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New assistive tech channel? Answered

We're about to break out a new channel for assistive/adaptive tech projects, and other "disability hack" type of Instructables. 

The big question:  what do we call this channel, and what category do we sort it under?

Why is this a hard question?  Check out the Humana Health by Design contest entries - they include everything from ultra low-tech tools and life hacks to construction projects and full-on techie builds.  

Perhaps we need more than one channel.  If so, how should we divide the Instructables?  Do we need one channel for high-tech projects, and one for low-tech?  I've been playing with the ideas of "assistive tech"  for the high-tech/gadget-based projects to be filed under Technology, and "adaptive tools" for the low-tech/reuse projects and life-hacks to be sorted under Living.  These still seem to be arbitrary distinctions, and I'm not sure they make sense. 

What do you think?  Please discuss in the comments, or feel free to send me your suggestions by email/PM!


ARGH. Stupid editor threw away my comment again.

I am very excited that you're creating an AT channel! Thank you very much!

"Assistive technology" is the standard, accepted term in the disability community, and among disability and IL professionals. It is deliberately general and generic, covering anything from a rubber sheet to open tight jars, to a power wheelchair with puff-drive and all the bells and whistles.

Please don't try to invent something different or "better," when an accepted name already exists. Those users who aren't privy to I'ble's internal decision-making will have a much more difficult time finding what they want, if you use a non-standard terminology.

This is exactly the feedback I'm looking for!

So, assistive technology fills the whole set of things I described, cool. Which category should it fit under - Technology or Living? Should we have an assistive tech channel under both? That's what we currently do with reuse, as it can apply in either category and we have LOTS of reuse projects.

How good is your database backend? In a perfect world, those would both be "const references" (ooh, too much C++ for me :-) to the collection of Instructables, which users could reach by either path.

If they end up being independent containers, you're likely to end up with thing split rather haphazardly. That's true already, to some extent, since many projects can be classified in multiple ways.

I'm not the person to comment on the database backend! It's all Rachel's doing. But find a nice pointy stick and visit the caves to poke at the dev team. ;)

I'm tempted to put two containers out and just see what people put in them. We're working on an additional AT contest - once we get more Instructables on the subject, then we can decide how the channels are working.

If you were to just pick one category for the AT group, which would you select?

If it were up to me, I'd pick Living. The point of AT is to make it easier for people to do what they want to do, not technology for its own sake.

Yes, AT covers everything. The term "adaptive equipment" is narrower, and specifically deals with hardware to allow people with particular disabilities to function in the normals' environment. Powered wheelchairs, hearing aids, screen readers, things like that tend to be referred to as "adaptive."

.  I love the idea of an AT channel, but do we really need more than one? KISS.

I'm not sure! We'd like to get a lot more assistive tech projects, so it's important we give them a proper home. My current thought is to have an AT channel under both Living and Tech, and let folks sort their work as they feel appropriate.

.  I'm sure you (and kelseymh) have a much better feel for how popular AT is/could-be and how many categories would be needed. From the cheap seats, it looks like the point of diminishing returns would be reached very quickly.
.  Splitting AT between two (or more) other categories doesn't sound like a good solution to me. It seems to me that putting AT under one roof would make things easier to find. YMMV.
.  I'm guessing that a lot of "AT ppl" are DIYers out of necessity and this is just the community to help provide effective, low-cost solutions. I look forward to seeing more emphasis on AT.

We're hoping to run another contest soon that would directly feed the AT group(s), so that may mean a lot more useful AT Instructables!

Maybe make it like all the signs in front of parking spots - "This space reserved for handicap 'ibles". I know that is not right but maybe a spin off of that, anyway I like the logo.

Don't like it; that's really the wrong message to be sending. Assistive technology is not "reserved for" people with disabilities (like the old water fountains and bus seats).

Everybody can, and does, benefit from AT, just as we all do from the use of good universal design principles. I can use a reach-grabber any time the store puts stuff on a shelf more than 6 feet high. I can open a lever-style doorknob with my elbow when I'm carrying too many groceries. I love the fact that I can zoom the text on my Web browser and read things more easily.

Treating AT as something "special," just for "the cripples," takes us back to the days of exclusion and forced choices, rather than inclusion, access, and self-determined decisions.

I know, I was just trying to give it a label - as in a viewable label. Of course we all benefit when we are all included in all aspects of life, I know you could not have thought that I of all people don't get that, I didn't mean to be mean but was trying to come up with a view-able way to distinguish the channel. We all recognize the blue dotted lines on the parking spots even with out the sign telling us the space is reserved for those that need it. I knew it was risky not to send a PM but I am so tired of being afraid of being taken the wrong way and then for that very reason not saying anything, I am glad you spoke up in case anyone else took what I wrote the wrong way or found it offensive.

