Making Assistive Technology Work for All
These days, new technologies are changing the way we relate to services. The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based products is spreading. Nevertheless, the advantages of technology do not always meet the needs of end users. One of the reasons behind this is the limited involvement of service users in the design, development, and testing of new technologies.
User participation is the purpose of Orientatech – an online platform developed by the Social Technologies Foundation (TECSOS) in collaboration with the Spanish Red Cross and the Vodafone Foundation. The main goal of this joint venture is to encourage end users’ contributions to all stages, while offering personalised support and guidance to vulnerable groups, such as older people or people with disabilities, before they decide to purchase devices and services.
“The project aims to become a meeting point for all actors in the social sector. A platform where end users can compare products and share their opinions; where manufacturers are able to advertise, improve and adapt their products; and where public authorities and professionals have a source to compare information”, says Carlos Capataz, director of Digital Technology Services at the Spanish Red Cross.
Who is involved?
Orientatech has three target groups. Firstly, end users, who are understood as both the recipients of the products and the social workers, caregivers and family members who take care of older people or people with disabilities. Secondly, manufacturer, who get a chance to test and improve their products before they reach the market. Finally, public authorities, that can collect information on the needs of end users and how technology helps to improve social assistance services.
How does it work?
Orientatech analyses ICT-based products that are oriented towards providing social assistance services. Firstly, these devices are analysed from two perspectives: 1) a technical verification carried out by personnel with technical knowledge in the application of ICTs devices’ in the social field (engineers, psychologists, and occupational therapists), and 2) a social validation performed by end users, mainly Red Cross volunteers and social workers. Following this, the ICT product is shared on the Orientatech database, with a short description which includes the tests performed, the conclusions, and a review of the highlights and potential improvements to be considered for end users. Since Orientatech was launched in 2017, Spanish Red Cross volunteers have carried out tests on technological devices that have directly impacted 700 people through workshops and face-to-face sessions.
What do users say?
Andrés Oteo decided to join the project when he learnt at his local branch that the Red Cross was looking for volunteers to test and validate new social technology devices. Andrés, who is blind, strongly believes the use of technology can ease in day-to-day life, for example by helping him to identify a product in the supermarket, or to find his way in a public building. Since first hearing about the project, Andrés knew he could support it by testing different applications and products for people with reduced or no vision. He believes Orientatech is an instrument that can change people’s lives and therefore wants to contribute his personal experience as much as possible. Thanks to the willingness of committed volunteers like Andrés and many others, the Spanish Red Cross and the Vodafone Foundation can continue to work to make this project a benchmark for end users and entities.
Spanish Red Cross
Examples of Red Cross ICT-based support services across Europe
Red Cross Societies in many European countries offer ICT-based assistance services to support independent living and emergency contact at home, including for older people, people with disabilities, or people threatened with gender-based violence. For examples, see:
Spanish Red Cross: Teleasistencia (in Spanish)
Portuguese Red Cross: Teleassistência (in Portuguese)
Austrian Red Cross: Pflege daheim - Rufhilfe (in German)
ACTIVAGE: European research and innovation project to advance smart living environments
As partners in a consortium of 49 organisations and institutions, Vodafone Foundation Spain and Spanish Red Cross also participate in ACTIVAGE, a European research and innovation project operating a large scale pilot in seven countries to advance the use and interconnectivity of assistive technology for new ways of providing care. Find out more on the ACTIVAGE website.