WheelchairNet.org.-- a virtual community focused on wheeled mobility

Mary Ellen Buning, MS, OTR, ATP
Douglas Hobson, Ph.D
Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology
University of Pittsburgh

Slide 1
WheelchairNet.org.-- a virtual community focused on wheeled mobility

Graphic Description: a wheelchairnet logo which is a street in a town with typical buildings and spaces like a park, a city hall, stores, a coffee shop and a university. People using wheelchairs and people walking are on the sidewalks.

Slide 2

Slide Text:
Virtual communities, a social form native to the Internet, are based on shared interests , and have already developed around childcare, investment, travel and older adult issues. A virtual community focused on wheeled mobility called WheelchairNet is in Phase I development. Previously the communication paths and information exchange within wheeled mobility circles were two-way, i.e., between researcher and manufacturer, client and clinician, supplier and manufacturer, etc. This community creates the potential for multidirectional communication among persons with differing perspectives and interests in wheeled mobility. This study describes the phases of development of a virtual community designed to create an arena where people could form relationships, re-think product design, and find solutions to problems that have slowed progress in mobility device reimbursement and innovation. WheelchairNet's development is being tracked with form questionnaires and web statistic software. This summary of early development experiences may guide others with similar goals.

Slide 3
Full citation

Slide Text:
Full citation of the published research: Buning, ME; Hobson, DA. (2000). WheelchairNet: A virtual community focused on wheeled mobility. The Proceedings of the Annual RESNA Conference. Orlando, FL, June 28-July 2. p 270-273.

This slide show was given as part of a panel presentation at the Annual RESNA Conference. RESNA is the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. Http://www.resna.org/

Slide 4
What is a Virtual Community?

Slide Text:
A social form native to the Internet
People can come together around a common interest.
Current communities: travel, investment, older adults, parenting…
People bring differing perspectives, needs, knowledge, questions, and amounts of experience to the process.

Graphic description:

Slide 5
Virtual Community & Dissemination

Slide Text:
The challenge of research dissemination is to deliver the message!
The intended user = the most critical element!
Research that is incorporated and used:
Fits with a user’s beliefs and experiences.
Is offered within the context of relationship.
Info source is trustworthy and has proven expertise.

Notes page:
Another purpose of WheelchairNet centers around disseminating the research and the work of the RERC on Wheeled Mobility. Much effort goes into to learning about what make some dissemination efforts work better than others.

Slide 6
Stages of Virtual Community

Slide Text:
Hagel & Armstrong (net.gain, 1997)
Harvard Business School
Directed to businesses as a means to increase customer service & understand the market
Three stages
Generate traffic
Concentrate traffic
Lock in traffic

Notes: Hagel and Armstrong from the Harvard Business School were early contributors to the understanding of the value that a virtual community adds to entrepreneurial enterprises.

Slide 7
Stages of Virtual Community

Graphic Description:
This slide is a graphic showing the 3 steps in the development of a virtual community.First, generate traffic which is accomplished by creating quick entry, getting people to come through the site, generating awareness and partnering as necessary to get quality offerings. Second, concentrating the traffic by engaging the members, enhancing the offerings and extracting value for the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC). Third by fostering relationships, assimilating member generated content, expanding or enhancing community activities, seeking out additional partners, and tailoring resources to individual needs. The resources that are currently available in the RERC like standards, appraisals of products, RERC research task reports, safety alerts, etc.are added to the website and interactive groups the outcomes are impressive. The potential outcomes become things like the development of peer relationships, consumer-clinician relationships, informed consumers, participants and profiles of user needs, potential research participants, an organized community of rmanufacturers, and commercial potential.

Slide 8
Our Concept: WheelchairNet

Slide Text:
WheelchairNet is designed to create community on the topic of wheelchairs.
A multifaceted audience.
Creates the infrastructure for community to develop.
Develops and maintains information resources useful to entire community.

Several methods are being used to track the development of this community and to determine if it is progressing in the normal sequence for a virtual community. An exit survey asks site visitors to rate satisfaction and give feedback on their site experience. Threaded discussions, powered by WebCrossing software, have been monitored since June 1999 when the site became open to the public.

Slide 9
Why WheelchairNet?