No worries! Disability rights are civil rights; that's one of my soapboxes. I've been lucky enough to learn more about the history of the movement, and the appropriate terminology, since I met my wife.

Some kind of identifying label might be important (though I'm not sure the other channels have them), but using a symbol specifically identified with a group tends to drive segregation, not integration. Take a look at the icon I chose for the AT group here on I'bles for one (of many!) alternatives.

I like it, but think a drawing would be better for Instructables - the photo gets the message across (beautifully) but it is SO different from everything else here that it would stand out in a way that would make it seem like either an afterthought, or too special/important, just different from other labels on here.

Well, at this point we don't have images for channels so the question is moot. ;)

> I can use a reach-grabber any time the store puts stuff on a shelf more than 6 feet high.

Or 5 feet. =( 

Must be nice to be TALL. :p

The image is from an old Robot Contest we ran a couple of years ago. It's only tangentially related to the subject, but I thought it was cute. ;)

Interesting idea, I say go for it! As a crip myself anything to make my life easier will be most welcome. Don't get too tied up in the minutiae, get some ideas flowing. One might be an inexpensive wheelchair controller? Best of luck Mobby

Have you see the Assistive Technology group here on Instructables?  I've tried to provide links to other DIY AT sites, and a (small!) selection of AT-related Instructables.  The Humana contest Canida mentioned above also spurred a plethora of AT projects.

I shall take a look interfrasticaly! Thanks for the 'heads up' Mobby

Personally, I'd say the broad category of this type of ible should be a channel called Assistive Technology under the "Living" category (and no distinction between "high" and "low" tech - that's such a subjective thing, there's no real way to qualify it...a stick with a nail in it is high tech to a cave man).

If it's necessary for whatever reason to mark clearer boundaries, perhaps there could be additional/sub channels for the different types of disabilities addressed, i.e. navigation (getting around), vision-impaired, hearing-impaired, etc.



Assistive Technology


As I said to Kelsey below, maybe we have an assistive technology channel within both tech and living? We do the same thing with reuse.

Oh, and a "cognitive assitance" (mentally challenged/senile or old/very young children), and a "general" for the slightly square pegs. Maybe even a "daily task"? Again, I don't think it makes much sense to introduce subjective terms into a list of otherwise pretty discrete options.


Assistive Technology

Daily tasks
Cognitive assistance

I don't know if you want to do the subchannels thing, but it makes sense to me. :p

Right now we don't have a large enough set of projects to really justify subchannels in any but the biggest channels, but we hope to someday! Then rachel can reorganize the site's back end.

I don't think I'bles database configuration supports "subchannels." If it did, we (a) wouldn't get those massive popup menus, and (b) we would get a nice "+/-" hierarchical navigator.

:\ I figured there was a reason we didn't already have subchannels, but was hoping against hope. I guess this is why canida says "perhaps we need more than one channel".

Actually, looking at the menu, "channels" almost seems to be another "category" to the system. Maybe the distinction is only in our heads. :D

So perhaps much the same purpose could be accomplished by just making several channels and assigning both the AT and the appropriate specific channel. Surely it's not too hard to allow assigning one more category/channel?

Some geeky names came to mind... Handihack, hackicap. :D


7 years ago

On a broad scale I think that in the absence of "tagging" and the ability to select multiple channels for one Instructable, you choose the one that best suits what you are doing.

Channels will always be an approximation of a project's content, so it's probably best to aim for channels giving as much coverage of what people make as possible, rather than trying to have very precise channels that only fit one narrow type of project. Breadth before depth, I suppose.

Projects will also almost always have more than one "dimension" they could be classified under.  As well as purpose, there is low-tech to high-tech, small scale to large scale, projects that are a small part of something bigger to projects that are a completely new thing. 

There are probably diminishing returns to adding more and more specific channels which are best summed up by how much more suitable they are than what they replace.  If adding "assistive technology" helps classify projecst that would otherwise go under "Technology -> Gadgets" or "Workshop -> Furniture" as approximate classifications, that is a definite step forwards.  Moving things out of "assistive technology" into "mobility assistive tech" and "reading assistive tech" will probably only serve to give you two channels with half as many projects.

True! The problem is in fitting an AT channel under our existing categories - it's such a broad subject that this is a bit difficult. We want people to be able to find what they're looking for!

My current theory is to have an "assistive tech" channel under both Tech and Living, just like we do with other broad themes like "reuse". Thoughts?

I'm thinking that those people with a disability issue will keyword this into the search. Maybe something that says adaptive would fit many channels? Adaptive fits those with severe disabilities as well as those of us who are hearing, vision, older... Assistive/adaptive....you would have to search which word is more globally recognized.

Exactly - we want to make sure people who are looking for assistive tech can find the groups on Instructables easily. Kelseymh says assistive is the recognized word, so if that's the case we'll probably run with it!