutions are proposed. And finally, some practical recommendations and suggestions for Estonia that have emerged from the previous discussions are presented in Chapter 9. The auxiliary and complementary information used in the study is available in appendices.
2. Historical, cultural and political background
This chapter gives an overview of development of disability issues and disability movement in Estonia from the Middle Ages through the first independence period (1918-1940), the Soviet rule (1940-1988) and the ”singing revolution” and freedom struggle years (1988-91) to the present. Data concerning education and employment of people with disabilities is presented along with relevant analysis of the situation. Finally, this chapter offers a number of positive and negative factors influencing the disability issues and the situation of people with mobility impairments in Estonia.
2.1. Early days
The history of Estonian social care system can be traced back to the Middle Ages (St. John's hospital in Tallinn etc). First attempts of special education in its modern sense were made at the end of 19th century - due to many factors (Tartu University, favourable geographic location), these signs appeared earlier than elsewhere in the contemporary Russian Empire. Census data concerning mentally retarded, deaf and blind people is available from the midcentury, revealing the great number of people with various disabilities who were practically beyond any organized care. The first facilities providing social care and some forms of special education were founded by mostly Baltic German philantropes and charities. Tartu University became a workplace for many renowned scientists (e.g. N. Pirogov, K.E. v. Baer), who among other things paid also attention to disabilities. The eye diseases clinic founded by N. Pirogov in 1836 was the first facility to deal with disabilities in Tartu. Between 1866-1919 six special schools were established for children with various disabilities (Kõrgesaar and Veskiväli, 1987). The first period of Estonian Republic in 1918-40 marks further development of special education and other disability issues. From 1921 onwards a reliable population statistics was available, giving also information about people with disabilities. One of the pioneers of special education in Estonia, Hans Valma (1921) wrote: "... It should not be like that! Mentally retarded children are also capable to receive proper upbringing and education. These days, not only get mentally people uselessly lost to the society, but even become a profound burden. Also this should not be like that! Many of them can, if not to become useful members of society, become at least capable for taking care of and helping themselves. We, members of society, shall only give them a chance for that! This is an obligation of the society towards its members and most of all, the parents' obligation towards their children!" The reality has shown that these principles, although totally valid, were often neglected during the following times. The Law of Social Care was adopted in 1925, the state efforts were helped by private initiatives. Some serious setback came with the "race-health" ideas adopted from the Western Europe in the end of 1920s. This was topped by the Sterilization Law in 1936, which prescribed mandatory sterilization of the "mentally retarded, epileptics and deaf-and-dumb". 14
However, blind people successfully escaped this fate and in 1929, blind people were given the right to vote (Kõrgesaar and Veskiväli, 1987).
2.2. The Soviet period
2.2.1. Public image During the rule of Soviet regime, people with disabilities were considered to be a harmful factor negatively influencing the cultivated image of "state of happiness" and due to this, kept as much as possible out of public sight. They were acknowledged only as second-class citizens forced to accept the thinking model ”be thankful as the state takes care of you”. Segregation rather than integration was promoted by establishing a network of special schools and nurseries for people with different disabilities (e.g. special schools for people with visual, hearing and mobility impairments, chronic diseases etc.). While these facilities provided some degree of education and training for these people, often the result proved to be useless as the society was unable to accept them. For an ordinary citizen, contacts with people with disabilities were often limited to relatives and acquaintances (if any of them had a disability). Very often, people with disabilities were mistakenly pointed at as ”drunk” (especially people with CP or epilepsy) or even ”lunatic”. The birth of children with disabilities was often put on the account of the parents’ alcoholism, even by some medical professionals. All this resulted in a negative public image, which was indirectly fueled by the official ”Soviet people are happy people”-type of politics. 2.2.2. Disability concept in the USSR The Soviet definition of disability differed from the ones used in the West, being measured by a person’s ability to work. Invalidity (disability) was defined as "a permanent damage (lessening or loss) to a person's professional or general working abilities due to an illness or trauma" (State Report of Disability Council, 1998). The definition of disability by working ability resulted in the fact that young and elderly people with disabilities were excluded from the official statistics. The USSR first acknowledged the existence of children with disabilities as late as in 1979 (ibid.). This means that families having children with disabilities were practically unsupported. 2.2.3. Special Education in Soviet Estonia The incorporation of Estonia into the Soviet Union meant also replacement of the previous system by the unified "Soviet pedagogics" (which evidently followed the same guidelines in all of the former Eastern block countries). The segregative school system was developed further on. During the sixties a number of special schools were established. In 1980 there were altogether 34 schools for children with sensory or mental impairments with 3290 Estonian-speaking and 801 Russian-speaking pupils. In 1985/86 academic year the Estonian special education system consisted of 35 schools for children with learning difficulties, 23 supported learning schools or classes and four special boarding schools for altogether 7770 pupils. The total number of exceptional children in educational scheme was approximately 13 000 (Kõrgesaar and Veskiväli, 1987).
2.2.4. Unreliability of statistics Among the factors that had negative influence on the situation was indeed the Soviet statistical system which was mostly unable to provide any valid data in this field. According to Katus, Puur and Sakkeus (1997), the responsibility of statistical offices was limited to carrying out Moscow’s decisions about data collection, with very little local input - the staff was trained to carry out instructions from the center, their own initiative was unwelcome. Usually, the Central Statistical Office in Moscow provided little information about the methodology employed in their calculations. For many decades, republic statistical offices were not responsible for even the simple demographic indicators. When general statistics was handled with described attitude, it is obvious that even less valid data was available about the group of population who, according to higher officials’ claims, did not exist in the Soviet Union. 2.2.5. The national movement and the short rise in disability issues The rise of national movement also reflected in the rise of self-realization and dignity in people with disabilities. It is probably not a coincidence that the Estonian Union of Disabled People’s Organization, the first nation-wide organization in this field, was officially founded in 1988, in the days of Estonian ”singing revolution” (Pillau, 1989). Estonian organizations became members of the international ones like Mobility International. In August 14-22, 1989 Tallinn hosted the International Meeting on Human Resources in the Field of Disability, which published Tallinn Guidelines for Action (perhaps the only document of international importance which includes Tallinn in its name). Although the literal focus was on the developing countries, ideas concerning education, employment and public relations for people with disabilities found their way to the wider public as well. This general rise was unfortunately short-lived, giving way to post-revolution everyday with its economical hardships and serious competition in all levels of Estonian society. The disabilities movement in Estonia has basically retained this low level up to nowadays.
2.3. Present situation
2.3.1. General situation In May 16, 1995, the government of Estonia officially accepted the Standard rules concerning equal rights of people with disabilities, the leading document in this field which was based on a UN convention passed in 1993. However, the document itself is rather declarative and while in other countries it is supported by many more specific acts, this has not the case in Estonia. This leads to the situation where everything seems to be in order for the governmental level, while the real, grassroot level work seems to concern only the people with disabilities themselves and a few NGO-s. The questions start from the very estimates of the total number of people with disabilities. The statistics concerning people with disabilities seems still to be lacking. In Estonia, after seven years of free access to data, there is still no complete overview of the existing sources of population data for the Soviet period (Katus et al, 1997). Even worse, there is still no working system of registration of people with disabilities. Only indirect methods (via medical 16
and educational facilities, pension boards etc.) can be used, while there are many different definitions and methods for handling data concerning disabilities. However, all specialists generally agree that the situation is difficult. According to the data from Estonian Board of Social Security and the Board of Pensions, the total number of registered people with disabilities in January 1, 1998 was 59 938, of whom were employed 7428 (12.4%). The number includes all people with disabilities. According to the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, the estimate of employment rate for people with disabilities in working age (18-59) is about 18% (for more data see Section 2.3.3). Registered people with disabilities receive monthly allowances in Estonia, but these are far too limited to provide even minimal living standard. In January 1, 1998, the monthly allowances were as follows: Group 1 - 1005 EEK Group 2 – 841 EEK Group 3 – 656 EEK Children – 677 EEK Note: The Soviet classification of disabilities divided all disabilities into three groups, of which the first one was the most serious and the third one the least. People with the first group were defined as ”in constant need of help”, the second ”in occasional need of help”, the third one was for lighter impairments. No distinction was made according to the type of disability – e.g. a person having Group 2 due to visual impairment was treated practically the same by state as another person with Group 2 for mobility impairment. For comparison, some data from the Estonian Statistics Yearbook (1998; the data of the 4th quarter of 1997) can be given: Average monthly old-age pension - 1 138 EEK Average estimated living minimum per 30 days per capita - 1 141 EEK • Average monthly household income per member - 1 820 EEK • Average monthly household expenditure per member - 1 876 EEK Average monthly gross wages and salaries - 4 027 EEK Guaranteed minimum monthly wage – 1 100 EEK (Database of Legislative Acts, 1998) As seen, all the disability allowances fall short of the living minimum income. As other social benefits are mostly not available, people with disabilities who do not find a job are forced to rely on the support of families and relatives. But as seen from the above data (especially those written in bold), the resources of most households are very limited (average expenditure even exceeds income), which results in serious economical problems. It is obvious that the rise of general life standard to the Western level takes time, so the only way to improve the situation seems to be radical changes in education and employment system to allow people with disabilities to become self-sufficient. 2.3.2. Education Estonia is generally considered to have a Western-type education system. Although deeply underfinanced - according to the UNDP 1997 Report, Estonia competes with Iran, Algeria, 17
Surinam and Ecuador in terms of education, social conditions and wealth Estonian education system has through the different times retained at least some of the look and feel of Western Europe. However, in school enrolment, Estonia lags quite seriously behind the Western Europe (in the nearest neighbour - Finland - the school enrolment is about 97 per cent!). It can be presumed that the low enrolment numbers of children with disabilities (see Tables 1 and 2) plays an important part in the formation of the percentage.
Table 1. School enrolment percentages in Estonia 1992-94 (UNDP, 1997)
Year / Source 1992 1993 1994
UNDP 70 78 72
Estonian Office of Statistics 68 68 70
In a way, the situation in today’s Estonia can be compared to the one in the United States before the passing of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1975. The law was first enacted in 1975 to guarantee students with disabilities equal access to public schools, no matter how profound their afflictions were. Wolf (1997) has written: ”The number of American students classified as disabled has soared to 12.4% of the public school population of 44.7 million (including those with behavioral and emotional problems) over the past 20 years. About 70% of them are taught in regular classrooms, alongside non-disabled children. The costs are high: more than $32 billion, only $4 billion of which comes from the federal government.” There is still very little data available about the youth with disabilities attending schools in Estonia, but some estimates about the 1997/98 academic year are given in the three sections of Table 2 (according to the Estonian Ministry of Education; the data covers primary and secondary education):
Table 2a. Children with mobility, visual or hearing impairment attending special schools during 1997/98 academic year
Type of impairment MOBILITY
Students with impairment Haapsalu Sanatory Board- 122 ing School Laagna Kindergarten / 16 Primary school 138 rd Tallinn 63 Basic School 12 Tallinn School for Deaf 53 Children Porkuni School for Deaf 34 Children Paju School in Narva 8 18
Hiie School in Tartu Subtotal VISUAL Subtotal TOTAL Emajõe School in Tartu Juhkentali School in Narva
94 201 77 39 116 455
Table 2b. Sanatory Boarding Schools (SBS) for students with serious somatic illnesses during 1997/98 academic year
School K. Päts Open-Air School Keila-Joa SBS Helme SBS SBS TOTAL
Students 157 162 154 473
Table 2c. Students with disabilities in ordinary schools during 1997/98 academic year
Type of impairment Mobility impairments Hearing impairments Visual impairments TOTAL
Students 105 35 174 314
As seen, the number of registered students with disabilities in primary and secondary schools seems to be disproportionally small (1242 in total) for Estonia’s population of about 1.5 million. But even if to consider the number valid, it seems to reflect serious problems with school enrolment of children with disabilities. According to the Estonian Pensions Board, the number of children receiving disability allowances in January 1, 1998 was 4477 (this includes all children from birth to the age of sixteen; see also Kikkas, 1998a; Kikkas, 1998b). The data reviewed leads to the following conclusion: the exact rates are hard to find, but we can see that a great share of Estonian school-aged children with disabilities are not attending school. 2.3.3. Employment The processes described above resulted in the fact that the employment rate of people with disabilities in Estonia was very low both before and shortly after the re-establishment of the independence. The data presented in the two sections of Table 3 comes from the official table of employment issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs in 1994, reflecting the numbers and employment rates of people with disabilities in the beginning of 1993, 14 months after reestablishing of the independence in Estonia (the definition of disability groups was given in Section 2.3.1).
The data is based on the bulk statistics on disabilities, thus the numbers include all age groups of people receiving disability allowances (children are included, but not elderly people receiving retirement pensions). Evidence proves that during the first years of independence and often up to these days, people with lighter impairments strived to conceal their condition and pass as non-disabled due to disfavour from the rest of the society. This along with the undeveloped social statistics system can explain the unreasonably small number of people belonging to the Group 3 listed in Table 3a and 3b.
Table 3a. Employment of people with disabilities in Estonia in January 1, 1993: all people with disabilities (Kikkas, 1995)
Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Total
Total 5887 28588 7870 42345
Employed 312 1645 4033 5990
Per cent 5.30 5.75 51.24 14.15
Table 3b. Employment of people with disabilities in Estonia in January 1, 1993: people with disabilities acquired in childhood (Kikkas, 1995)
Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Total
Total 673 2717 430 3820
Employed 7 37 69 133
Per cent 1.04 1.36 20.70 3.48
One reason for concealing one’s disability was brought in by a number of Estonian legislative acts concerning unemployment, which have been passed into law since 1991. These acts set a number of criteria which were to be fulfilled to allow a person register him/herself as unemployed. Persons belonging to the first two disability groups were denied the registration. The basic features of the scheme have remained unchanged since 1991 (Puur, 1997). Although the 1995 Law on Social Protection of the Unemployed allowed people with disabilities to register themselves as unemployed (ibid.), the chances to improve the situation were quite small by then. Finally, the unemployed benefits were dropped to 26 per cent of the minimum salary, leaving only a symbolic meaning to it. The 1995 revision of the benefit scheme seemed to further cut down the number of long-term unemployed who were eligible to benefits. Many people lost their eligibility and became unregistered. Thus, the mechanism of unemployment benefits is extremely weak. This has led to the situation when registration at an employment office is regarded as a backup for situations where other methods of employment search are either not available or have not produced desired results (ibid.). The latest data available at the moment of the study comes from January 1, 1998. The numbers given by the Estonian Board of Social Security and the Board of Pensions are given in Table 4. 20
Table 4. Employment of people with disabilities in Estonia in January 1, 1998
Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Total
Total 7163 37725 10573 59938
Employed 284 3320 3824 7428
Per cent 3.97 8.80 36.17 12,39
Conclusion: During the five-year period (1993-98), the situation has not improved. For people with the most profound disability (Group 1) the outcome is even negative. Some progress is seen for Group 2, but the advancement is not remarkable. Finally, note that only slightly more than a third of the Group 3 are employed (remember that this group was classified as ”able to work” during the Soviet period!). This seems to show that the factors mentioned above (concealing one’s disability etc.) continue to influence Estonian people with disabilities.
2.4. Factors influencing Estonian people with mobility impairments
During the last few years the situation on the general social level has improved. The modern ideas concerning treatment of minorities including people with mobility impairments have found support in Estonia as well as in other countries. Estonia is heading towards becoming an integrated part of united European community and the fact has given an extra boost to developing all aspects of human and civil rights. While on the general/governmental level these ideas are accepted, they mostly lack a practical implementation. Although the Constitution declares all citizens being equal in employment and education, there is no working mechanism to allow people with disabilities get educated or employed on equal basis. The proclaimed equity usually remains a wishful thinking. For comparison with the Western world, the following quote can be added: ”In our view, it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments, by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society … It is a consequence of our isolation and segregation, in every area of life, such as education, work, mobility, housing etc. Poverty is one symptom of our oppression, but it is not the cause.”. These statements were made by the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation in UK in its discussion in November 22, 1975 (Fundamental Principles of Disability, 1975). It is noteworthy indeed that the situation is much the same in today’s Estonia than it was more than twenty years ago in Britain. The factors influencing Estonian disability issues could be formulated as follows. 2.4.1. Positive factors 1. Nordic (or West European) type of democratic government with basic rights guaranteed. 2. The generally accepted future vision of Estonia as a part of Europe, increasing integration with other countries. 21
3. Small country with up-to-date communication networks, including the rapid spread of Internet all over the country during recent years. 4. Long tradition (at least comparable to Western Europe) in special education studies. 5. Existing network of non-governmental organizations of people with disabilities (although most of them are suffering serious economical setback). 2.4.2. Negative factors These factors probably need more explanations - although they are common to nearly all the former Communist countries, there are some distinct features. 1. Lack of information The start of more widespread disability research in its wider (not only medical or pedagogical) sense can be only traced back to the beginning of the nineties, the academic cooperation between different facilities is still in the starting phase. What is even harder to change is the old model of viewing the disabilities which is also apparent in the older educational models involving segregation by physical or mental condition. Often the facilities which are willing to make use of new ideas lack new information and guidance. The situation is worsened by the fact that the disability statistics is still very unreliable. 2. Lack of relevant legislation Estonia has almost no legislation concerning the general rights, rehabilitation and integration of people with disabilities. The declarative acts have no power to bring any radical change. 3. Outdated and inflexible social system When dealing with disabilities, Estonian social system is still largely based on care, not independence or integration. The role of the society is mostly limited to paying the disability allowances as opposed to promotion of independence and integration through independent living, education and employment. Some progress has been made recently though – there have been campaigns for independent living etc. 4. Lack of public knowledge and prevalence of misconceptions about disabilities During the Soviet period, keeping people with disabilities out of sight resulted in very low level of public knowledge in this field. After the re-establishment of independence, there have been attempts to revert the image of people with disabilities. However, while the general public acceptance has remarkably improved (e.g. a wheelchair user in the street is viewed no more as an out-of-place phenomenon, like it used to be earlier), the reflections of previous attitudes still prevail in education and employment (e.g. ”I am not sure that she can handle it… she’s using this chair”). While this is probably the natural development of situation, the lack of supportive legislation to ensure positive changes may result in unpredictable fallbacks in the process. The public accessibility survey called Steeplechase (for more information about the project, see Appendix D) clearly showed that the awareness of accessibility needs are not very widespread yet. 5. Low level of education among people with disabilities This is perhaps one of the crucial problems in Estonia. There are problems with all levels of education – from the high numbers of excluded children with disabilities in primary level to 22
the inaccessibility of university buildings. There is a serious danger to create a closed circle like depicted in Figure 2. Low level of education Limited access to different parts of society Limited role in society, neglection Low social status Low level of employment
Figure 2. The ”black scenario” - people with disabilities in a closed circle
6. Low employment rate of people with disabilities This is probably a direct result from the several previously described problems (see Figure 2). Low social status gives an unfavourable starting position (negative expectations) in the job market, and when the education is difficult to obtain and there is no legal enforcement to warrant employment, the logical outcome is the situation that Estonia currently has.