Slide Text:
We decided that the time is right!
More than 50% of homes have a computer connected to the Internet.
People increasingly look to the Internet as an information resource.
On-line access for persons with disabilities is increasing. (Kaye, S., 2000)

Who says that the Internet is the best way to create a virtual community on Wheeled Mobility?
Existing virtual communities focus on topics or lifestyles for which it is difficult to find a real community. Within the community of persons who care about wheeled mobility issues like limited market size, sparse resources, time zone differences, low population density, and physical accessibility make it difficult to access peer support, user satisfaction, continuing education, and networking. A virtual community could create tremendous value for this group. We seek to determine if it can be created via Internet-based technologies.

Slide 10

Slide Text:
Town planners = RERC on Wheeled Mobility at University of Pittsburgh
Resources are organized within five areas:
Products and Services
Community Living
Wheelchair University
Discussion Area
Town Hall

Slide 11
The WheelchairNet Hompage!

Graphic Description:
An image of the WheelchairNet homepage which can be visited at http://www.wheelchairnet.org/index2.html

Slide 12
The Products and Services Homepage

Graphic Description:
The Products and Services Homepage which can be visited at: http://www.wheelchairnet.org/WCN_ProdServ/prodserv.html

Slide 13
The Community Living Homepage

Graphic Description:
The Community Living Homepage which can be visited at: http://www.wheelchairnet.org/WCN_Living/living.html

Slide 14
Wheelchair University

Graphic Description:
The Wheelchair University Homepage which can be visited at: http://www.wheelchairnet.org/WCN_WCU/wcu.html

Slide 15:
Slide Lectures at Wheelchair Univeristy

Slide Text:
Clinicians & researchers may contribute PowerPoint presentations with notes.Presentations have ongoing audiences.

Wheelchair University contains many slide lectures like this one. You can see more of them on a variety of research or practice topics within Wheelchair University. You van visit slide lectures on research at: http://www.wheelchairnet.org/WCN_WCU/SlideLectures/ResearchSum/ResSum.html and on practice at: http://www.wheelchairnet.org/WCN_WCU/SlideLectures/Lectures/lectures.html

Slide 16
Town Hall

Graphic Description:
This is an image of the Town Hall Home Page which can be visited at: http://www.wheelchairnet.org/WCN_TownHall/Town.html

Slide 17
Homepage of the Discussion Area

Graphic Description:
This is an image of the Communication Home Page which can be visited at: http://www.wheelchairnet.org/cig-bin/webx

Slide 18
Selected Axis Convention!

Graphic Description:
This image contains the following discussion:
Wheelchair or Scooter
I have a friend that was going through rehab at a Nursing Home here in Seattle, WA. Before she got home, a salesman gave her (through DVR) an electric scooter. She was not given any choice of what her needs were or any options. What I need to know is, doesn't a person getting new equipment get any choices or options?
Barbara Crane - 09:58am Jan 5, 2001 EST (9.1.1)
Physical Therapist

Wheelchair or scooter
I am not sure exactly what went on during her rehab process, but yes, she definitely should have had a choice of equipment.

In the rehab facility that I worked in (it was not a nursing home) we spent a great deal of time evaluating and discussing with our clients what might meet their needs. Near the end of the stay, a formal evaluation would take place with the treating therapists, equipment supplier, Physician, and any other interested party. The equipment should be brought in for a trial and if necessary, should be evaluated in the home setting or work setting to be sure it will work.

If the device provided to her is not working, I would recommend that she contact her DVR counselor and let him/her know this. A new evaluation should be performed if necessary and the scooter should be returned as quickly as possible to the supplier. It is important to do this right away!

Look for a center that specializes in rehabilitation or that has a wheelchair assessment clinic or similar type of service. If these are unavailable, look for a professional in the area who is certified in providing this type of service. For therapists, this is called ATP certification and for suppliers it is called ATS or CRTS certification. A listing of professionals can be found on the RESNA web site at http://www.resna.org/cert/index.htm.

Hope this information is helpful to you and your friend. Feel free to reply or contact me directly if you have further questions.

Good luck
Barb Crane, MA, CT, TAP

Slide 19
What's happening on the site.

Slide Text:
FunnelWeb 4.0
Provides statistics + graphs
Analyzes the webserver log

Graphic Description:
A bar chart that shows steadily increasing website traffic from under 1,200 in Spetermber 1999 to 4,800 one year later to a high of 10,800 in January 2001 with some leveling off for February and March and a decrease in April.

