Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where can you find AT Services?

Written by Allan Friedman, CFILC’s Technologies Manager

Recently, we unveiled the AT Services Directory, version 6.0 (?  I think; I’ve lost count) on the ATnet.org website, and I believe it is the most user friendly version yet.

Way back in 1997 (at about the dawn of the Internet age) the AT Services Directory was a collection of floppy disks (remember those?) managed and updated by a Department of Rehabilitation contractor.  If you needed referral to a resource, you called him.   We put it online in the first iteration of the AT Services Directory in 1998.  Since then, the directory has undergone a few upgrades and revisions designed to make it easier and more productive for people to use. 

Last year we added bookmarking and a comment section for each record so users could share their experiences.  The bookmark feature allows users to create their own resource list and print it out after doing multiple searches during a session. 
The comment section allows users to rate the resource and share comments on the vendor/service provider.

We also provided a link to add new resources.  Every page of the directory has a banner ad across the top that links to the submit a new resource form.  This has enabled vendors, service providers and consumers to add new resources to the directory.

Our latest improvements should make search results more responsive and relative to users’ needs.   We reduced the number of categories and replaced the sub-categories with a second-level search for type of service. Now you can, for instance, select “Blind & Low Vision” from the category box and “funding” from the Service Type box and get a list of resources that provide funding for blind and low vision devices.  Searches can be further refined by using the zip code feature to narrow the geographic radius of a search.

To help users figure out what category to search, we’ve added links to a descriptions page which lists examples of the types of devices and services that would be found in the category. 

We hope these changes make the directory a more useful search tool.  Our goal is make the AT Services Directory the place to go to find assistive technology service providers in California.    Take some time to visit the AT Services Directory at http://atnet.org/svcdir/index.php.  And if you know of a resource that should be in the directory but isn’t, tell us about it.  Submit a new resource at http://submit.atnet.org.


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