WheelchairNet: How we chose our links
Written by: Mary Ellen Buning, PhD, OTR/L, ATP
We have carefully selected the other WWW sites we are linked to on the World Wide Web. We think that it is important to set a good example. We want to help you to learn how to evaluate and make decisions about what kinds of information you will use and trust! Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves before we linked to a WWW site that was not our own:
Is the site published by a credible source?
Since there are no rules governing the accuracy or appropriateness of information posted on the WWW we tried to pick sites hosted by major universities, research hospitals and government offices and programs. In general, these kinds of sites are very reliable and give trustworthy information.
Because of WheelchairNet's purpose (communicating about wheelchairs) we linked directly to manufacturers (rather than distributors or dealers) where ever we could. Manufacturers can always make biased claims about their products, but we think that manufacturers are more likely to give accurate information about their products than any one else. They are also very motivated to keep their good reputation. It is important to remember that while sites published by rehabilitation and healthcare product manufacturers often contain valuable information, but they clearly have a bias in favor of their products.
The sites posted by individuals sharing their rehabilitation-related experiences can often contain helpful information--but they are usually very subjective and can also be quite biased. We tried to avoid many of those sites and tended much more toward articles that had also been published in the print media. In selected cases, where individuals showed particular wisdom or insight or shared a particularly useful strategy, we did link to a "First person" site. Throughout, we chose to link to information that was positive and constructive, respectful of persons with disabilities, realistic and in good taste.
We were wary of sites that are unclear about their sources of information. We decided if it not clear who said it or if the source is vague, that the information may be unreliable.
How old is the information?
We tried to always check for a date with the information. It is important to notice when the information was posted to the Internet, and when was it last updated. We know that outdated information (or poorly maintained sites that frequently give the message "Error 404: File not found") can linger on the web for many years. Things change too fast these days for that!
Who is the site written for?
We tried to make sure that the resources we linked to were appropriate for the primary users of a particular part of WheelchairNet. Sites (and the information they contain) that are written for researchers or rehabilitation professionals may be confusing or alarming for the average consumer. On the other hand, researchers and funders might be frustrated by the general information at sites written for consumers. They may be looking for more detail or more precision in the information they seek. We tried to use sites best suited for the users of particular parts of WheelchairNet.
Is the site easy to use?
We also chose sites that were easy to navigate and that either used text or had made accommodations with their graphics for people who use screen reading software. The resources like Bobby at CAST, the Web Accessibility Initiative at the W3C and Trace R& D at the University of Wisconsin make it possible for any one to build an accessible website that can be used by everyone. Electronic curbcuts and ramps are important too!
We also favored sites that allowed you to search the site for specific information and pointed the users to other reliable sources. There are so many valuable health and rehabilitation-related sites that we can all afford to be choosy. So... when you find a site that is easy to use and understand, go back to it often often. We hope that this applies to WheelchairNet too. We do want to hear from you...and so we have place frequent links throughout our site so you can let us know how we are doing.
Can you contact the information provider?
Since Cyberspace is so vast, we think that it is important to know where in "Earthspace" the human beings who wrote a webpage live and work. We think you should also be able to write them a letter or call them on the phone in addition to sending them an e-mail message. It helps to dispel some fears about the "unknowns" of the WWW when you can contact a real person who responds to your questions or issues.
As always, you can find us at the address below.
Last Updated: 3-2-2006
Please let us know if you find a link that doesn't work or have an idea about something to include!
© Copyright 2006 University of Pittsburgh. All rights reserved.
Please note: This information is provided a archival information from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheeled Mobility from 1993 to 2002.