FunnelWeb 4.0, software that uses the webserver log to analyze site data on 10 dimensions is compiling graphic reports and showing site trends. We are using the application Funnel Web to monitor the site’s growth and development.
It is shows growth trends, which parts of WheelchairNet are used the most often, what kinds of browsers and computers our visitors are using, etc.

Slide 20
Who goes to WheelchairNet?

Slide Text:
People from 84 countries
Top countries: Singapore, Canada, UK, Australia, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy

Graphic Description:
A bar chart that shows the amount of traffic from various countries as determined by the IP addresses of site visitors. The largest group is unresolves (unable to determine). The numbers are: 47,829 for US Education domains, 43,097 for US Commercial domains, 39,501 for US Network domains, 5,665 for Singapore,.4291 for Canada, 2458 for the United Kingdom, 1912 for USA, 1533 for Australia, 1436 for US Organization domains,1216 for Netherlands, 664 for Sweden, 591 for US Government domains, and 498 for Italy.

Our community is international and it grows every month.

Slide 21
Site Activity Reports

Slide Text:
Tracking data 09/99 to 03/01 (18 mos.)
Average visitors/day = 139
Average requests/day = 952
Average requests/hour = 39

Session length
Average visit length = 4:33 (min:sec)
17% stay 10-29 minutes.

Slide 22
Site Activity Reports

Slide Text:
1 visit = 35.5%
2-9 visits = 25.1%
10-24 visits = 17.6%
> 50 visits = 5.%
Most active sections in rank order:
Discussion Area, Products & Services, Community Living and Wheelchair University.
Top downloads=slide lectures

Slide 23
Current Developments

Slide Text:
Search engines lead to WheelchairNet.
The site is shifting from primarily a portal site to an authority site.
Discussion Area has developed nicely
Improved user interface.
Discussion leaders help respond to and nurture interaction.
TeamRehab Report 10 years of issues now archived on the site.

These are the activities we are currently focused on developing.

Slide 24
Team Rehab Report Archives

Slide Text:

Graphic Description:
A representative page from the archives of Team Rehab Report.
This resource can be visited at: http://www.wheelchairnet.org/WCN_ProdServ/Docs/TeamRehab/TRRArchive.html

This publication, Team Rehab Report, was published for 10 years and was a wonderful source of reading about consumers and their assistive technology interventions and the teams of health care professionals that made these success stories happen.

Slide 25
Future Developments

Slide Text:
Increase authority site content, e.g., slide lectures at Wheelchair University, reprints of articles.
Increase loyalty & time online at site.
Expand through external financial support: grants, projects, etc.
Use site to survey consumers: learn more about consumer needs and consumer satisfaction.
Move toward site autonomy.

At the end of its first year, WheelchairNet met expected growth patterns. Remaining challenges include: developing communication among community participants, communicating the availability and purpose of a virtual community, building a sense of ownership, and overcoming the social and political boundaries that previously limited communication within this diverse community of interest. Although increased emphasis will be placed on the development of discussion forums, we will continue to explore other options to facilitate cross community communications

Slide 26
Why take time for WheelchairNet?

Slide Text:
Locate information to accomplish goals.
Reduce communication barriers: time of day, distance, roles, opportunity.
Educate and support those new, less experienced members of this community.
Universally designed.
Challenge, inform and stimulate thinking.
Extends clinical reach; connects clients with an ongoing resource network.

So why should YOU take time for WheelchairNet?

Slide 27
Won’t you join us in creating cyber-community?

Hagel, J. & Armstrong, A. (1997). Net.gain. Harvard Business School. Boston.
Klein, S. & Gwaltney, M. (1991). Charting the education dissemination system. Knowledge. P 241-265.
Rheingold, H. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the electric frontier. (1993). Addison Wesley.

This virtual community project is funded by NIDRR grant H133E990001, the RERC on Wheeled Mobility at the University of Pittsburgh.

WheelchairNet is located at the
Rehabilitation Science and Technology Department
5044 Forbes Tower
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Connect to WheelchairNet now at http://www.wheelchairnet.org

Last Updated: 3-2-2006

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Contact information:
  Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology  Telephone: 412.624.6279

 © Copyright 2006 University of Pittsburgh. All rights reserved.
No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WheelchairNet and the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology.

Please note: This information is provided a archival information from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheeled Mobility from 1993 to 2002.

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