Estonian situation of disability issues is quite different when compared to the situation seen in Western Europe, it being influenced by many historical and cultural factors. However, there are many similarities with other East European countries and some processes resemble those undergone in the West 10-20 years ago. Therefore, while it is possible to draw parallels and use previous experience, the situation is complex enough to call for original solutions.
3. Literature review
This chapter gives an overview of the literary sources from different fields that were used in this thesis. When examined separately, the topics discussed in this thesis - the Internet, IT, special education, accessibility and disability studies - are provided ample coverage by many researchers. However, the Estonian situation as a transition society implies that the study should cover most of the main influencing factors from legislation and disability politics to education, employment and technical matters. This has drastically limited the amount of available literature. Therefore, in this review the sources are grouped into sections by subject – education, employment etc. Many sources also fall into more than one group, in which cases they are treated with more attention at the first occurrence and only briefly referred to later on.
3.1. General issues
Starting with general disability issues, the first literary landmark in re-independent Estonia can be found already from the period of ”singing revolution” or peaceful freedom struggle that topped in 1991 with re-establishment of the Estonian Republic. Tallinn Guidelines for Action on Human Resources Development in the Field of Disability from 1989 are still the only internationally recognized document available that bears the name of Tallinn in its heading. This document sets a number of new directions for international activities in rehabilitation of disabilities, which should be considered in present-day Estonia as well – for example, the following excerpt from the Strategies section of the Guidelines could well be taken as the basis of Estonian disability policy: A. Participation of persons with disabilities 10. A statutory basis is required to enable disabled persons to participate as full citizens in decision-making at all levels of the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes. 11. To facilitate the full participation of disabled persons and to enable them to exercise their rights as citizens, access to information is essential. To this end, all information has to be adapted to appropriate formats. These information formats may include Braille script, large print, audio-visual media and sign-language interpretation. Information channels should include television, radio, newspapers and postal services. Governments should work with organizations of disabled persons to identify appropriate information formats and channels to reach disabled citizens. 12. Governments should adopt, enforce and fund legally binding standards and regulations to improve access for persons with disabilities, ensuring that buildings, streets, and road, sea and air transport are barrier-free, architecturally and in all other ways. Communication systems and security and safety measures should be developed and adapted to meet the needs of disabled citizens. 13. To facilitate the recruitment of disabled persons and to assist private-sector industries in hiring them, organizations at the national, regional and international levels, including the United Nations, should identify and maintain listings of qualified disabled candidates. Although the Estonian context as a transition society of the 90s is unique indeed, there are also many processes evident that were experienced in the Western World in the 70s and 80s. 24
The Fundamental Principles of Disability (Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, 1975) shows some surprisingly similar processes and reactions in Great Britain (for comparison to Eastern Europe and Estonia, see Chapters 1 and 2). Some examples (the persons quoted appear in the volume mentioned above): Lack of public knowledge of the problem; ”Who do you have to persuade about what are the causes of disability? We are trying to educate the public about disability...I mean, what is the alternative?”(Peter Townsend) Lack of inclusion; ”Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments, by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society” (Paul Hunt) ”Closed circle” (see Figure 2); For example, physically impaired school children are characteristically excluded from normal education preparatory to work, we are unable to achieve the same flexibility in using transport and finding suitable housing so as to live conveniently to our possible employment, and so on. Help and support in independent living instead of paying allowances; Financial and other help is placed here in relation to the achievement of independence and integration into ordinary employment. This is the fundamental principle by which schemes for meeting the financial and other needs of disabled people can be judged. This means that for people of working age financial and other forms of help must above all be geared to the retention or achievement of integrated employment: dependence on the State must increasingly give way to the provision of help so that a living can be earned through employment. Similarly, the assistance given to physically impaired children must be directed towards their progressive integration into ordinary employment. And for physically impaired people of all ages, the financial and other special help required to meet the extra costs and problems of living with impairments must increasingly be replaced by arrangements which include us as an integral part of society for example, fully accessible and reliable public transport. The works of Uršič (1996) as well as Vrasmas and Daunt (1997) and Ajdinski and Florian (1997) covering the development of processes in disability matters resp in Slovenia, Romania and FYROM support the hypothesis that many of the related problems are common to all post-socialist countries (see the quotes in Chapter 1). For example, according to Ajdinski and Florian, coincidences include but are not limited to the following (Ajdinski and Florian, 1997): there is an overemphasis on diagnosis and a rigid categorization system; institutions and social centres are grossly understaffed, both at direct care and specialist levels; residential buildings are in need of upgrading, repairs, adaption and furnishings to make them suitable living environments; many children with disabilities are not receiving an education. A positive example is brought by Uršič (1996) writing about disability policy development in Slovenia (see the remarks on Slovenia in Chapter 1). This firm basis has allowed Slovenian specialists to work more fruitfully than in Estonia. What seems to be common are two dangers also Uršič has pointed out: unemployment due to highly competitive labour market; 25
reduction of public expenditure, which among all things may backfire on services needed for independent living of people with disabilities.
While Uršič (1996) deals mostly with disability policy, Vrasmas and Daunt (1997) stress more on development of special education. Despite different economical standing of Slovenia and Romania, many problems are common and seen also in Estonia. Vrasmas and Daunt describe the needs of restructurizing of special education system and introducing the integration model, bringing to schools also those children who earlier were unable to obtain education. These processes are well known for Estonia as well. They also point out poverty and lowering life standards of many people after transition to market economy as well as lack of trained staff as serious obstacle in these developments – again, these phenomena exist in Estonia as well.
As for legislative acts concerning disabilities, they are still almost non-existent in Estonia (see Appendix B), although some complements will be added to the law in 2000. For this reason, the main source of information has been the disability legislation of the United States (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1992; The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments, 1997) and Great Britain (Disability Discrimination Act, 1995). The excerpts from Estonian legislation used are taken from the online version of Estonian Database of Legislative Acts (see Appendix B).
Here again, the choice of sources varies greatly, each focusing on some specific aspect of the complex field chosen to the subject of this paper. Just like for employment, parallels from other post-socialist countries are provided by the works of Gargiulo et al. (1997; Czech Republic), Ajdinski and Florian (1997; FYROM), the Western world is represented by France in the Special Education in France (Ebersold and Evans, 1997). It is interesting to note that although the time gap with Eastern Europe is very wide – in France, the disability legislation dates back to 1975 already, Ebersold and Evans still point out that due to historical and cultural reasons, the integration model is difficult to carry out in French educational system. For comparison, one could refer to the work of Kõrgesaar (Kõrgesaar, 1987; Kõrgesaar, 1988) concerning Soviet past of Estonia. Kõrgesaar has also directly compared the Soviet system to the one in France in his works (Kõrgesaar, 1988). Another interesting parallel can be drawn with the Northwest England case study described by Preece (1995), where direct correlation is seen between the educational/qualificational level of a person and the age of acquiring a disability. No exact data is available for Estonia, but it is quite believable that the same correlation is valid for Estonia as well. Another subtopic is distance education and its realization by a variety of measures (including Internet). As a generic source, the Distance Learning: Handbook of Training and Development (Stewart and Winter, 1992) has been perhaps the most notable. Their definition of distance and open learning will also be used as the basis of the distance education discussion in this thesis (see Chapters 7 and 9). 26
”Distance learning means that the learner: is not continuously and immediately supervised by a trainer or tutor; does benefit from the services of a training/tutorial organization; utilizes materials in a variety of media provided by the training/tutorial organization.” … ”Open learning aims to offer/provide flexibility and autonomy to learners to decide: What is learned How it is learned When it is learned Where it is learned At what pace learning occurs” Technical aspects of distance education are based on the essay of Ahvenainen (1998), the writings of Thomas et al. (1998) and, to a lesser amount, Wachter and Gupta (1997) - in short, Internet is viewed as a learning tool that differs a great deal from traditional means, making strict behavioralistic approach unsuitable and demanding totally new ones (see Ahvenainen, 1998, pp. 48-49). As a practical example of Internet-based learning, two distance learning web sites are used in this thesis for comparison and reference – the Open University web site from the UK and Virtual Concordia as the first Estonian Internet-based studies project.
Although very little material is available about Estonia, experiences from other countries may give valuable insight as well as comparative material. Valerie Symes’ Unemployment in Europe: Problems and Policies (1995) provides a number of solutions from all over Europe used to include people with disabilities to active workforce – these examples have also been used as a starting ground for the recommendations given in Chapter 9 (employment quotas, special workshops, etc). The book of Symes, alongside with the American perspective expressed by Loden and Rosener in Workforce America! Managing Employee Diversity as a Vital Resource (1991) have been the foundation for drawing parallels and generating new ideas applicable under Estonian circumstances. For example, the prejudices described here as an American phenomenon have also been, and still are, evident in Estonian society: Physical impairment equals intellectual impairment. Charity cases. Fortunate to have jobs. Can't carry own load. Have no romantic/sexual/emotional life. Success is qualified. "Not bad for a handicapped person." The future of work process forms a separate subtopic, which is based on C. Handy’s The Future of Work: A Guide to a Changing Society (1984) - it should be noticed that the author has made a number of valid predictions concerning the nature of work, which have become true for now, like working in small teams, growth of telework etc. - and a much later 27
release of Vision of the Future - A Web Magazine (Philips Corporation, 1996). While Handy is mostly concerned with the nature of work process ("The signs are, to put it bluntly, that there are not going to be enough conventional jobs to go around - not full-time, lifetime jobs with an employer who pays you a pension for the ten years or so of your retirement.”), the Philips release starts from the top levels of society (”It would also be a society with the human being at the centre, in which everyone would be able to climb the ’ladder of needs’ indicated by the psychologist Abraham Maslow”) and moves down to the tool level, meanwhile dealing with work issues as well (”Work calls for flexibility: nowadays few people can expect to stay in the same line of work all their lives”). Neither of these sources are targeted specifically towards people with disabilities, but are rather trying to model a work environment with maximum usability for all people. At the same time, they apply also to workforce with mobility impairments. Further employment related literary sources include European Telework Online web site and the earlier writings of the author of the current thesis (Kikkas, 1998a, Kikkas 1998b).
3.5. Accessible technology and Internet
Technological suggestions in this thesis are mostly based on the works of Vanderheiden (1988), some ideas are also coming from the Living in the State of Stuck: How Technologies Affect the Lives of People with Disabilities (Scherer, 1993). Vanderheiden’s division of impairments into four main categories (physical, visual, hearing and cognitive) is used to distinguish different technological needs of people with different disabilities, as well as to develop applicable ideas for Estonian reality. The case studies from other countries mentioned above (Uršič, 1996; Gargiulo et al, 1997; Vrasmas and Daunt, 1997 etc.) also contain some comparative material about accessibility and technology. Some interesting statements, that have originally been made on general Internet use but apply especially well on users with disabilities (on virtual vs real contacts etc.), have been made by Barrett and Wallace (1994; e.g. ”We become our messages, purely and simply.”). Especially their suggestions on differences between virtual (network) and the real life contacts are considered by this thesis. They warn on the drawbacks in the loss of physical variables in network contacts – especially misinterpretation which can easily happen when information is reduced only to the message. On the other hand, they also bring out positive side of such communication as boosting the process of acquisition. However, they emphasize that the stimulating effect is only present when the exchanged information is true – in case of fantasies or straight lies, the effect is likely to be adversary. Also, Internet is likely to amplify all emotions which are usually withheld in real life contacts but are let loose in virtual encounter due to physical isolation of the partners. . Similar topic of Internet as a sort of ”emotion amplifier” is discussed by Stone (1994), who analyses the differences between both romances and conflicts in real life and the Internet. Presenting cases of both positive and negative side, he concludes quite like Barrett and Wallace that the Internet has strong potential of removing psychological obstacles in communication and when used properly, can become an effective measure in establishing contacts otherwise impossible. 28
. The views described above are fully shared in this paper and are made the basis on further analysis - they were used as a starting point in the case study (see Chapters 5 and 8) and for the questionnaire (see Chapter 6 and Appendix D), while adding an additional dimension of disability. Similar views have also been presented in the earlier writings of the author of the current thesis (Kikkas, 1995, 1997, 1998a, 1998b). Due to particular emphasis on the Internet in this paper, a number of general sources concerning the Internet in Estonia and abroad have been used for reference. Estonian Internet statistics is acquired from the works of Mölder (1997) and Veskimägi (1997). The technical background section of the thesis uses the Internet writings by Hardy (1993), Sterling (1993) and Zakon (1996). Suggestions concerning the Internet as a measure of empowerment also have their roots in the Rapids of Change essays by Theobald (1987). For example, some of his statements about the ideas for fundamental changes in society are quoted below. In this thesis, they are viewed from the disability viewpoint: Stress the opportunities in a situation rather than the problems. Encourage generative thinking. See healthy relationships as essential to effective activity. Move beyond dichotomized thinking. Acknowledge and empower competence based on knowledge, skills, abilities, wisdom, perspectives and experience rather than accepting the dominance of coercive power. Be aware of our patterns of behavior and recognize that strengths always carry weaknesses with them. Learn that people will inevitably see the world very differently and that individual views and reactions will therefore be highly diverse -- the world can only operate successfully if we accept the validity of multiple viewpoints.
3.6. Estonia – background, statistics, comparisons
The part of this thesis concerning Estonian history of disability issues is based on the works of Valma (1921), Kõrgesaar (1987,1988) and Kikkas (1995,1997,1998). In addition, archive documents from several Estonian disability organizations have been used. General statistics on Estonia is mostly based on Estonian Statistics (1998) and data collected from different governmental and non-governmental organizations, while using also the statistical material published in articles by Katus et al (1997) and Puur (1997). For transition society issues, the Return to the Western World: Cultural and Political Perspectives of the Estonian Post-Communist Transition by Lauristin et al (1998) has provided valuable insights to the social and cultural background of the transition process: ”In five years, the marketization of culture has led to a segmentation of the cultural public into ’the elite’ and ’the masses’, and destroyed the shared cultural ground of Estonians. The unity of a nation gloriously rallying during manifestations of the Singing Revolution has disappeared in the cleavage between the ’ winners’ and the ’losers’ of transition. Certain groups seem to be among ’losers’ not only in Estonia but in all of Eastern Europe: 29
pensioners (includes people with disabilities – remark by the author of this thesis), workers in big industries and agricultural areas, as well as the ’old intelligentsia’.” The image of Estonian society described above, where the freedom struggle activity and unity has turned into the inequality and neglection of some people, is illustrated by some factual examples in Chapters 1 and 2. For the thesis, some historical data are taken from the Hot summer in Estonia 1988 Chronicles of press release by Pillau (1989), especially for the sections that describe the ”singing revolution” and the first rise of disability issues in Estonia (see Section 2.2.5). Current situation has been reflected by the factual data gathered from WWW materials of the Estonian Database of Legislative Acts, Estonian Human Development Report 1997 and Overview of the Estonian Economy (1997). These sources, along with different unpublished materials acquired straight from disability organizations and the Ministry of Social Affairs, form the background description in Chapter 2. As a comparative reference, About the status of people with disabilities in Russian Federation. State Report by the Disability Affairs Council under the President of Russian Federation (1998) was used – the volume, although concerning the situation in Russia, contains some interesting material about the Soviet period (i.e. preceding the independence of Estonia) and the disability issues from that time (e.g. the fact that up to 1979, there were officially no children with disabilities in the Soviet Union). In addition, other sources (Uršič,1996; Gargiulo et al, 1997; Vrasmas and Daunt, 1997; Ajdinski and Florian, 1997) are used to compare the situation to other countries.
