Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fear of Abandonment

This is a guest post by Jeff Symons, MSE, ATP, a rehabilitation engineer located in Northern California. Jeff provides AT and ergonomic assessments to individuals and clients of the California Department of Rehabilitation as well as other agencies.

I recently got feedback from a counselor that many of the clients that I assessed had quit using the voice recognition software I recommended. I also had another client send back a device that I had recommended. I took these as signs to wonder about technology abandonment. I did some research and found two articles that discussed this issue. Click here to access the first article and click here to access the second article. Both articles listed several key factors that may be involved in technology abandonment. These factors are:

1. Lack of consideration of user opinion in selection;
2. Easy device procurement;
3. Poor device performance;
4. Change in user needs or priorities;
5. Assistive technology training;
6. Follow up.

I try during the assessment to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the options and make sure I understand the user’s perspective. At the end of the assessment I hope that the client, counselor and I are on the same page and agree with what I am going to recommend. We may not always agree on the best solution, but I try to document that in the report.

As I look at these recent instances and the factors of technology abandonment, one conclusion I came to is that follow up and training may be an area that I need to focus on more. I assume that things are going OK unless I hear a complaint, but that may not necessarily be true. In the case of voice recognition software, I have seen a number of people who have stated that it did not work well for them. However, after showing them how well it can work once someone is properly trained, they are generally more interested in learning how to use the program.

I would like to know what reasons people have given for not using what was recommended. I use voice recognition for my reports, and also I'm using it to write this newsletter. I use voice recognition not because I have to, but because it is much faster for me than typing. So again, I would be curious about the reasons people quit using what was recommended.

In the case of the client who sent back a device I recommended even though she had tried it during the assessment, it is likely some follow-up training also may have helped. I do not think she knew how to set up the device and, therefore, did not think it was working properly. A phone call may have solved this problem.

My dilemma is that I would like to follow up with clients to see if they have received the equipment recommended and, if so, to learn how is it working. The problem is that sometimes they have not received recommended equipment for various reasons or their case has been closed. If there is an issue, this could create a problem if we have to re-open their case. I would really like some input and advice as to how to solve this dilemma.

What are your thoughts on technology abandonment? Have you abandoned technology that you thought would meet your needs and later learned that it would not? Any tips you would like to share? 

1 comment:

  1. Abandonment is a fascinating and important issue. One example I'm familiar with from several years ago is that in some states, 80% of the people who received a free TTY abandoned them, at a time when there were no other viable options for telecommunications. The process of adoption and use of technology -- not just AT, but all technology -- is a complex one, fraught with psychological and sociological factors. We should spend more time interviewing people who choose not to use AT, and dig deeper to find practices that support higher levels of effective adoption and use.