Developing knowledge together: Involving people with disabilities in education using webcam

Laraine Epstein, Gill Ward, Darren Awang

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    Evidence suggests that many assistive technology users are profoundly disabled (Hart, Buchofer & Vaccaro 2004, Petersson et al 2005) therefore involvement in the traditional class/lecture based approach to education can be demanding, particularly if transportation, communication systems and environment create additional barriers. This paper presentation will reflect on the process of involving people with disabilities in the education of undergraduate occupational therapy students studying an Assistive Technology AT) module. It will reflect on the use of webcams to enable students and disabled people to communicate and evaluates the process from both perspectives. Key findings identified positive aspects of involving people with disabilities, technical issues and training needs. This problem-based module focuses on facilitation of independence and choice through AT. Disabled volunteers share written case studies outlining specific difficulties for students to solve through investigating potential AT solutions. Mid-point, questions from students are emailed to the volunteers and towards the end, webcam discussions pose further questions to the volunteers. Data was gathered from the students via a module evaluation and by email from the volunteers. The key findings were; students valued access to "expert" users and engagement with "real people" in an educational environment, they appreciated opportunities to expand and clarify information. However additional less structured webcam opportunities were requested, whilst poor audiovisuals affected the experience. Volunteers enjoyed working with students and contributing to education. Equipment was installed in their homes with assistance from a carer/helper and training was required, initial anxiety was caused, however the learning opportunity was valued. Training, funding for equipment and technical support plus mechanisms for payment of the volunteers requires attention by educators. In conclusion, this paper will be of interest to those in health & social care education who want to embrace inclusive teaching by improving accessibility for people with disabilities to future professionals through a flexible and convenient media.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Bibliographical note

    This paper was given at the 7th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2008; Agia Napa; Cyprus; 6 November 2008 through 7 November 2008. The paper is not yet available in the repository.


    • Assistive technology
    • Disabled people
    • Webcam


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