As seen from the review, not much material is available on the role of the Internet as a compensatory measure for people with disabilities, especially for societies in transition. However, a strong basis for future studies in this field is formed by extensive research conducted in social studies, disability issues and technical matters (e.g. the Internet). On one hand, most of the sources agree that there should be further developments in employment and education of people with disabilities. On the other hand, Internet is generally seen as having good potential in developing new schemes in communication, distance education and telework. Accepting these two assumptions, it is easy to understand the importance of the Internet for people with disabilities.
4. Aims of the study
Due to many historical and cultural factors, Estonian situation of disability issues is quite different from the situation in Western Europe. However, there are many similarities with other East European countries and some processes resemble those undergone in the West 1020 years ago. This opens Estonian researchers some interesting chances to use the experience of the West to work out suitable development guidelines and recommendations for Estonia. The “parallel societies” of Eastern Europe can provide a good comparison in application of different measures. Although this thesis is oriented more towards technology than social aspects, some comparative material can still be useful to illustrate the situation. As seen from the literature review in Chapter 3, not much material is available on the role of the Internet as a compensatory measure for people with disabilities, especially for societies in transition. There is, however, lots of materials available about the importance of education and employment in integration of people with disabilities. Another group of literary sources stress the role of the Internet in new schemes in education and employment. Therefore, the Internet has also an important role as an empowerment and integration measure. Finding proof for this assumption and backing it up with practical examples and data is also in the scope of this thesis. The main problems that are seeked solutions for in the context of Estonia include: Lack of environmental accessibility. Lack of relevant legislation Low level of education among people with mobility impairments. Low employment rate among people with mobility impairments. Low level of accumulated resources in society (hinders cardinal improvements). Therefore, in such a situation, all measures which could possibly have any positive influence on independence and self-management of people with disabilities should be considered. Estonia does have decent communication networks and other favourable factors (see Section 2.4.1) that point out the Internet and other applications of IT as a possible group of solutions. Considering the abovesaid, the primary goal of this thesis is to determine the role and possible future developments of the Internet in rehabilitation and integration of people with mobility impairments in Estonia. Based on the main hypotheses given in Chapter 1, the following aims can be defined: The first aim is to outline the compensatory features of the Internet as a multifunctional communication channel that can contribute to better integration of people with mobility impairments into Estonian society. This includes study and determination of the role of the Internet in various aspects of social life (public and individual relations, education, employment). This aim also includes the task of selection of suitable methods and technical solutions applicable in Estonia.
The second aim is the research on social and political processes evident in Estonia as a fastdeveloping transition society. While the Internet and other complex technological solutions can be a powerful measure of integration, it cannot be used alone, without being supported and complemented by a variety of legal, educational and employment-oriented measures that are yet to be developed in Estonia. Therefore, full attention should be turned to the fields mentioned. One more caveat is the neglection of actual, ”real life” accessibility (e.g. wheelchair access to public places or transportation) and urge to compensate them with virtual worlds only. This kind of erroneous thinking can lead to even deeper social problems emerging from people with disabilities. The third aim of the thesis is the analysis of the current situation in Estonia, finding out practical needs and developing suitable suggestions and recommendations. Based on the factual information and related writings by the other authors, the picture is complemented by individual cases (see Chapter 5) and a more general view coming out of the survey (see Chapter 6). The Estonia-based data is then merged with the results of the technical and methodological discussions in order to produce ideas, suggestions and recommendations for better integration of Estonian people with mobility impairment.
5. Case study - Estonia
In this chapter ten different personal cases chosen from among Estonian people with mobility impairments are presented. Due to lack of systematic information available in this field, and also for privacy issues, the cases were chosen from among previous personal contacts. First, permission to use their data was requested from the persons, and after affirmation (actually, no one denied the permission), they were interviewed (both face-to-face and by mail). In Chapter 8, the cases are reviewed from different angles like public image, rehabilitation, education and employment. However, special attention is turned towards the role and potential influence of IT and the Internet. Employment ratings from different countries seem to indicate that people with severe mobility impairments are in a more unfavourable position in employment market than people with say, sensory impairment. For example, the US Census (1994) presented the following data about comparative employment rates (per cent) of people with different impairments: Hearing impairment (defined as ”difficulty hearing normal conversation”) Visual impairment (defined as ”difficulty seeing words and letters”) … Serious mobility impairment (defined as ”uses a wheelchair”) Moderate mobility impairment (defined as ” Does not use a wheelchair but uses a cane, crutches, or a walker”) 64.4 % 43.7 %
22.0 % 27.5 %
As seen, the people with mobility impairments have lower employment rates than other impairment groups. Unfortunately, there is no similar data available for Estonia yet, but it is quite reasonable to believe that in a similar manner, the most disadvantaged disability group in Estonia are people with mobility impairments - due to the general lack of accessibility features, many people of this group are forced into passiveness and separation, while their Western counterparts can participate in the society in a much greater amount (e.g. wheelchair users). The reason for choosing some cases among people with severe congenital mobility impairments is related to public attitudes and understanding different forms of disability. Regarding Estonian past and general lack of disability-related knowledge, being ”blind”, ”deaf”or just ”limp” or ”one-legged” was socially more acceptable than being ”weird”, ”wriggling” (have CP) or ”epileptic”. After all, the only privileged people with disabilities – the veterans of the World War II (later also those of Afghanistan war) – had disabilities of mechanical origin (amputations, losses of different functions) and perhaps the “blaze of glory” given to these people by state also helped to make their disabilities more acceptable. This kind of relief was unavailable for people with congenital disabilities. 33
Estonian society is currently undergoing major changes and is developing in a quick pace. There are sectors of public activity that are being boosted like business and banking schemes, while some equally important ones like social security and education are lagging behind. This has lead to confusement of society’s values – on one hand, ideas about equal human rights and the obligations of state towards all its citizens are understood, on the other hand, personal success and wealth are held in the highest regard. This has led to mixed feelings towards less supported groups of the society – their needs are more and more understood and accepted, but they are still often disfavourably labeled as “losers” of the society. The place of people with disabilities in today’s Estonian society tends to depend heavily on the person’s own activity and abilities, combined with a “starting position” of the person (family, surroundings, financial situation). In this point of view our cases differ greatly from each other. The case study features people with both acquired and congenital mobility impairment, of both sexes and different age groups (although most of them are young people – the choice was also to underline the situation of people in their best active working age). In all cases, real names have been substituted by fictional ones.
A 31 years old man born with a profound form of spastic cerebral paralysis, caused by rhesus conflict. The disability prevents him to walk, eat or dress without another person’s assistance and he cannot use articulated speech due to throat spasticity. His legs (especially right leg) have retained better functionality than arms, so he has learned to perform many operations by foot. His condition has improved by constant practice, but it is unlikely that the functionality would undergo any cardinal improvement. During the Soviet period, people with similar disabilities were usually kept on home care, with practically no chance to get any education. This is especially true for people living in rural districts or in smaller towns. For Melvin’s luck, his mother was (and still is) a teacher at a local school, so he got private tuition which allowed him only to graduate from basic 9-year school. However, his self-obtained knowledge allows him to be compared to university graduates. His family is a typical rural middle class family of Estonia - however, they probably have made every possible move to provide him good education and chances for selfdevelopment. This also includes modern computing technology, which the family has been able to afford. He started his working career in 1980 by creating typewriter graphics, which were displayed in several exhibitions and also utilized as pattern models for sewing. Some years later he obtained an old CP/M computer, which gave him basic programming and ”hacking” skills. After some more years he got an old XT PC, which was followed by a 486 computer. Being self-taught, he has obtained skills that currently allow him to be called the top computer and network specialist in his county, Raplamaa. 34
Melvin also enjoys painting, being a member of the International Foot and Mouth Painters Association and having had numerous personal exhibitions in Estonia and also in Finland.
Ike, 23, has used a wheelchair after surviving a high-voltage electric shock at the age of 16, which paralyzed his legs. He was graduated from an ordinary secondary school (the situation when a person with acquired serious disability manages to finish the studies is still a quite rare case in Estonian context!) and while studying at a two-year IT administrator course at Astangu Rehabilitation and Training Centre, parallelly worked at the TTU Rehabilitation Technology Laboratory. He also took actively part in the ”Steeplechase” research project concerning accessibility of public facilities in Tallinn (for more information about the project, see Appendix D, Section 7). He is currently working as an IT system manager for Scansped Estonia, the Estonian branch of an international transportation corporation.
A 44 years old man, using wheelchair after a serious railway accident at the age of 20, which resulted in amputation of both legs. Henry was seriously addicted to alcohol in youth, which can be seen as a direct cause of the accident. He has graduated from an ordinary secondary school, previously worked as a car and taxi driver (both before and later after the accident) and is now working as a deputy head of Tallinn Society for Mobility Impaired People, participating actively both in the Society’s consulting, problem solving and developmental tasks. Henry has independently obtained basic computing skills. He was also one of the initiators of the disability organizations’ Internet project (see also Appendix D, Section 9).
A 31 years old woman, born with a serious case of cerebral palsy (very similar to Melvin’s case, with the only notable exception that she has retained some of her speech). Like many young people with a serious impairment, she studied at Haapsalu SBS. She is married and has three children, the family lives in the Estonian countryside. Currently she is studying special education at Tartu University under special terms. Her contacts with IT and relevant skills are only minimal.
Jack is a 33 years old man, who at the age of two was diagnosed to have spinal muscular atrophy. He was able to walk in his childhood, but by the progress of impairment, had to start using a wheelchair when he was 13 (actually, he lost the ability to walk some years earlier, but due to the situation of disability issues in the Soviet Union that time, was earlier unable to acquire a wheelchair). Jack was not able to qualify to a special school, having too profound an impairment (!). He was accepted to an ordinary school, but after four years, had to give it up and study at home. He managed to graduate from the secondary school (as a home student) in 1984 and to enter 35
the Tallinn Pedagogical Institute, creating a rare precedent of distance studies at a higher education facility as a person with a serious disability. He graduated as a teacher of mathematics in 1989, with some experience on IT as well. In 1995 he joined the Estonian Society for People with Muscular Disorders and reached soon the position of Chairman. Some years later he founded another organization, Independent Living Estonia, dealing with integration and independent living issues. In his work, Jack has been actively using computers since 1995 and the Internet since 1998. Currently, he characterizes them as his main tools for collecting and exchanging information for his two organizations.
Mark, 24, has a congenital spastic form of cerebral palsy, which hinders his movement and disrupts fine motor control, also influencing speech quality. He is able to walk short distances (e.g. through a room) without aid, but has to use a walker for longer ones. Like many CP people of his age, he was graduated from a special school in Haapsalu, West Estonia. Mark was initially denied a chance to study computers at school, because he was thought to damage the precious technology. However, during a summer break he managed to enlist to an IT course for people with disabilities held at the Tallinn Technical University. After returning with the course diploma, he was allowed to access computers at school as well. After graduation from the secondary school, he attended Astangu Rehabilitation and Training Centre to study computer systems maintenance. After graduation in 1998, he has been searching for a job, but has not found anything suitable yet.
Gert, 24, survived a serious accident at the age of 20, a year before graduation from Luua College of Forestry in Central Estonia. His spine was damaged by falling from a boat into water, leaving him paralyzed from neck down. His efforts have resulted in partial recovery of neck, back and some hand functions, but he is still a paraplegic with only partial functioning of his upper body. As a rather rare precedent, the College did not give him up, but some adaptions were made to school building and assistance from staff members and fellow students allowed him to graduate in 1996. Being unable to work in the field he had studied in, he had to find a new profile, which he chose to be IT. He entered Astangu RTC and graduated along with Mark in 1998. Since then, he has also been unemployed, although he has had some short contract jobs for a while. Gert’s chances for success in the labour market is also lessened by lack of wheelchair accessibility at his home (a multifloor apartment building) and in society in general, making home- or telework (with perhaps only some visits to the employer in a week) his only option. 36
Ellie, 59, was born with a congenital misplacement of hip joint, but due to many erratical diagnoses and treatment (a number of improper surgical interventions) her condition worsened (the last surgery resulted in osteomyelitis). In 1970 a complementary diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis combined with osteoarthrosis was added. Currently her condition has stabilized. She is using crutches in everyday life and wheelchair to cover longer distances. Her condition prescribes accommodations in workplace - as she works for a disability organization, the premises are accessible and suitable to her needs. During the times of her youth, public access for disability was a totally unknown concept. Ellie entered Tallinn Polytechnical Institute (now Tallinn Technical University) to study electrotechnics, but as her condition got worse, she began to experience hardships with reaching the university (in addition, during this period the university moved farther away from her home) and she was forced to quit after the 5th semester. Afterwards she worked as a quality control worker in the ”Punane RET” radio factory. Since the rise of disability movement in the end of eighties, she had been working in disability organizations. Currently she is working as the managing director for the Estonian Union of People with Mobility Impairments. Ellie is mostly self-taught in IT (plus some occasional short courses), but uses PC and Internet actively in everyday work, managing the organization and keeping contacts with international partners. Although the premises of the organization are accessible, an increasing share of communication has moved to the Internet after connecting the premises to the network (see also Appendix D).
Greta, 31, experienced a life-threatening situation at the age of two, when acute meningitis and encephalitis were diagnosed on her. She survived, but the central nerve system was damaged, resulting in cerebral paralysis. After undergoing surgery and rehabilitation therapy, she is able to walk for now, using two walking sticks. After graduation from a special vocational school for people with mobility impairments as an office worker she worked as a school secretary, later on moved to the field of disabilities. She works as the Chair of Tallinn Sports Club for Disabled, parallelly studying social work at the Tallinn Teacher Training College. IT has become her everyday tool for preparing documents and keeping contacts with partners of the Sports Club. As her movement is hindered, she desires to deepen her knowledge on the Internet to be able to communicate via the network.
Marge is 24, and has congenital spastic cerebral paralysis with somewhat similar level to Melvin and Tina – the coordination of her movements and her speech are disturbed by the CP, although she has retained better control over them. Marge had to study at home throughout her basic and secondary school. Fortunately, although the home studies for students with disabilities were limited only to basic subjects at that time, her teachers allowed her to complete full curriculum. She is currently a student of social work at the University of Tartu and despite accessibility problems, attends regular lectures. She plans to use her education to further promote accessibility and integration in her home city of Tartu. She is also a member of Tartu Youth with Disabilities Club and a prominent spokeswoman for young people with disabilities in Tartu. IT and the Internet have enabled Marge to overcome various physical and communicational obstacles as well as be of great help in her studies.
5.11. For conclusion: Estonian reality and persons reviewed
Similar case studies have been made by different specialists in many countries, and in general they have also lead to similar conclusions. According to the report by Preece (1995), an education/qualification survey of 44 people in Northwest England indicated that the earlier a person had acquired a disability, the less likely they were, as adults, to have achieved professional or higher qualifications. The same survey also indicated a gap between the actual and desired level of education at the same people. The Northwest England survey gave also the idea for the Estonian survey reviewed in Chapter 6. The German case study described by Gbur et al (1996) as a more technical approach to mobility impairment has also been used as a model to the technical aspects reviewed here. Although the cases differed greatly from each other by the age, sex and impairment of the people reviewed, they all involve mobility impairment, which in Estonian context also means accessibility problems and by this also hazard of neglect and alienation (see Figure 2). For most of the people reviewed, this means barriers in moving around, using public transport and premises, but also obstacles in acquiring education and getting a job. The employment rate of people with disabilities is estimated to be approximately 18 percent by the Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia – thus, for our cases, the picture seems to be far more optimistic than it really is, as a majority of the people have at least some kind of job. However, the list of professions shows the following: Melvin freelance painter Ike computer system manager Henry archive worker, disability activist Tina unemployed (job seeker), distance student Jack home-based teacher, paid worker for a disability organization (chairman) Gert unemployed (has had some short part-time jobs) Ellie paid worker for a disability organization Greta student, paid worker for a disability organization Mark unemployed Marge student, disability activist 38
It seems to be more likely for a person with mobility impairment to find a job ”in his/her own sphere”, i.e. among people with disabilities themselves (disability organizations, private companies owned by a person with disability etc.). Also, it can be noticed that neither of the jobs belong to the well-paid, qualified ”upper level” positions (lawyers, bank workers, businesspeople etc.). In this, the cases reflect well the real situation in Estonia – the number of people with disabilities among top officials and administrators is almost zero (the only known case is a wheelchair-using member of a county government in Läänemaa). Estonian Parliament, Riigikogu, has during the re-independence period never had any members with disabilities. In cases of Melvin, Mark, Marge and Tina, their condition includes speech impairment which, among other consequences, further on hinders their ”competitive value” in today’s Estonian society – for example, it is not rare for people with similar condition to be straightly rejected by employers, even without an interview. No legal cases are known in this field, because of the lack of protective legislation (see Appendixes A and B). In the situation where practically no legal support is offered by the state, education is largely inaccessible and employers are free to dismiss persons with disabilities, the measures of selfhelp and personal development acquire crucial importance. IT and the Internet are probably among the measures with most potential.
