Vol. 21 No. 2
From the Center
J. Archer O'Reilly III - Editor
We are living in what many call "the information
age," with reported ubiquitous access to the internet and its on-line data.
You might think this would be seen as beneficial by an organization called the
Information Center for Individuals with Disabilities. However, this is not
altogether the case.
The presumption that the advent of the internet has, or
shortly will, solve all the information demands of Americans obscures both the
true information needs of people living with disabilities and the real-world
access to life-enhancing resources.
Enter "disability" into any of the popular search
engines on the internet and hundreds of thousands of hits will promptly appear
with little or no clue as to which ones, if any, will provide useful information
on the subject of your concern. Successful searching on-line requires either
unlimited time, unusual good luck, or a level of knowledge of the subject that
is inconsistent with the real situation of families and individuals facing
disability for the first time.
The word interactive is constantly applied to computers
today. You can not compare the interaction of a computer user with the internet
to the interaction of one human being with another. People seeking information
about disability or solutions to new challenges of daily life, face a situation
in which, by definition, they do not know where to look, exactly what to ask, or
even the language in which the subject is often addressed. In the real world
there will always be a need for access to an informed and empathetic human being
who can engage in conversation, elicit clarification of the exact problem to be
addressed, explain options, translate the jargon of disability, and direct
people to the many resources available to help them empower their lives.
Over the years thousands of people have called the
Information Center and asked, "Can you send me all the information you have
on disability?" My usual answer: "When can your truck be here?"
The point is, information services are not huge volumes of data, be they in a
library or a database. Information services are the interface between the
problems you need to solve and the appropriate information required to help you
Information is critical but the internet is not the answer,
it is just another tool. The answer, we believe, is the provision of true
information services. You can help to see that these services are maintained and
not destroyed by an unrealistic reliance on technology alone.