6. IT and Internet survey among people with mobility impairments
The survey was conducted in April 1999. The choice of respondents (52 in total) was random and covered many different locations in Estonia, but no special attention was turned towards finding a fully representative set of people among people with mobility impairments, as (like expressed in Chapter 1) there is no exact statistics available about numbers and division of people with different mobility impairments.
6.1. Main questions of the survey
The main goal for the survey was to collect information about the use of computers and the Internet among Estonian people with mobility impairments and to find out the general situation in this field in Estonia. The main questions that were seeked answers for were: How important is IT (in this context, IT mostly refers to personal computers and software) and the Internet to Estonian people with mobility impairments (hereafter referred to as the ”target group”)? How much experience on IT and the Internet does the target group have? What are the main uses of IT and the Internet? How much time (weekly) is spent using IT and the Internet? How much influence have IT and the Internet on education and employment of the target group? How much assistive solutions are being used and are the needs for this technology covered? Is IT and the Internet affordable for the target group? What is the influence of the Internet to communication? Does one’s impairment have any influence on communication over the Internet (in comparison to the conventional, face-to-face communication)? What is the importance of the Internet for a person with profound impairment, in comparison with the importance of other assistive and rehabilitational measures? The questionnaire included different sections for experienced (in terms of IT) and inexperienced respondents – the latter were asked about the influence of their impairment on possible IT studies and necessity of assistive solutions (special keyboards etc). In order to portrait an average respondent, the questionnaire included some personal data (e.g. age, gender, education, and monthly income ).
The survey was carried out by using different channels for dissemination of questionnaires and also using two different forms of the questionnaire (electronic and paper form). The questionnaire was sent to a number of disability organizations and social facilities, which in turn distributed the questionary on voluntary basis (i.e. no special selection of respondents was performed on site). The main distribution sites were: Estonian Union of People with Mobility Impairment (located in Tallinn) Astangu Rehabilitation and Training Centre (Tallinn) Independent Living Estonia (Tallinn) 40
Estonian State Archive (Tallinn) Tallinn Sports Club for Disabled (Tallinn) Karaski Adaption Centre (South Estonia)
In addition, the questionnaire was sent directly to many respondents by E-mail (with the mediation of Independent Living Estonia, Estonian Union of People with Mobility Impairment and Haapsalu Sanatory Boarding School – questionnaires were sent to these organizations who forwarded them to respondents). The results were collected and analyzed both separately by media form (paper or electronic) and in total.
6.3. Representativeness of data
While the set of respondents may lack some representativeness, increased objectivity results from the use of different distribution channels of the questionnaire (disability organizations, NGO’s, training facilities, personal contacts) and using different media forms (printed and electronic). Inspection of personal data sections of the responses shows quite an even distribution over different age, gender, education, income and location (see Figures 3a – 3e). The prevalence of male respondents is perhaps due to voluntary principles of filling the questionnaire used by many distributors which presumably resumed in a majority of persons interested in IT and the Internet to fill the questionnaire. This may partially explain the greater share of male respondents, as well as the majority of those already familiar with IT and the Internet.
8% less than 16 29% 16-25 25-35 35-55 over 55
Figure 3a. Distribution of respondents by age
38% f emale male 62%
Figure 3b. Distribution of respondents by gender
2% 0% 8% 18% 38%
basic secondary secondary vocational higher
Master's or higher degree not answ ered
Figure 3c. Distribution of respondents by education
12% 0% 4% 12% 25% less than 500 EEK 500 - 1000 EEK 1000 - 4000 EEK 4000 - 10000 EEK 47% more than 10000 EEK not answered
Figure 3d. Distribution of respondents by income
Tallinn 13% 31% Tartu other city 25% 19% 12% smaller town, countryside not answered
Figure 3e. Distribution of respondents by location.
Therefore, while the results are not qualifying as fundamental statistical data (the results were not weighed), they nonetheless give a rather good insight to the situation. The data should be treated as an approximation, but it is likely to indicate at least the main tendencies in the use of IT and the Internet by the target group.
The results (see Appendix D for complete questionnaire and results) lead to some interesting and even somewhat intriguing conclusions. First and foremost, the hypotheses of this thesis found solid practical support. 1. The importance of IT for people with disabilities is estimated as great by 39 and very great by 38 per cent of respondents (see Figure 4).
2% 4% 38% 17% very small small average great very great 39%
Figure 4. Importance of IT
2. Assistive devices are almost unknown – only some respondents claimed to be using assistive solutions, while several are in need of one (see Figures 5a and 5b).
yes no not answ ered
Use of assistive technology
yes no not answ ered
Needs for assistive technology
35 30 25 Responses 20 15 10 5 0 communication, letters, contacts possibilities to study possibilities to work various operations virtual shopping virtual travels news information retrieval acquiring software other (please specify) not answered
Figure 6. Main areas of interest in the Internet
3. Possibilities to work and study were regarded as areas of great interest in the Internet – distance education and telework possibilities are needed (see Figure 6). 4. When communicating over the Internet, their impairments played no role for 77% of the respondents (see Figure 7b). At the same time, the same number for real life (face-toface) communication was 34% (see Figure 7a).
no little yes not answ ered
Figure 7a. Influence of impairment on real-life interaction
no little yes 17% not answ ered
Figure 7b. Influence of impairment on the Internet interaction
It is possible to speculate that the difference might even be bigger. A number of E-mail responses claiming their impairments having no real life influence on communication came from the Haapsalu SBS which provides a relatively isolated environment (absolute majority of the students have some kind of impairment) and thus may result in a more positive view on one’s disability and its influence on communication. 5. The idea of free Internet connection for people with profound mobility impairment was regarded as very important by 70% of respondents, while the alternative view ”Good idea, but there are other more important things these people need” was shared only by 16% (see Figure 8). Note that only one respondent regarded the idea as unimportant (12% did not answer). To support the idea itself – of those who had to pay for their connection by themselves absolute majority regarded it as too expensive, while no one was willing to give it up due to costs (may refer to non-critical rate of costs, but also to great importance of the connection).
good idea, but there are more important things 17% 2% 15% very important
not answ ered
Figure 8. Question: “Do people with serious disability need a free Internet connection?”
Among other remarkable results, a not-so-hopeless picture of financial status of the respondents was received, regarding one’s ability to purchase a PC - 8% claimed to be able to buy a PC at once and 15% with some effort (see Figure 9). However, the real picture is probably not even so optimistic, as the survey had less chances to reach people with disabilities with more modest financial standing (e.g. people who live in the countryside, where living standard is generally lower). This suggestion is also supported by the fact that absolute majority of respondents claimed to have their monthly incomes under the Estonian average of 4000 crowns (see Figure 3d).
yes, surely yes, but w ith effort not quite 4% impossible 8% 15% not answ ered
Figure 9. Affordability of a PC
Also while the role of the Internet in one’s interaction was valued differently (see Figure 10), its influence to one’s communication skill was regarded smaller than was presumed (based on personal and work experience) by the survey initiator - roughly a third of the responses claimed the Internet to have no influence on their communication skills, while the most common answer was “little influence”. At the same time, some other indicators (e.g. high priority of the Internet, ample weekly use etc) still suggest at least some influence.
very small small average great 19% 17% 12% very great not answ ered
12% 15% 25%
Figure 10. The role of the Internet in one’s interaction
none small substantial 19% 33% 10% not answ ered
Figure 11. Influence of the Internet on one’s communication skills
Another interesting notice is that there seems to be a substantial difference between the responses according to the medium used to respond. Two main groups of speculative conclusions can be made: a) in terms of knowledge on IT and Internet: The E-mail respondents are slightly more familiar with IT and the Internet than the other group (see Figures 12a and 12b).
30 25 Responses 20 15 10 5 0 E-mail Paper expert knowledge good knowledge decent knowledge some knowledge no knowledge about that
Medium of response
Figure 12a. Self-estimated knowledge on IT
25 20 Responses 15 10 5 0 expert knowledge decent knowledge some knowledge no knowledge about that
Medium of response
Figure 12b. Self-estimated knowledge on the Internet
The importance of the Internet in interaction was higher for the E-mail group. The E-mail group almost unanimously supported the idea of free Internet connection (absolute majority considered it ”very important”) while the other group of respondents was more evenly divided between this and alternative viewpoint (see Figure 13).
30 25 Responses 20 15 10 5 0 E-mail Paper very important good idea, but there are more important things not necessary not answered
Medium of response
Figure 13. Importance of free Internet connection
b) in terms of impairment: The E-mail group contains more profound impairments than the other group. One reason to use computerized form is also inability to complete it on paper, but also the influence of impairment in real life was regarded higher by the E-mail respondents (see Figure 14) - for those people it is much more important, while for the other group there are more options besides the Internet available. In addition, the note on p. 44 about Haapsalu SBS which gave a remarkable share of E-mail responses should also be taken into account. 49
30 25 Responses 20 15 10 5 0 E-mail Paper not answered yes little no
Medium of response
Figure 14. Influence of impairment in the real life
The survey produced the following conclusion: IT and the Internet have an important role in the integration and rehabilitation of the target group. Experience in IT and the Internet is generally sufficient, most obstacles to more extensive use are economical (especially for the Internet). Assistive IT solutions are practically not used and also relatively unknown. The target group has realized the importance of IT and the Internet as a measure for more effective education and employment. The importance of the Internet is high, especially for people with more profound impairments. In general, the survey supports the hypotheses proposed in this thesis. People with mobility impairments seem to have started moving towards information society, many of them have had initial IT training. However, greater changes are hindered by economical obstacles, as well as lack of suitable applications of hard- and sofware as well as methodology. Regarding the Internet, the survey seems to fully support the hypotheses concerning importance of distance education and telework.
7. The Internet as a compensatory measure
This chapter is dedicated to the information superhighway and its role for people with disabilities (especially focusing on people with mobility impairments) - both as an information channel and even more as an empowerment measure. The Internet is a key to removing many existing barriers that people with disabilities have to face. It can effectively lessen communication problems, prejudice and fear from both sides. It is also a media form which allows perhaps the widest range of responses. Networks have largely reprofiled distance education and boosted distance learning. Here, the concepts of distance learning and open university are discussed from disabilities viewpoint. These non-traditional forms of education can drastically improve the educational situation of people with disabilities – this is especially true for Estonia, where current level of education for people with disabilities is still remarkably lower than this of their non-disabled peers. Other topics in this chapter include the trends of change in work environment, teleworking and the influence of changes to the employment situation of people with disabilities. Finally, this chapter deals with recreational and social side of the Internet, which is a powerful measure to prevent alienation, prejudice and fear both in people with disabilities and surrounding people. Virtual tours, libraries, chatrooms and games in the Internet can well be counted among the tools of rehabilitation. For Estonia, experiences from the Apollos project (see Appendix D, Section 5) and other related projects (see Appendix D) also provide sufficient proof for this.
7.1. Overview of the Internet
7.1.1. Short history of the Internet The Internet was born during the cold war, when Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was formed to keep the US in the leading role regarding military high technology. The RAND Corp. started to design a computer network that could survive a nuclear attack. This kind of network could not be hierarchical, with a central computer – a missile could easily destroy the centre and this way the whole network; it rather had to be composed of independent nodes that could continue functioning independently. The message was then divided into several independent parts or packages which could find their way to destination on their own, regardless of others (Sterling, 1993; Hardy, 1993). The beginning was purely military-oriented, but soon, new ideas caused a sort of revolution the main traffic in the net was not so much shared computing, but rather communication and news. The network appeared to be fully usable as a high-speed, low-cost post service. Although it was frowned upon by many system administrators, the “train was gone” and the electronic mail, or E-mail, started successfully its way to become one of the most important applications of the Internet up to our days. The seventies were the period of network expansion. The TCP/IP protocol became the basis and “common language” of the network (from now called the Internet, from the word 51
"internetworking" or "international network”), allowing great freedom in the computers' architecture. This way, many different standards and architectures promoted the fast growth and diversity of the Internet (for the latter, also the term “cyberspace” came into use). The next two major tools in the Net date also back to the first half of 70's. The connection protocol to other computers - Telnet - was developed, it was shortly followed by FTP - the File Transfer Protocol, which allowed transporting of big amounts of information via the Net. During the 80’s, the Internet spread into Europe, while in the US, the original military network was separated from the Internet, which was entirely left to educational, scientific and commercial sphere development. The first half of the nineties brought along the explosive growth all over the world. In 1991, new services like WAIS, Gopher, and especially WWW appeared – the latter has largely become a synonym of the Internet for now. The combination of user-friendly interface technology and distributed information systems created new kind of media - Web publishing and advertising. Earlier purely non-commercial, the Internet moved quickly into commercial sphere, which gave new boost to the growth. New technologies like animation and audio allowed the Web publishing combine the ideas and techniques of traditional media, allowing totally new ways of information presentation. Internet tools were integrated to the software development packages as well as general applications, making it an important part of software development for now (Hardy, 1993; Sterling, 1993; Zakon, 1996). 7.1.2. Special features of Internet communication a) Availability, affordability and speed These three factors are the most crucial advantages of electronic communication over more traditional communication methods like ordinary mail or telephone. Affordability - the roots of many E-mail systems are in academic community and this has kept it free for many E-mail users. Other users have to pay small fees which are still smaller than the prices of comparable services by other media forms. Availability - since E-mail is the oldest service offered by the Internet, it is the most spread and supported by a very wide range of software and hardware. E-mail requires only small technical resources and very little maintenance. Speed - E-mail messages can reach their destination within minutes. The characteristics of the message are those of an ordinary mail, while the speed of reaching the other side is near to the speed of telephone messages. Telefax can offer similar results, but in general is more expensive and lacks some of the versatility of E-mail (e.g. possibilities to send computer files). b) Openness and freedom of word and thought The abovementioned three factors have brought E-mail into use of millions of people all over the world. As an aspect of the Internet, it shares the same concepts of diversity, and lack of central control/censorship. Getting on and off the international network is fairly simple, 52
bringing a very wide variety of people in touch with each other. Freedom of speech has always been a central point of the Internet communication, although at the same time it has had some negative side effects as well (flames or abusive messages etc.). . c) Responsibilities - identity versus anonymity The first stage of the Internet as a virtual community was formed by a network of people connected via E-mail. So the original netiquette or code of behaviour was formed soon after wider spread of the Internet. The growing community came to the need for ”playing rules”, which generally came over from ordinary, live interaction. More specific to the Internet is the stress on freedom of word. But the misuse of this freedom is still mostly frowned upon, especially among user group with more serious attitude. The second specific point is anonymity. When Internet is generally designed to determine its users by addresses, it is still possible to appear incognito or under other’s name. Other people’s address can be used (when agreed), and there are possibilities to send anonymous messages. Thus it can be also considered a unique feature of net communication - on one hand, there are only a few limitations on possible misuse, on the other hand, the regulating role of public opinion and also the users’ self-discipline usually prevent improper actions. d) The virtual worlds – merits and dangers From the very beginning of the Internet, there has been a sort of virtual community in its many forms. There are user groups who use computers and the Internet strictly for occupational/research purposes, there are others whose interests are mainly towards the more leisurely aspects, and there are also users whose all life consists of the Internet (sometimes even referred to as homo interneticus). The history can be traced from the original first mailbased newsgroups over MUDs and talkers to today’s multimedia-packed virtual reality systems. These virtual worlds usually contrast quite sharply to the grayish everyday life – rich imagination teamed with new technological solutions have allowed the creation of all kinds of fantasy worlds from outer space to medieval myths. The positive influence from these phenomena are promotion of creativeness and fantasy, plus some different forms of interaction. For someone with a severe disability, these systems offer an extra output for self-realization. In a virtual world where all the imaginary characters are acting in an imaginary environment, the participant’s real, bodily situation loses its meaning. In some cases, this can be a way to overcome low self-esteem etc. The person will be freed from his/her disobedient body for awhile. But there is a negative side as well. The result of such a life in imaginary world can be alienation from everything real, serious addiction (like that of gambling) and even mental problems caused by losing the persons own identity. Hence the conclusion – virtual reality techniques are obviously developing towards even greater fidelity, allowing precise modeling of real-life events as well as creating more extensive fantasy worlds. Their use, however, demands thorough study and also analyze of possible threats (especially when the users are children or people with disabilities). 53
7.2. Barrier-free communication
7.2.1. Physical vs. virtual access In many parts of the world, people with disabilities are still hindered by many physical obstacles. In this situation, an inexpensive computer network solution can do much to help the person keep pace with the society and not let himself or herself to be pushed aside. For many wheelchair users in many countries, even the entrance of their house means a barrier but when the physical way out is blocked, one can still communicate, learn, work and have fun in a virtual way. Although even the best technology fails to compensate the real life and real human relations, but it can help a lot (see also Kikkas, 1998). 7.2.2. Overcoming prejudice – human relations in the Internet When physical obstacles are not present, there can be even more powerful barriers – the psychological and mental ones. Especially in former totalitarily-ruled countries, many people still have many phobias and prejudices towards ”different” people. According to Loden and Rosener (1991), the typical stereotypes (these are based on the situation in the United States some years before, but seem to be perfectly valid in the present-time Eastern Europe) tend to be the following: I Typical prejudices concerning people with disabilities: Physical impairment equals intellectual impairment. Charity cases. Fortunate to have jobs. Can't carry own load. Have no romantic/sexual/emotional life. Success is qualified. "Not bad for a handicapped person." II Physically able-bodied people in relations with people with disabilities: Assume all disabilities can be seen and recognized. Patronizing. Deny own frailty/mortality. Amazed at accomplishment of differently abled. Overreact.
What makes it worse, the problem is often bidirectional – the hostility that occurred in surrounding society caused many people with disabilities to ”encapsulate” and treat all strange people as a potential threat. While attitudes do have a strong tendency to change, but a certain period of time is necessary. When this happens, assistive technology and communication can once again provide a great improvement to both sides of the problem – to give people with disabilities an extra way of communication which totally ignores their condition, and to dissolve the old prejudices by providing clear explanation about disabilities to the public. Like Barrett and Wallace (1994) state: ”On the Internet, height, weight, race, and gender may be unknown. Beauty doesn’t impress us, nor does ugliness appall. We become our messages, purely and simply.” The importance of this for people with disabilities is hard to overestimate.
In real-life communication, many people with disabilities experience hardships in making initial contacts. On one hand, this is often caused by the person’s internal fear of rejection and subjective feel of inferiority, but on the other hand, the objective fact is that visual appearance plays an important role in forming initial impression of a person. But when the real face-toface meeting has been preceded by a period of ”cyber-friendship”, the situation tends to be entirely different. The key to success is the openness and honesty in previous ”cyber-stage”. So it is somewhat paradoxal – it is perfectly possible to pose as someone else in the Internet, but when the aim is to transfer the contact into real life, also the real life criteria begin to apply. A good description is given again by Barrett and Wallace (ibid.): ”The initial face-toface meeting becomes the final stage in these Net relationships. Some of them – the ones based on falsity – are doomed to fail as soon as the person discovers that the other is not as they had presented themselves. False expectations become dismal reality, and the two part no better acquainted than when they first exchanged letters. But people who have been forthright throughout their e-mail correspondence have already gone behind the façade that so often hinders face-to-face communication. Their hardest work in communication has already been accomplished, and they become more real to each other, even when communicating in isolation behind terminals – than are many people when seated across a table. Thus, Internet relationships can achieve the same high level of communication as face-toface encounters, and perhaps they can achieve the state more quickly. The ability to venture out of low-level informational exchanges to those in which we express opinions and emotions is facilitated by our abilities to hide behind a terminal, to probe into another’s deepest feelings while maintaining a safe distance. Absolute honesty is an essential from behind these terminals as it is in any face-to-face encounter if people are to become more to each other than mere repositories of information. With honesty can come some real rewards.” The results of the survey (see Chapter 6 and Appendix C) point to the same direction. While the respondents gave different opinions about the role of their impairment in their contact with other people, no one claimed his/her disability to influence ”virtual contacts”. Also the experience from the Apollos project (see Appendix D, Section 5) seem to prove the abovesaid. The Old Town talker project has been running since 1996 (administered by a man with a serious mobility impairment, who is described as Melvin in the case study) and has helped many people with disabilities to contact other people as well as have an extra source of pleasant recreation. 7.2.3. Cyber-media vs. traditional media The problem with the traditional media is its unidirectional nature – from providers to consumers. Granted, the competition between several channels forces their owners to shape their programmes according to feedback from the audience. But as the majority of the public are people without disabilities, the problems concerning minorities have often been left out of focus by mainstream media channels. The Internet as a media form can be bidirectional in a sense. Added to the previous ”I read what you have written”-model, here the target groups can produce feedback in its various 55
forms. For example, as a reaction to a certain articles published in a WWW page, one can easily counter it by setting up his/her own – similar action is more difficult in writing press and very difficult in radio or TV. This feature should be used also by people with disabilities to introduce the issues to wider audience and to increase public knowledge about disabilities (Kikkas, 1997). One such example was the ”Steeplechase” project (see Appendix E, Section 7), which was noted by many specialists and also by the Estonian press.
7.3.1. The oncoming changes According to Wachter and Gupta (1997), there are two trends visible in Western-type societies. First, the focus in national economies has shifted from industry towards service and information management. Second, the workplace has become a dynamic entity. Careers change rapidly and employees must refresh and renew their skills and knowledge to remain competitive. All this has brought up the necessity for continuous learning and training as well as demand for new learning methods and techniques. In the United States, The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) in its DETC News (1997) summarized higher education trends as follows: Standardized assessment-based outcomes for courses and programs. More transportability of courses from one institution to another, made possible by standardized outcomes for courses. This standardization provides a greater comfort-level for schools and comes from a need to provide maximum flexibility to students. This flexibility is driven in part by the growth in distance learning (distance learning particularly lends itself to transportability). Instead of teaching courses simultaneously, they are taught one at a time over short periods (2-3 weeks) but within the same aggregate time period (e.g., five courses per semester). States taking subsidies away from state institutions and giving the money instead to the students. Students are then allowed to take this "grant" and go to any school they wish. Maine has announced that it will be implementing this system; Wyoming and Montana are considering following suit. Allowing students to upgrade specific skills that they believe they need for job enhancement. The courses are tied to specific skills and not necessarily to degrees or certificates. Training offered by businesses. Certifications obtained this way may, in some cases, be the most desirable certifications one can obtain. Strong emphasis on lifelong learning. There is a proliferation of certificate programs to support this idea. There is also less emphasis on ”time in seat" and more emphasis on quantifiable skills. Organizations are needed to act as clearinghouses for distance learning courses. It is interesting to notice that as the general trend is towards greater individualization and flexibility in education, this is exactly what has always been called for when talking about educating people with special needs (e.g. having a disability). This can be of great help when striving to improve the quality of education for people with disabilities - even in these 56
societies that have previously neglected special education may now provide better chances for people with disabilities just by the development of general educational system. Public education has been made available for people with most kinds of disabilities in the majority of modern societies. Also in Estonia, the former educational principles which involved segregation by disability and special establishments for certain disabilities are giving way to more modern approach of integration and inclusion students with disabilities into ordinary schools. However, in Eastern European countries, many children with disabilities are still either attending special schools or studying individually at home. While these methods can be educationally acceptable, they also provide higher risk of growing apart from the rest of the society. Again, we can see the potential assistance that can be provided by modern communication technology (Kikkas 1997). 7.3.2. Distance education The concept of distance education is actually older than IT, meaning originally learning from the materials sent by mail. Although cumbersome, this method was applicable and helpful in many cases. Modern technologies, however, can totally revolutionize the former ways. First, the speed of interaction between student and teacher over distance has drastically improved. What was a question of days earlier is now only a matter of minutes or even seconds. Second, the quickness allows live, two-way conversation instead of long and slowish written dialogue. Third, the development of technology has enabled the inclusion of those people, who earlier were unable to participate in distance learning events (e.g. people with multiple disabilities). Fourth, most of the modern forms of education can be made available by distance learning – even those requiring live sessions like chemistry, biology etc. (of course, this puts extra requirements to the technology used). 7.3.3. Open learning and Open University The concept of open learning has greatly derived from distance learning, focusing on maximizing the choices and possibilities of obtaining academic education. This involves visiting students and lecturers, changing programmes and courses etc. The critical feature of open learning is the degree of autonomy given to learners in the training activity. Such autonomy may or may not be present in distance learning. Separation of trainer and learner may or may not be present in open learning. Therefore ”open” and ”distance” are separate concepts (Stewart and Winter, 1992). The development of learning methods has led to formation of different learning modes (see the Open University WWW site at http://www.open.ac.uk): a) traditional learning – ”same place, same time” b) campus-based traditional learning – part-time learning, available materials; distance learning in its older meaning; learning by mail etc. c) campus-based distance learning – ”any place, same time” (videoconferencing, satellite link) – remote locations, but conventional (traditional) learning experience. d) open learning – ”any place, any time”, flexibility; combination of self-study, face-to-face sessions, short courses etc. 57
When looking at this process from the disabilities’ viewpoint, again a big gain can be viewed. Apart from its enhancement of academic freedom in general, it can open the way to top-level education to many more people. Universities differ both in the quality of teaching and their accessibility – open university system would let the applicant choose the best variants of both sides. Using communication technologies in creating open university applications is of topmost importance. The Internet has evolved far enough to enable first projects in open education to be launched, using totally new approaches. In Estonia, the first project of Virtual University was launched by the Concordia University in Estonia (CIUE) in 1998 (see the WWW site at http://www.ciue.edu.ee). The MDA course is described as follows: ”An on-line distance learning program delivered over the Internet is being developed for students who cannot attend traditional courses. Face-to-face environment of a traditional classroom is mostly replaced by distributed collaborative learning environment on the Web. Students can work individually, at their own pace, on there own time using a computer connected to the Internet.” The basic structure of the course is quite similar to the British project, featuring initial faceto-face contacts, online learning (supported by more conventional means like telephone) and final examinations. The importance of such projects for people with disabilities is hard to overestimate. Although running in a beginning phase and hosted by an expensive (in Estonian scale of life standard) university, this is practically the first time that a home-located person who has serious impairment would be given a practical chance to enter university (although the Apollos project described in Appendix D was launched in the Tallinn Technical University already in 1995, it did not evolve into a practical mechanism of providing university education for people with disabilities due to its small scale and limited resources). 7.3.4. Academic cooperation The teams of scientists working on a specific project do not need to gather physically any more. The workers in one of the participating facilities can use computers at another facility, while using the laboratory simulations in another place. The whole team can be contacted over the Internet (mostly E-mail, but the development of real time conferencing systems has been rapid, possibly allowing full real-time communication in a few years), both data and results can be shared between all participants. This kind of teamwork can be achieved with a wide variety of technological solutions from ordinary E-mail to full real-time audiovisual conference systems. In Estonia, the Internet was also extensively used for academic cooperation between the participating facilities of TEMPUS special education training program (see Appendix D, Section 4).
7.3.1. Work – now and in the future Charles Handy (1984) has written about employment in future: "The signs are, to put it bluntly, that there are not going to be enough conventional jobs to go around - not full-time, lifetime jobs with an employer who pays you a pension for the ten years or so of your retirement. /.../ The job count is only part of the problem. We are also witnessing a change in the nature of jobs. Muscle jobs are disappearing; finger and brain jobs are growing or, to put it more formally, labour-based industries have been replaced by skill-based industries, and these in turn will have to be replaced by knowledge-based industries." The explosive growth of information technology has given birth to a new models of employment. Earlier, mostly fixed models dominated - employees were nominated to their workplace, where they were expected to stay for a fixed period (standard eight-hour working day), carrying out certain duties. New model which makes use of new technologies may require neither full-day presence nor full-day work - the improved communications allow completing tasks in shorter time and regardless of the physical location. The workplace can freely be at one's home, eliminating the need to travel. This kind of employment model allows the employee great freedom, but also requires a remarkable measure of responsibility. Another point is that although the time spent on certain duties may be shorter, the working process is more intensive and thus also more stressful. In case of homeworking, there exists danger that the difference between working time and vacation starts to fade, thus keeping the stress constantly up - this can lead to serious psychological and social problems (burnouts etc.). Similarily to education, also employment can be spread out with the help of modern technology. Just like in research groups revised above, the modern enterprise does not need to be tightly wrapped around the centre, located in one place, but it is rather a sparse collection of working cells that however are in close cooperation via new technological means. Handy calls them "gangs", writing (ibid.): "The knowledge orientation is one aspect of the new world of work. There are two other aspects which are less frequently commented upon, but will be equally important. The first is re-emergence of 'gangs'. Technology will make it both possible and desirable for work once again to be organized around gangs, as it used to be before the assembly line and the bureaucratic organization effectively put people into lines in the factories or offices and on the organization charts. Sophisticated automated or robotic machinery can now equip a group of people to do what required a miniorganization to do even ten years ago. ... It could go farther. The gangs would not need to be under the same roof or even in the same employ. Communications are now so quick and so multifaceted that it would almost be easier to communicate sensibly if the gangs were a hundred miles apart than if they were next door to each other. ... The third aspect of the new world of work is different again. Although the knowledge industries may be displacing the labour and skill industries, there is good evidence that the 59
bulk of new jobs is going to come not from this source but something quite different - the personal service sector. A feature of the emerging knowledge-based societies is the proliferation of small businesses which grow up around the affluent parts of them, turning into formal economic activities the things that many people normally do for themselves." All these three aspects - orientation to knowledge, independent small workgroups and the shift of importance towards personal services – seem to create new opportunities and open new doors for people with disabilities as well. 7.3.2. Teleworking Teleworking is a completely new concept which emerges from the abovementioned processes. It involves working while physically away from the employer, making use of the Internet to connect to the latter. European Telework Online (http://www.eto.org.uk) defines the process as follows: ”Telework occurs when information and communications technologies (ICTs) are applied to enable work to be done at a distance from the place where the work results are needed or where the work would conventionally have been done. ” Thus, it means working to achieve the same result, but at a different location and usually in a different pace as well. Teleworking, according to ETO (ibid.), includes: Home-based telework or "telecommuting", when an employee or contractor works at home instead of travelling to an employer's or a customer's premises. Mobile telework, when executives, professionals or service staffs using ICTs to enable them to spend more time with customers and to deliver "on the road" a range of services and capabilities that previously would have involved office based staff or visits to the company offices. Telecentres, providing local office facilities for people who prefer not to work at home but wish to avoid the cost, time and inconvenience of commuting. Telecottages, which provide local communities with access to skills development, high performance ICTs, and the networking and socialisation aspects of work that may be missed by a home based worker. Functional relocation, where business functions that previously were located close to the customer are concentrated and delivered at a distance; examples include both "front office" (selling activities previously done in the High Street, now delivered by phone or computer networks) and "back office" (service and maintenance work previously done "on site", which may now be done anywhere in the world using remote access to systems). 7.3.3. People with disabilities in the changing work environment In spite of the some cautions that should be taken into account, the overall conditions regarding education and employment seem to have become much more favourable for people with various disabilities (at least in modern societies). The deconcentration of education and workforce and individualization of schedules and working plans help in reducing the importance of one's mobility or other personal traits. Still, this is only one (although important) aspect of the problem, as physical barriers are often accompanied by mental ones. The problem is not unique, as according to Tony Coelho (1998), even in the United States, in 1997 the federal government spent 40 times more money on supporting people with disabilities than on employing them. 60
Teleworking can be a powerful measure in employing people with disabilities. Especially for the people who are forced to stay at home (and in Estonian case, the absolute majority of people with more serious disability are in this position), this can provide a unique chance to become an active member of society (and for the society, a taxpayer). In the East European countries, the influence of European Community has introduced many new practices and methods resulting in remarkable increase in public acceptance of people with disabilities. However, the inner attitudes in people are harder to change. The mental attitude of many employers towards people with disabilities discourages them to employ ”incapable” people even when the equal opportunities are legally guaranteed. In this kind of situation, the solution can be in promotion of self-realization and self-help by providing all necessary means (including technology).
The Internet has become a recreational entity offering many features from traditional ways of recreation - literature, music, humour to name only a few. It effectively combines the traditional leisure time activities with interactivity, two-way communication and flexibility. All the tools of the Internet can be used for leisure as well as in work and studies. The recreational facilities include (Kikkas, 1997): Virtual libraries - huge collections of information including wide variety of literature, press releases, electronic journals etc. Radio and TV broadcasts over the net - including full-time radio programs, real-time concerts etc. Penpal and contact services - many different possibilities for virtual and real-life contacts with different people all over the world. Talkers and virtual chatrooms - for real-time talks with other people in the net. Some are biased or dedicated to some special theme, others are open to everything. Interactive games - a wide array of mainly multiplayer games that range from graphic 'kill 'em all' type games (e.g. Doom or Diablo) to large fantasy worlds which require serious roleplaying (e.g. some MUDs). The importance of Internet recreation is especially significant for people with disabilities - a communication media which is fully able to ignore an individual's physical condition, can be of invaluable help when building a supporting scheme for integration of people with disabilities. First, the Internet is greatly anonymous when it is seeked for. The identity of user is not important for using most services, so anyone willing to do so can hide any information he or she wants to conceal from others (including one's disability). This can be of great use in these societies where the public attitude towards people with disabilities has not yet developed enough. One can easily play a role not only in role-playing games but also in the whole Internet. When a person gains acceptance in a community (unhindered by the possible prejudices on a disability), the physical differences lose their meaning much more easily. 61
This can encourage many people, who are still afraid of repulsion, to communicate more actively and establish contacts with other people. The second point concerns physical access to public services which are generally guaranteed for people with disabilities in most of the modern societies, but are still lacking in many East European countries. Many public facilities like theatres, cinemas and libraries are still inaccessible for people with disabilities - partly due to lack of public knowledge about the problem, partly because of lack of funds. This places more stress of alternative channels of information and communication including the Internet (Kikkas, 1998)
The Internet has thoroughly changed many fields of social life, adding many new features and giving new meaning to others. All the categories revised above are also experiencing extensive changes with the emerging Internet solutions. The main common characteristic of the coming of the Internet in education and employment is increasing independence from physical location – the feature that is directly beneficial for people with disabilities.
This chapter takes the discussion over to IT in its wider sense, as well as enhances the view on mobility impairments to disabilities as broader phenomena. The cases introduced in Chapter 5 are returned to and reviewed both from technical and methodological aspect.
8.1. Disabilities and IT solutions – an overview
Although disabilities vary greatly from person to person, there is a widely accepted division into four main groups of physical, visual, hearing and cognitive/language impairments. Vanderheiden (1988) has identified the four groups, their problems in using IT and some solutions as follows: “Physically impaired individuals face their primary difficulty in using the computer's input devices, or in handling storage media. Individuals in this group include individuals with congenital disabilities, spinal cord injuries, and progressive diseases, as well as individuals who are without the use of just a hand or arm. Adding some options to the keyboard handling routines would allow many individuals to use the keyboard. Providing means to connect "alternate keyboards" would provide access for individuals who have more severe disabilities. Visually impaired individuals have their primary difficulties with the output display, although newer display-based input systems (e.g., mice, touchscreens) may also pose problems. This group includes individuals who have failing vision and individuals with partial vision, as well as those who are blind. The primary solution strategies involve providing a mechanism to connect alternate display or display translator devices to the computer, and providing alternatives to display-based input. Hearing impaired and deaf individuals currently have little difficulty in using computers. Visual redundancy of auditory clicks and tones would be helpful. The primary concern is ensuring that future voice output information is provided in a redundant form that hearing impaired or deaf individuals can also understand. Cognitively impaired individuals have their greatest difficulties in dealing with the software itself, although layout and labeling of operational controls can also effect their ability to use computers. Cognitive impairments can take many forms, including retardation, short- or long-term memory impairments, perceptual differences, learning disabilities, and language impairments. Of particular concern are computer, information or transaction systems which are intended for public use. Proper design of these systems can greatly increase the number of individuals with mild cognitive impairments who could use the systems -- although these systems may not be operable by individuals with severe impairments. Solution strategies in this area would be more general in nature, and revolve around such objectives as simplification of displays and legends, minimization of language level, and obviousness of operation.” The categories described here are definitely generic and do not provide specific help for specific causes and ranges of problems. In addition, certain disabilities may fall into multiple categories, e.g. some cases of cerebral palsy involve both physical and cognitive impairment. 63
The suitability of different IT measures for different kinds of special needs and disabilities can be summarized as depicted in Table 5 (see also Kikkas, 1995). Here, a slightly modified classification is used in order to match specific uses of IT more closely. Cognitive impairments are left out (for they do not demand specific solutions per se, but rather a different methodological approach), physical impairment is split into two more exact categories (for they usually demand different approaches in IT) and the category of complex impairment is introduced.
Table 5. An overview of different assistive IT solutions and their suitability for different impairments Type of impairment Technological solution Light Special keyboards Keyguard Key combinations switched off Enlarged keyboard Miniature keyboard pedal Tactile mouse Data glove Voice input Eyegaze operated controls Nerve impulse operated controls Touchscreen menus Switches + Morse input Screen reader + voice + input Visualisation of sounds Braille monitor + + ? ? ++ ++ ? ? ++ 0 ? + ++? ? ? +? ++? ? ? ? 0 0 + ? ++? + + ? ++? ? +? ? ? Switches + automated ? +? ++? ++? ++? +? + + ++? + ? +? +? +? + +? +? ++? ++? ? +? +? ? ? ? +? ? + ? -? -? + ? +? ? +? ? ? ? +? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 0 0 Hard Light ? 0 0 0 + +? + Visual Hearing Coordination balance Hard Light Hard Light ++? ++ ++ + + Hard Light +? ++? +? +? ? Hard ? ? ? / General mobility Complex
Foot-operated mouse, -
Explanation: ++ - essential + - recommended, useful 0 - neutral, no effect - not suitable, negative effect ? - depends on circumstances
All the solutions mentioned above belong to the direct access solutions, which enable people with disabilities to use technology (including IT) on equal basis with the non-disabled peers. The suitability problems are more profoundly discussed and solutions prescribed by Kikkas (1995). These solutions have been in extensive use for many years already in Western Europe and especially the U.S. At the same time, in Estonia (and mostly also other East European countries) they are virtually unknown (see also the results of the Estonian survey given in Chapter 6). The reasons for this are both social (formerly closed societies) and economical (most of the solutions are expensive, at least when compared to the life standards of these countries) (see also Kikkas 1995, 1997 and 1998). The use of assistive technology in the personal cases described in Chapter 5 is discussed in the following section.
8.2. Technical aspect in the case study
This subject is closely related to all of the previous ones, being an important factor in raising effectiveness of people with disabilities in all mentioned fields. It may even seem strange to a Western rehabilitation specialist that wheelchairs, walking canes/crutches and prosthetic aids are nearly only assistive measures more widely known to public in Estonia. New methods and assistive devices have only reached Estonia during recent years, mostly coming as humanitarian aid from the West. This in turn implies that most of them are used and sometimes out of date. More high technology solutions like special automated wheelchairs, lifts and communication devices are still very rare in Estonia - and are usually present due to individual activities, not wider governmental or social programmes. The abovesaid fully applies also to information technology. Estonian rates of computers per person, Internet connections per person etc. show that Estonia is rated as a “strong average” in Europe - according to the CIESIN online report (1998), Estonia was rated 15th in connections per person in July 1998. At the same time, assistive computing is almost unknown in Estonia at the moment. Again, there are some examples of technology (e.g. there are two known facilities which have got Braille technology), they have been acquired by individual projects, not by larger-scale national activities. 8.2.1. Melvin Although Melvin could benefit from assistive technology solutions (which are currently too expensive for a private person to obtain), he still can manage an ordinary computer by his foot, although he is obviously working at slower pace than non-disabled users (although his 65
s+peed is incredible when considering the circumstances). As the special solutions are not yet available, he has never had a chance to try one. Assistive solutions suitable for Melvin would include: large touch monitor foot-operable mouse or trackball (larger and more robust than conventional) enlarged keyboard Estonian-language shorthand/word prediction software (none available yet) OCR–capable scanner for input of longer texts Notes: Due to vocalization problems, Melvin is not able to use voice-operated control systems. Melvin is used to work at the computer while sitting on the floor, so there is no direct need for special furniture, although he could benefit from some special designs. Although special, direct accessibility solutions could make it more comfortable for Melvin to use computers, the stress here is in indirect accessibility – IT as a ”window to the world”, provider of information and contacts. In his position of a person with limited communication possibilities, a PC with Internet connection has turned out to become an invaluable communication aid, the effects of which have extended much farther than just a replacements for ordinary speech – it has affected his whole personality. In addition, the mere presence of Melvin as a ”cyber-citizen” has had positive effects of reducing fears and prejudices among other, non-disabled people around him in the net. 8.2.2. Ike Ike retained full control over his upper body and limbs after the accident. Thus he does not need special information technology per se, being able to use typical configurations. However, he could benefit from special furniture - adjustable tables and seats. His legs are physically intact, although inoperable, and he prefers using wheelchair to other seat types when working at computer. Hence the workplace should be adaptable to accommodate a wheelchair. Due to limited reach, also the workplace design obtains more important role than for an ordinary user. What comes to the influence of technology in Ike’s case, also the role of Internet should be noted. While the physical access is not so complicated for him as for Melvin, the general environments in Estonia are still largely inaccessible for wheelchair (including a majority of educational facilities). Thus his professional development owes much to the Internet and its resources, which have remarkably enhanced his formal training in Astangu Rehabilitation and Training Centre (see also Appendix D, Section 1). Internet as a communication channel (talkers etc) has also had a share in reducing alienation and emotional problems caused by the accident. 8.2.3. Henry Most of the abovesaid applies also for Henry. The difference with Ike is that Henry has his legs amputated - this places a bit different needs upon the workplace, especially seating. Henry usually uses ordinary chairs - a solid one with movable armrests would be the best 66
solution. Henry can use ordinary IT solutions, the only special consideration is lessened range of reach resulting from the amputation. 8.2.4. Tina Tina could benefit from similar assistive technology that was described in Melvin's case. The difference is her ability to use voice - this adds the possibility to use voice control/ voice input, which unfortunately is mostly language-dependent and not yet available for Estonian. She is also using more wheelchair than Melvin, thus the workplace considerations described at Ike's case apply. Suitable assistive solutions for Tina would include: large touch monitor foot-operable mouse or trackball (larger and more robust than conventional) enlarged keyboard Estonian-language shorthand/word prediction software (none available yet) OCR scanner voice control/input software Her working bench could be equipped with descendable keyboard stand to move it to a suitable location for her feet while keeping the keyboard in place. Ideally, perhaps a foot controlled computer with voice input for longer texts would perhaps be the best solution for her. 8.2.5. Jack Jack is currently using a regular PC, but due to muscular origin of his impairment, will probably face additional problems in the future. He would probably benefit from special trackball or joystick – however, they must be chosen carefully to be suitable for a person with muscular disorders. For keyboard, a miniature membrane keyboard (similar to pocket calculators) would allow him to work with less strain and hand movement. Assistive solutions suitable for Jack would include: miniature membrane keyboard special joystick (or trackball) instead of mouse voice control/input software OCR scanner (optional) Concerning the workplace, Jack needs a well-organized one with minimal stress on manual reach. His seating should be firm and comfortable, perhaps the electric wheelchair he uses is also the best option for this – this in turn requires careful selection of the workbench and accessories. The comment on the Internet made at Ike’s case is valid also for Jack. Even more, as he is in charge of an organization, his responsibilities include seamless communication with many partners, some of whom are abroad. Thus Jack’s workstation should include quality tools for the Internet. An useful option for his profession would be the ”egg camera” or a small camera forwarding the user visually to the other partner(s). 67
8.2.6. Gert Although Gert has only limited control over his upper limbs after the accident, he has decided to use ordinary computers, not wanting to depend on special solutions. However, having limited reach, muscular power and finger grasp, a well-designed control device set might give an extra boost to his effectiveness at computers. Having no problems with speech and articulation, an optional or complementary speech input/control may also be reasonable for him, e.g. for entering large amounts of textual information. For Gert, suitable solutions would include: miniature membrane keyboard special joystick (or trackball) instead of mouse switch set to control most common actions OCR scanner voice control/input software The workplace accommodation could be similar to the case of Jack, but the requirements may be stricter, due to Gert’s even more limited movement range. Use of voice input suggests also a room with low noise level. Taking into account the nature of his impairment (and related accessibility problems) on one hand and his learned profession as an IT professional, Internet is of vital importance for him. While others can manage with dial-up connection, his case of a computer professional with a profound impairment suggests more a fixed line. Also, the positive role of the Internet as countermeasure for alienation and emotional problems should be noted here just as in Ike’s case. Being graduated from the Astangu RTC as a system maintenance engineer, Gert makes an excellent ”back office” specialist or independent consultant when given suitable conditions. However, it can be well guessed that his current status of unemployed is rather due to outside, transportational/constructional obstacles than inside, workplace shortcomings. 8.2.7. Ellie Ellie (as her impairment only affects lower limbs) can manage a computer of regular configuration, but has some distinct demands on her workplace. It should be accessible both with crutches and wheelchair, as she uses both. The seat should be shallow enough to enable getting up with crutches, but also provide solid support. Concerning the Internet, her needs are similar to Jack’s, as both are using Internet for similar purposes – for business communication by E-mail and collecting of information from WWW. In use of the Internet, Ellie is perhaps the closest to an average Internet user among the cases – it’s complementary role which is quite important for Ike and Jack, and vital for Melvin and Gert, is relatively unimportant in this case. 8.2.8. Greta Her case is, in technical sense, quite analogous to the previous one (no special devices are needed, demands on workplace are the same) , except that due to the difference in age and 68
occupation (Greta being a student), the amount and ways of using IT and networks is likely to change in the future. 8.2.9. Mark Mark as a typical example of quite serious case of cerebral paralysis has some difficulties in using a typical configuration of PC. Due to unavailability of special devices in Estonia, he has been forced to use regular devices, but after testing some devices, he has expressed the thought that a special joystick could be more comfortable for him than ordinary mouse. He has also been using keyguard and touch monitor, but these are not so important. Due to speech disorder, he is not able to use speech input – thus, when the situation demands large amount of input, it should be done either by OCR scanner or by special software like early prediction systems (allowing the computer to ”guess” the end of a word by the first letters, thus reducing the number of necessary keystrokes) or by visual macros (allowing choice of icons/pictures, which, when activated, output certain words or phrases). Assistive solutions suitable for Mark would include: touch monitor special joystick early prediction software OCR scanner Note: Mark is unable to use voice control. Mark usually uses a walker to move around and does not need special workplace, except that he needs some free space to maneuver the walker. The role of the Internet is again important, as in all cases of moderate to serious impairment when speech is also affected. Currently unemployed, Mark is, besides other tasks, using the Internet to find and contact potential employers (his speech impairment practically excludes the use of telephone). 8.2.10. Marge Although capable of using ordinary PC, she could benefit from special solutions. While her condition is otherwise quite similar to Melvin and Tina, she is using her hand as opposed to foot in other cases. This also makes the task of workplace design different. She could use special joystick or trackball, either an ordinary or special (enlarged) keyboard equipped with keyguard to prevent unwanted keystrokes, and perhaps some large switches to launch more frequent actions. Assistive solutions suitable for Marge would include: touch monitor special joystick switch set early prediction software OCR scanner 69
The Internet plays an important role for her as well, but perhaps it is less critical due to her more favourable conditions (living in city, studying at university, higher social position than e.g. Melvin or Tina).
The range of assistive IT solutions is almost as wide as the range of disabilities. There are cases of disabilities which actually do not need special technology (but do have other considerations) - like Ike and Henry - and others that demand special solutions with a strongly individual approach - like Melvin and Tina. There are people whose whole ability to use computers depend on assistive technology (e.g. people with serious visual impairments), but most computer users with disabilities could benefit from proper assistive solutions at least in some degree (see Table 6).
Table 6. An overview of different assistive IT solutions and their suitability for different impairments Cases Technological solution Special keyboards Keyguard off Enlarged keyboard Miniature keyboard Foot-operated mouse, pedal Mouse substitutes OCR scanner Voice input Touchscreen Switches + automated menus Explanation: ++ - essential + - recommended, useful 0 - neutral, no effect - not suitable, negative effect ? - depends on circumstances ++ ++ +? 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ++ ++ + +? + + + + + + + + ++ +? ++? 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ++ ++ + + ++ ++ + + + ++ + ++ + + +? + +? Melvin Ike Henry + 0 0 revIewed Tina Jack Gert Ellie Greta Mark Marge ++? + 0 0 +? 0 ++ 0 0 0 + ++ + + +? +?
Key combinations switched +
Perhaps the best evidence of importance of (information) technology is seen when to compare the cases of Melvin and Tina. The nature of their impairment is comparable, Melvin being a bit more influenced by it. However, the fact that Melvin has been actively using IT for about five years shows in many ways – besides purely professional skills, it has contributed to the development of his character as well. The effect of IT is also evident in Ike’s and Henry’s cases. There is an important point to be seen in the cases revised – although the direct accessibility solutions are important (and in some other cases, vital), the role of IT and especially the Internet as tools for indirect accessibility are often the key to integration. While their influence is especially strong in Melvin’s case, the use (or in Tina’s case, also lack) of IT has remarkable effect on a person with disabilities – especially in Estonia, where many possibilities available for people with disabilities in Western Europe or the U.S. are still not present. Therefore, IT and the Internet can well be an important tool for breaking the ”black scenario” circle - see Figure 15 as opposed to Figure 2. Note that although only the Internet is specifically mentioned in Figure 15, it is practically inseparable from IT as its foundation.
Figure 15. Breaking the circle - potential influence of the Internet for people with disabilities
9. Recommendations for Estonia
Using IT and the Internet in rehabilitation and integration is still a relatively new idea for most Estonian people with disabilities and even rehabilitation professionals. There are objective reasons (mainly economical, as the technology is expensive and not yet locally available), but also lack of proper knowledge plays a role here. As already mentioned, Internet as an empowerment measure needs a wider foundation in general IT solutions (e.g. to connect home-based people with disabilities to the Internet and launch the positive processes described in Chapter 7, general IT solutions are also needed). Therefore, to promote use of IT and the Internet as rehabilitation and empowerment measures in Estonia, the following steps should be taken.
9.1. Spreading the knowledge
Wider dissemination of information requires the cooperation of several branches of society media, educational and medical/rehabilitation facilities, private firms and government. Large fairs and exhibitions are annually held in Estonia to promote a wide variety of goods or services (Kompuuter fair for IT, Motorex for transportation and vehicles etc). Some attempts on introducing special IT and accessible solutions have already been made recently – these activities should become regular. Also people with disabilities themselves and disability organizations have an important role in knowledge dissemination (an example of such an activity is the survey described in Chapter 6, which was largely carried out with the help of different disability organizations and facilities).
9.2. ”Does it pay?” - import and production of assistive IT solutions
Assistive IT as a production article is very special by nature, thus many assistive IT providers work either on non-profit basis (e.g. Arkenstone) or are divisions of large companies (e.g. Apple Disability Connection) which support assistive IT projects. This means that assistive IT solutions are generally not treated as ordinary commercial products, but rather as borderline projects which are expected to cover (at least partially) the expenses but not generate extensive profit. Analyzing the chances of assistive IT production in Estonia, the following features can be distinguished: The Estonian market is small, thus the project could be more successful if there are channels to neighbouring countries (especially Russia, other Baltic states and former Communist countries, but maybe also Northern Europe). The business orientation (profit expectation etc.) should be of lesser importance, as the success would be largely unpredictable – there should be backup funds which guarantee the basic coverage for the project period even when the financial outcome is negative. This means that financial support is probably needed both on the state and interernational level.
The living standard and purchasing power of the population is much lower than in Western Europe or the U.S. Thus, some state-level support mechanisms (special funding, discounts etc.) should also be established to make the solutions available for people. The choice of produced assistive solutions should be well planned, with less stress on expensive high-tech solutions and strictly language-dependent ones (which are usable only for Estonians) and more on simpler all-round hardware (keyguards, switches, maybe keyboards, mice and joysticks) and software (especially packages which have double function – e.g. some educational packages can be successfully used both for teaching children and people with mental impairments). For example, many of the solutions necessary for people reviewed in the case study (see Chapter 5) could be produced in Estonia.
For importing special solutions, two possible ways can be pointed out. First, it can be done in a centralized manner (as a separate project), when the state and/or the other participants of the project choose necessary products, carry out the purchase and delivery to those in need. This way implies the great role of state and central government. The second possibility is to create state-backed incentives for local firms in order to encourage import of assistive technology (financial support, tax discounts/exemptions etc).
9.3. Acquiring the technology
There are many questions to be answered in this step. What to get? From where? How expensive is it? Where is the nearest location to get it? Can this solution be provided in Estonia too? Almost all assistive solutions for people with disabilities currently available in Estonia are not marketed here (nothing is available from IT solutions). Most high-technology assistive solutions should be imported from the U.S., although some of manufactures have European branches and there is a smaller number of European manufacturers (e.g. Siemens). This along with the high USD-EEK (also other main foreign currencies) exchange rate often raises the costs too high to be realistic for Estonians to obtain. Therefore, Estonian government should pay more attention to local production opportunities. Due to the small size of Estonian market, incentives should be established for companies to promote production and import of assistive technology. The sales should be subsidized by state if necessary, but this should be done on case basis (at first, subsidies are probably needed for most cases). At the moment, the only way to obtain assistive IT in Estonia is via international projects, as the expenses would generally be too high to cover locally. It can be seen that international support may retain its importance in this matter in the future as well, but the local measures should develop to be much more effective than they currently are.
9.4. Technical counselling and support
A network of consultation points should be established throughout the country in order to provide necessary information and counsel concerning assistive technology. These facilities could be integrated with existing educational and/or rehabilitation facilities (University of Tartu, Tallinn Technical University, Narva College etc.) and act as the “first aid” providers in assistive technology matters. When the problem cannot be solved at place, either local or international experts are contacted (especially via the Internet). These points can also act as libraries of know-how on assistive technology. Along with the national Tiger Leap IT programme, numerous public IT/Internet points have been opened all over Estonia. These points could also be connected into the consultation network, allowing maximum number of people to acquire information.
9.5. The Internet
The development of the Internet has been quite rapid in Estonia. The following data about the recent use of the Internet in Estonia is available from Baltic Media Facts 1997 survey: 10% from all inhabitants of Estonia, aged between 15 and 74 and 36% from all users of computer have used the Internet during last 6 months - it's about 116 thousand persons. Comparing this result with February survey shows that number of the Internet users have significantly grown – from 6% to 10% of Estonian population - it is growth about 73% (Mölder, 1998; see also Figure 16).
Figure 16. 1998)
The number of computers connected to the Internet in Estonia May 1992 – March 1998 (Mölder,
On the background of the favourable situation described above, the results of the survey (see Chapter 6) regarding the Internet show at least some room for development. The Internet is not affordable for many people yet (the absolute majority of the respondents who used the Internet did not pay for this by themselves while those who did regarded it too expensive). In this situation, more attention should be turned to accessibility of public Internet access.
Until recently, most of the public Internet sites were designed without any accessibility considerations. The recent ones are striving to follow the guidelines, but there is still no assistive technology available for users with disabilities. Also the university computer classrooms have neither access features nor assistive solutions available. This has once again created a situation where disability becomes a serious obstacle in communication (see also Kikkas, 1998). The solution could be in providing maximum physical access to existing workstations both in educational facilities and public sites and acquiring at least one assistive technology set per facility. Sites opened in the future should already follow the basic accessibility guidelines and be equipped with at least some assistive solutions. Another possible way to reach people with disabilities in remote locations is to equip existing network of disability organizations with up-to-date IT solutions, thus turning them into complementary Internet points. Finally, as the absolute majority of respondents in the survey supported the idea of free Internet for people with serious impairments and regarded it to be a high priority, this solution should also be taken into account as a possible option. All the possible scenarios still seem to depend on economical factors, therefore they are likely to be implemented by larger international projects.
In order to make full use of the Internet as a rehabilitation and empowerment measure, the role of general IT along with special assistive IT solutions shall also be taken into account. The promotion of assistive IT in Estonia takes large-scale international programmes and external aid - currently, these solutions are typically much too expensive to be obtained even by smaller organizations. However, these steps should be taken, as IT and high-end technology have proved themselves as one of the most efficient ways to enable people with disabilities to become independent and participating society members. Possible steps include: Participating in international cooperation and technology programmes in order to acquire assistive technology. Awareness raising. Creating incentives for local companies to manufacture and import assistive technology. While the importance of the Internet as an empowerment device is understood in most Western countries which generally have developed also otherwise accessible societies – in Estonian current situation with many locations and services being yet inaccessible, the role of general communication measures including the Internet becomes a vital one for people with disabilities. Possible steps include: Connecting the disability-related NGO’s, social and medical facilities into the network (a separate subnetwork like HandyNet in the U.S. or Disability Net in the U.K. is well worth considering). 75
Providing relevant training to specialists and propagating new possibilites offered by networking. Launching a national program to provide home computers with network connection to people with serious disabilities who are still stuck in home (especially in remote locations). A possible option is to run a campaign to collect used computers (that are dismissed in firms and replaced by newer models) for this purpose.
Final conclusions and results of the thesis
The Internet and telecommunication do have many uses for people with disabilities, and in some circumstances they also have strong integration and empowerment potential. The case study in this thesis proves that the accessibility situation for people with mobility impairments in Estonia is still inadequate. While creating accessible environment remains as a first priority, the Internet offers some complementary and sometimes compensatory features like distance learning and telework. In Estonia, education and employment of people with disabilities need cardinal changes. Again, all traditional means of education and work should be made accessible also for people with disabilities, but they can be complemented by distance methods. The survey and case study indicated the need for distance studies and employment, which should receive more attention from the society and also from the state. The development of the Internet has been swift during last years, making it possible to create new ways of interaction, education and employment for people with disabilities. To fully utilize this, additional research and activities are needed in Estonia in this field. There could be a nationwide integration program for people with disabilities using the Internet, featuring virtual education and employment facilities. The project should be run in cooperation of state, NGO-s, local authorities and various experts (research, educational and social security facilities). The main results of the thesis are the following: 1) Opening a new field for future research - the role of the Internet as an empowerment measure for people with disabilities is not very widely recognized yet, and this thesis is to act as a starting point for future studies in this field. 2) Creation of a new connection between two research fields of IT and disability/integration issues. While both sectors are present in Estonia, this thesis combines the technical background of IT and the Internet with a more social approach. 3) Recognization of the special features and processes evident in transition society which put a particular emphasis on the potential use of the Internet in the inclusion of people with disabilities. 4) Determination of the empowering and rehabilitation features in different categories and services of the Internet, especially in distance learning and telework. 5) Determination of the potential and real role of IT and the Internet in Estonia, formulation of conclusions and recommendations for Estonian context.
The primary aim of this thesis is to determine the role and possible future developments of the Internet in rehabilitation and integration of people with mobility impairments in Estonia. Ample background information concerning national issues is also provided, as well as overview of the Internet and assistive solutions in information technology. The central topic is compensatory role of the Internet for people with mobility impairments living in a largely inaccessible transition society. The statements are illustrated with a case study of ten people with different impairment and background. The study is also supported by results of a survey of IT and the Internet use by people with mobility impairments. The additional topics include analysis of changes in education and employment (as they influence people with disabilities), some scenarios for future and also practical recommendations concerning public image, legal positions, education and employment of people with disabilities in Estonia.
Käesoleva töö põhieesmärgiks on Interneti rolli ning tulevaste arengusuundade ja -võimaluste määratlemine puuetega inimeste integratsioonis. Erilist tähelepanu on seejuures pööratud Eesti oludele ja siinsetele eripäradele, alates põhjalikust taustakäsitlusest liikumispuudega inimeste sotsiaalse olukorra, hariduse ja tööhõive vallas ning lõpetades konkreetsete soovitustega Eesti olukorra parandamiseks. Töö sisaldab Eesti liikumispuudega inimeste seast valitud 10 isikujuhtumi kirjeldusi ning analüüsi mitmest vaatenurgast (sotsiaalne roll, haridus, tööhõive, tehnolooga). Lisaks isikujuhtumitele tuuakse ära ka autori poolt 1999. aasta aprillis Eesti puuetega inimeste seas läbiviidud ankeetküsitluse "Liikumispuudega inimene, arvuti ja Internet" tulemused ja nende analüüs. Peamiseks lähtehüpoteesiks on võetud Interneti suur kasutegur liikumispuuetega inimeste jaoks ning Interneti kompensatoorne roll - Internet võimaldab ühiskonna eri valdkondadele ligipääsu ka nendele inimestele, kelle jaoks on ühiskond seniajani jäänud mitmete barjääride taha. Nagu aga tööst nähtub, on Internet väga efektiivne vahend barjääride eemaldamiseks. Käsitlus hõlmab nii otseselt olukorra parandamisele suunatud rakendusi (võrgupõhine kaugõpe ja kaugtöö) kui ka Interneti kaudset positiivset mõju (võrgusuhtluse psühholoogiline erinevus tavasuhtlusest, puude kui fenomeni tähtsuse vähenemine võrgusuhtluses). Üheks käesoleva töö peamiseks tulemuseks on ka Eesti oludest lähtuvate protsesside uurimine ja laiendamine kogu endise idabloki maadele, kus eri autorite töödest nähtuvalt on esinenud analoogilisi ühiskondlikke nähtusi. Lisaks leitakse, et just piiratud ressurssidega Ida-Euroopa maade jaoks on puuetega inimeste integratsioon eluliselt tähtis temaatika ning et just olemasolevates tingimustes tuleks puuetega inimestele mõeldud Interneti-teenuste arendamisele osutada erilist tähelepanu. Töö peamised tulemused on järgmised: 1) Uue uurimisvaldkonna avamine - Interneti kompensatoorset rolli puuetega inimeste jaoks on senini vähe uuritud. 2) Kahe Eestis esindatud teadusvaldkonna - infotehnoloogia ning sotsiaalteaduste (näiteks eripedagoogika ja sotsiaalpoliitika) - ühisosa projitseerimine liikumispuudega inimeste problemaatikale ja vastavate lahenduste väljatöötamisele. 3) Üleminekuühiskonnas esinevate ühiskondlike protsesside määratlemine, mis tingivad just Interneti suure potentsiaali puuetega inimeste integratsiooni vahendina. 4) Interneti eri aspektide ja teenuste kompensatoorsete rollide ja võimaluste määratlemine, eriti puuetega inimeste hariduse ja tööhõive osas. 5) Infotehnoloogia ja Interneti potentsiaalse ja tegeliku rolli määratlemine Eesti puuetega inimeste jaoks, järelduste tegemine ja soovituste sõnastamine. 78
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Publications by the author of the thesis
KIKKAS, K. Puuetega inimesed ja infotehnoloogia (People with disabilities and information technology). A Master's Thesis. Tallinn Technical University, 1994. KIKKAS, K. Puuetega inimesed ja infotehnoloogia – Mis? Kuidas? Miks? (People with disabilities and information technology - What? How? Why?) Tallinn 1995. KIKKAS, K. Infotehnoloogiasõnastik eripedagoogidele (IT lexicon for SEN specialists). Tallinn 1998
International conferences: KIKKAS, K. Infotehnoloogia ja Interneti roll puuetega inimeste tööhõives (The role of IT and the Internet in the employment of people with disabilities). Valik piirkondlike seminaride ja rahvusvahelise konverentsi ettekandeid ja sõnavõtte. Euroopa Liidu PHARE Consensus programm, Tallinn, 1998 KIKKAS K. Infotehnoloogia võimalused puuetega inimeste hariduses (Possibilities of IT in the education of people with disabilities). Telemaatika 98 konverentsi materjalid. Tartu, 1999 KIKKAS K. Interneti võimalustest puuetega inimeste integratsioonis (Of the possibilities of the Internet in the integration of people with disabilities). Euroopa Liidu PHARE Consensus programm, Tallinn, 1999 (accepted for publication) To be published: KIKKAS K. Virtual way over real obstacles – people with disabilities, Internet and Estonia. Rehabilitation International, ICTA ’99 Conference in Tallinn. Conference publications (presented in 26.04.99; initially accepted for publication, but no written receipt)
Articles: KIKKAS, K. Puuetega inimesed ja infoühiskond: erivajadused ja erilahendused (People with disabilities and the information society: special needs and special solutions). A & A, Nr. 1, 1999
KIKKAS, K. Mitte tehisreaalsus, vaid uus reaalsus: puuetega inimesed infoühiskonnas (New reality rather than virtual reality: people with disabilities in the information society). A & A, Nr. 1, 1999 KIKKAS, K. Puuetest saab üle (Disability can be overcome). Arvutimaailm, Nr. 6, 1998 KIKKAS, K. Puuetega inimestest, Eesti ühiskonnast ja infotehnoloogiast (Of people with disabilities, Estonian society and IT). Sotsiaaltöö, Nr. 3, 1998. KIKKAS, K. Vaba mees ratastoolis (Free man in a wheelchair). Arvutimaailm, Nr. 1, 1997 KIKKAS, K: WWW ja puuetega kasutajad (WWW and users with disabilities). Arvutustehnika ja andmetöötlus, Nr. 1, 1997 KIKKAS, K. Internet kui suur võrdsustaja (The Internet as a great equalizer). TELE 97 haridustehnoloogiamessi Erivajaduste Keskuse publikatsioon. Tallinn, 1997. KIKKAS, K. Puuetega inimene küberruumis (Person with a disability in the cyberspace). Eesti Ekspress, 21. november 1997.
Teaching materials: KIKKAS, K. WWW ja HTML: Abiks algajale võrguhuvilisele (WWW and HTML: Help for a novice netizen). TTÜ Kirjastus, 1997. KIKKAS, K. WWW-suunnittelu vammaiskäyttöön (WWW design for disabilities). Metoodiline materjal Jyväskylä Haukkaranta puuetega laste koolile (käsikirjaline, mõeldud kooli WWW jaoks). Jyväskylä, 1997.
Appendix A. Summary of Americans With Disabilities Act
Employment (Title I) Business must provide reasonable accommodations to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment. Possible changes may include restructuring jobs, altering the layout of workstations, or modifying equipment. Employment aspects may include the application process, hiring, wages, benefits, and all other aspects of employment. Medical examinations are highly regulated. Public Services (Title II) Public services, which include state and local government instrumentalities, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and other commuter authorities, cannot deny services to people with disabilities participation in programs or activities which are available to people without disabilities. In addition, public transportation systems, such as public transit buses, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Public Accommodations (Title III) All new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed if readily achievable. Public accommodations include facilities such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, retail stores, etc., as well as privately owned transportation systems. Telecommunications (Title IV) Telecommunications companies offering telephone service to the general public must have telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or similar devices. Miscellaneous (Title V) Includes a provision prohibiting either (a) coercing or threatening or (b) retaliating against the disabled or those attempting to aid people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA. The ADA's protection applies primarily, but not exclusively, to "disabled" individuals. An individual is "disabled" if he or she meets at least any one of the following tests: He or she is substantially impaired with respect to a major life activity. He or she has a record of such an impairment He or she is regarded as having such an impairment. Other individuals who are protected in certain circumstances include 1) those, such as parents, who have an association with an individual known to have a disability, and 2) those who are coerced or subjected to retaliation for assisting people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA. While the employment provisions of the ADA apply to employers of fifteen employees or more, its public accommodations provisions apply to all sizes of business, regardless of number of employees. State and local governments are covered regardless of size.
Appendix B. disabilities
Excerpts from Estonian current legislation concerning
1. ”Families with many children and the disabled shall be entitled to special care by state and local authorities”. (Estonian Constitution; ch. II, Art. 29). 2. “The local authorities shall… keep records of disabled persons and organize their schooling” (Estonian Law on Education; ch. II, §7, Art. 2.11) 3. “Depending on the need for students to receive special instruction, assistance, or conditions, for education or treatment, a basic or upper secondary school may be a special school for the handicapped or a sanatorium school. A special school for the handicapped shall be for students with physical, speech, sensory or mental disabilities, as well as for students requiring special conditions for their education.” (The Estonian Law on Basic and Upper Secondary Schools; chapter 1, §4, art. 1-2
Appendix C. People with mobility impairment, IT and the Internet survey in Estonia in April 1999 – questionnaire and results
Method of response: Total number of responses: 1. When did you hear more thoroughly about IT for the first time? A B 14 C D E 2. less than a year ago 1 - 3 years ago 3 - 10 years ago more than 10 years ago not answered 0 0 8 15 5 0 6 26 12 E-mail Paper Total 26 26 52
How great is in your opinion the importance of IT in improving the situation of people with disabilities and their integration to society? A B C D E F very small small average great very great not answered 1 2 4 8 11 0 0 5 12 9 1 2 9 20 20
How do you estimate your proficiency in IT? A B C D E F no knowledge about that some knowledge decent knowledge good knowledge expert knowledge not answered 0 13 9 3 1 2 17 4 1 2 2 30 13 4 3
NB! If A was chosen, go to question 12. 87
Respondents with some IT knowledge: 4. When did you use IT for the first time? A B 18 C D E 5. less than a year ago 1 - 3 years ago 3 - 10 years ago more than 10 years ago not answered 0 1 8 12 2 1 1 10 27 4 2
15 2 1
Please check ALL the tasks you use IT for A B C D E F G H I J 5 K word processing spreadsheets graphics data processing, databases programming system design Internet WWW design Leisure (games, MUD, talkers) Other (please specify) not answered 23 19 10 6 2 0 24 10 18 22 18 10 9 3 2 8 3 18 4 1 45 37 20 15 5 2 32 13 36 1 1
Do you have a computer A 15 B C D at work/school at home at work/school and at home nowhere 3 10 2 11 8 6 8 4 11 16 10
How many hours a week (average) do you use IT? A B C D E F less than 3 hrs 3 - 10 hrs 10 - 20 hrs 20 - 30 hrs more than 30 hrs not answered 3 4 3 7 8 1 6 4 7 0 4 3 9 8 10 7 13 4
Does your job require IT skills? A yes 88 19 15 34
B C 9.
no not answered
Do your IT skills influence your salary? A B C yes no not answered 9 16 1 7 10 9 16 26 10
Do you use any assistive devices (special keyboard etc)? A B C yes no not answered 3 22 1 0 22 4 3 44 5
Would you like to use assistive devices? A B C yes no not answered 8 17 1 5 17 4 13 34 5
Go to question 15. Respondents with no IT knowledge: 12. Does your impairment allow you to use regular IT? A B C D 13. yes yes, but I'd prefer some assistive devices no, I need some assistive devices not answered 0 0 0 26 2 0 0 24 2 0 0 50
How much has your impairment caused lack of IT training? A B C D the impairment is unimportant the impairment has disturbed learning the impairment is the main reason not answered 0 0 0 26 2 0 0 24 2 0 0 50
Would IT skills have any influence on your employment? A yes 89 0 2 2
B C 15.
no not answered
Do people with disabilities have enough possibilities to learn IT? A B C yes no not answered 8 17 1 4 22 0 12 39 1
16. Would your employer condone your participation in an IT course for people with disabilities? A B C 17. yes no not answered 14 8 4 11 8 7 25 16 11
Have you taken part in any IT course for people with disabilities? A B yes no 10 16 14 12 24 28
Could you afford a private PC? A B C D E yes, surely yes, but with effort not quite impossible not answered 3 3 9 10 1 1 5 6 13 1 4 8 15 23 2
Internet: 19. When did you hear more thoroughly about the Internet for the first time? A B 18 C D E 20. less than a year ago 1 - 3 years ago 3 - 10 years ago more than 10 years ago not answered 1 3 7 12 0 4 11 29 1
How do you estimate your proficiency in the Internet? A B no knowledge about that some knowledge 90 0 14 6 16 6 30
C D E
decent knowledge good knowledge expert knowledge
6 4 2
1 0 3
7 4 5
NB! If A was chosen, go to question 36
When did you use the Internet for the first time? A B 18 C D E less than a year ago 1 - 3 years ago 3 - 10 years ago more than 10 years ago not answered 3 9 12 2 0 9 12 6 12 1 9
10 1 0
Please check ALL the tasks you use the Internet for A B C D E F G H 3 I E-mail the Web (WWW) file transfer (FTP) remote use (telnet) WWW design server administration Leisure (MUD, talkers) Other (please specify) not answered 24 19 6 10 7 2 14 6 15 4 3 7 2 12 2 3 30 34 10 13 14 4 26 1 3
Do you have an Internet connection A 20 B C D E at work/school at home at work/school and at home nowhere not answered 3 8 0 2 13 3 2 4 10 7 6 10 4 12
Do you use A fixed line 91 15 1 16
B 14 C D 25.
dial-up both (e.g. fixed line at work + dial-up at home) not answered 3 0
7 1 18
7 4 18
Do you pay yourself for your connection? A B C yes no not answered 7 19 0 4 10 12 11 29 12
If the previous was "yes", how would you estimate the price? A B C D E alright a bit too much too expensive I have to give it up because of costs not answered 1 4 2 0 19 0 1 3 0 22 1 5 5 0 41
How many hours a week (average) do you use the Internet? A B C D E F less than 3 hrs 3 - 10 hrs 10 - 20 hrs 20 - 30 hrs more than 30 hrs not answered 5 11 1 5 4 0 8 4 1 1 0 12 13 15 2 6 4 12
Does your job require Internet skills?
A B C 29.
yes no not answered
14 11 1
7 7 12
21 18 13
Do your Internet skills influence your salary? A B C yes no not answered 1 24 1 6 7 13 7 31 14
How important is the role of the Internet in your interaction with other people? A B very small small 92 0 5 9 1 9 6
C D E F 31.
average great very great not answered
8 7 6 0
5 1 0 10
13 8 6 10
Does your impairment influence your interaction with other people in the real life? A no 10 6 16 B little 8 8 16 C yes 8 3 11 D not answered 0 9 9 Does your impairment influence your interaction with other people over the Internet? A no 20 17 B little 6 0 C yes 0 0 D not answered 0 9 How do you estimate the influence of the Internet on your communication skills? A B C D none small substantial not answered 8 15 3 0 9 5 2 10 37 6 0 9
17 20 5 10
34. If you had an unlimited connection, which are the most interesting uses of the Internet for you? A B C D E F G H I J K communication, letters, contacts possibilities to study possibilities to work various operations virtual shopping virtual travels news information retrieval acquiring software other (please specify) not answered 19 15 11 13 4 3 14 13 11 3 1 12 11 14 9 6 8 12 14 8 1 2 31 26 25 22 10 11 26 27 19 4 3
35. Please comment on the idea: "Every person with profound handicap (Group 1) should be entitled to a free Internet connection": A B C D not necessary good idea, but there are more important things very important not answered 93 1 1 0 0 7 24 9 1 8 10 9
Personal information: 36. Age A B C D E 37. Gender A B 38. female male 7 19 13 13 20 32 less than 16 16-25 25-35 35-55 over 55 4 11 7 3 1 0 4 12 9 1 4 15 19 12 2
Education A B C D E F basic secondary secondary vocational higher Master's or higher degree not answered 15 6 2 3 0 0 4 11 7 1 0 1 19 17 9 4 0 1
Cause of impairment A B C D E F G H I cerebral paralysis amputation traumatic paralysis sclerosis multiplex muscular disorders polio arthritis other (please specify) not answered 10 2 5 1 1 0 0 7 0 3 2 10 0 0 0 1 7 3 13 4 15 1 1 0 1 14 3
Occupation A B 1 C 2 D E pupil student worker clerk agricultural worker 94 2 0 14 6 1 1 4 0 20 0 1 6 0
F G H I J K L 41.
private entrepreneur specialist mid-level official CEO unemployed retired other (please specify)
0 1 4 1 0 0 2
1 3 0 0 8 1 2
1 4 4 1 8 1 4
Monthly income A B C D E 0 F less than 500 EEK 500 - 1000 EEK 1000 - 4000 EEK 4000 - 10000 EEK more than 10000 EEK not answered 5 3 12 2 1 10 13 0 0 2 6 13 25 2 0 6
Location A 16 B C D E Tallinn Tartu other city smaller town, countryside not answered 5 7 5 2 7 1 3 8 5 9 6 10 13 7
Appendix D. Overview of projects carried out or participated in by the author of the thesis 1. Curriculum preparation and IT counselling for Astangu Rehabilitation and Training Centre in Tallinn
Period: 1994 – 1997 The project involved preparation of curricula in IT for a totally new type of social facility which was to be the first complex implementation of social inclusion ideas in Estonia, involving various aspects of rehabilitation as well as professional training and independent living courses. IT was viewed as one of the main channels to achieve greater participation in society for people with disabilities. Initially, the general scheme of professional IT training was designed as follows (giving also some sample professions):
COMPUTER-AIDED COMMUNICATION - network operator - network technician - network manager
DATA PROCESSING - operator - programmer - systems engineer MULTIMEDIA various specializations in - educational software - audio-video computer animation etc ACCESSIBILITY SOLUTIONS - accessibility consultant - special systems engineer
BUSINESS GRAPHICS - DTP - artist - designer TECHNICAL GRAPHICS, CAD - CAD constructor - architect
BASIC COURSE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
ECONOMICS - salesman - marketing specialist - bookkeeper - information manager
OFFICE WORK - typist, office assistant - secretary - bookkeeper
Figure A. The projected fields of study at Astangu RTC
The first subgroups were to be data processing and office work, which were chosen for their actuality in Estonian reality on one hand and the more moderate technological needs (when compared to multimedia or CAD). For these groups, detailed curricula was compiled which has since then put into active use in Astangu. Due to the implementation of only two subgroups of the planned six, some features from other groups were added to the two, somewhat changing their original profile.
The following is the original version of the curricula, which was later only slightly modified and is still used in Astangu. The optimal length of the curricula is two years/four terms, each term lasting 20 weeks (the number of study weeks was changed later). When two different numbers are given, the first one is for the data processing students and the second for office work group. General subjects: Subject Term Hours per week 2 4 4 4 2 2 2 2 2 2 Hours total 80 160 240 160 160 40 40 40 40 40
Estonian 1,2 Mathematics 1,2 English 1,2,3 2nd foreign language 2,3 Physical education 1,2,3,4 Culture studies 2 History of technology 1 Philosophy 4 Psychology 3 Business communication and etiquette 3 Computer science/IT (A-subjects): IT basic course 1 Software packages 2 Operating systems and user interfaces 2 Programming 2,3 Word processing 2 Spreadsheets 2 Computer graphics 3 Databases 4 Networking 3 Information systems (basics of systems design) 3,4 Systems maintenance 3,4 Practice in an IT company 4
15 4 2 2 2 2 4 2 2 4/0 4/0 17/0
300 80 40 40 40 40 80 40 40 160/0 160/0 340/0
Office work and economics (B-subjects): Basic course of economics Organization and
6 (term 1), 4 (term 2) 200 97
legislation Office work management Bookkeeping Office technology Office practice
3 2 4 2 4
4 2/6 4 1 21/0
80 40/120 80 20 420/0
Optional subjects (samples only): 3rd foreign language (German, French, Russian, Swedish) Advanced programming Electronics Marketing Accessible technology
2. A Monograph “People with Disabilities and Information Technology – What? How? Why?”
Year: 1995 Based on the Master thesis of the author, this paper has been regarded the first (and still almost only) book written in Estonian language to discuss the role of IT in rehabilitation of people with disabilities. The book was released with the support of Astangu Rehabilitation and Training Centre, where many of the ideas from the book were put into practice. The book covers a wide range of topics from the general situation of people with disabilities in Estonia that time to the specific hardware and software solutions along with relevant methodology. 80 pp.
3. Preparation and realization of two special courses about accessibility in TTU
Period: 1995-96 The courses “Disabilities and accessibility” and “Accessible IT” were prepared in summer 1995. The former was designed for a wide range of students in TTU, aiming to promote awareness of the situation in public accessibility as well as to provide some solutions. The latter was targeted to hardware and software specialists to provide knowledge of different assistive solutions in hardware and software. The courses were a partial failure - although generating a couple of outstanding results by students, the general attendance was very low (also due to prejudices) and the courses have not been held actively since then (although they are still available).
4. TEMPUS SJEP 9523 “A New Structure for Training Special Educational Needs Teachers in Estonia” - Coordination of IT-related activities
Period: 1996-1998 The objective of the three-year project is the restructuring of the teacher education courses in the Department of Special Education at the University of Tartu, at the other relevant teacher training units at the University of Tartu and the consequent reconsideration of the teacher education courses at the of Tallinn Pedagogical University, at the Tartu and Narva Teacher Training Colleges, cooperating with the Institute of Informatics of Tallinn Technical University in the areas of IT as a means of communication in teacher training and as a means of communication and learning for the persons with special needs. The Rehabilitation Technology Laboratory acted as the main IT Coordinator, carrying out the training activities (three summer schools were held at the end of every project year, which always contained also some IT presentation and training sessions), advising project participants in obtaining new technology and counselling in current matters regarding IT.
5. Apollos server project – the first Internet project dedicated to disability issues in Estonia
Period: Since 1996 The idea of a special network server emerged actually at the beginning of nineties already, but its realisation did not become possible before 1996. First, the server was run on a modest P100 machine and maintained on a hobby basis. However, the first release of Apollos WWW system was noteworthy not only for the wide range of information (the WWW was given a shape of a “virtual city” with various facilities) collected there, but also for being the first Estonian server where disability-friendly WWW design was systematically used. From the very beginning, the web system was bilingual, but avoided mixing two languages in one page – almost every page had two versions (see Figure B). Apollos got a major acknowledgement in December 1996, winning the Mihkel Award of the Board of People with Disabilities at the Ministry of Social Affairs (the annual award is given to people or projects contributing most to the improvement of situation of people with disabilities in Estonia). Since 1997, Apollos features also a text-based talker (or chat room) system – The Old Town -, which is noted by its unique atmosphere in Estonian Internet community. Being maintained by a man with serious mobility impairment, the talker and people in it have always welcomed people with disabilities among them.
Although hindered by unsure circumstances and lack of resources, the project has been relatively successful in raising awareness about disabilities, but also as a means of practical assistance for Estonian people with disabilities (see also Section 9).
Figure B. Current layout of Apollos – since the end of 1997
6. The Rehabilitation Technology Laboratory at TTU
Period: Since the end of 1996 The efforts towards establishing a special research and counselling unit for disability and assistive technology research have made since 1994. While there is a number of practical results achieved, the Rehabilitation Technology Laboratory (shortly RehabTech) is still in its half-official stage – the premises and minimum maintenance is provided by the University, but it has not been given the status of officially recognized research unit. However, there is a strong chance to emerge into an official research centre under the University. The rebuilt premises of the Laboratory at the IT Centre of the University are practically the only wheelchair accessible location in the whole TTU. The general objectives of the laboratory include: Further stressing the position of people with special needs as full members of society (by media etc) Technical and methodical consulting for people with special needs and the support personnel Various scientific and research activities in rehab technology field Consulting of educational, medical and scientific facilities in Estonia 100
Collecting and systematizing new rehabilitational product ideas and proposing them to possible industrial producers Influencing creation and development of legislation concerning minorities, especially people with special needs Establishing of a special data bank for rehab and special education solutions.
7. Project Steeplechase
Period: September-December 1997 The task of this project was to map the accessibility of public places in Tallinn and promote the public access ideas over the Internet by means of special WWW pages. The wheelchair accessibility of different public places (including the city hall, main shopping centres etc) were reviewed and given either a positive or negative opinion. The Steeplechase project was organized by RehabTech and carried out by a young researcher who uses wheelchair himself. The project was noted also by the press (Õhtuleht newspaper).
8. Tiger Leap Project – accessibility counselling
Period: Since 1997 The Tiger Leap is Estonian national programme of computerization of education ( HYPERLINK http://www.tiigrihype.ee http://www.tiigrihype.ee ). A separate branch is established to organize annual fair-type education and technology event – Tigervision ( HYPERLINK http://www.tigervision.ee) http://www.tigervision.ee ). In 1997, the cooperation with RehabTech resulted in the formation of the Special Needs Centre at the event to counsel people with disabilities as well as specialists of this field. In 1998, The Tiger Leap Foundation has been counselled in order to provide special IT solutions for special schools for children with disabilities in Estonia.
9. Internet for disability organizations
Period: January-May 1998 The objective of this project was to provide Internet connection to four disability organizations in Tallinn. The installation works were financed by sponsors. Microlink Online (a major ISP in Tallinn) agreed to provide free connection through its channels to RehabTech’s server (Apollos), where the accounts reside. Besides the provision of server, RehabTech acted as a representative of the customer and project manager.
10. IT lexicon for SEN specialists
Year: 1998 The lexicon is designed to enhance IT and especially assistive technology knowledge for special educators and other specialists working with people with disabilities. The book is written for professionals in SEN who do not have professional computer skills but want to 101
obtain basic and intermediate knowledge in this field. The topics covered are software, hardware, assistive solutions, disabilities (from assistive technology viewpoint) etc. The lexicon also contains English-Estonian and Estonian-English translations for all the keywords. 62 illustrations, 148 pp.
11. IT Course for people with disabilities
Year: 1998 The aim of the project to give people with disabilities better competitive edge in labour market by providing IT skills. The project included two one-week general IT courses (office software, operating systems basics etc.) for beginners and one one-week systems maintenance course (networking, graphics, IT system management) for advanced trainees. The project also covered purchase of an assistive IT set which at that time was the first of its kind in Estonia. The project was financed by the Open Estonia Foundation.
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