A recent project that we’ve had a chance to work on was a project for the BC Self Advocacy Foundation. This organization assists people with developmental disabilities to become full participating citizens in their own communities. Agentic was hired to work with the staff at the BCSAF to develop a new web presence and to help them engage their audience. One of the key issues for a group like this is making a website to be accessible to people with developmental disabilities. A developmental disability is a life-long condition that means a person develops differently, and more slowly than others. The BCSAF is an organization of self-advocates, people with developmental disabilities, to help address, in a direct way the barriers that face them in life.
Overall, our online objective was to communicate to an audience of people with developmental disabilities and their friends, to try and help to build an engaged network and then leverage that engaged network to influence change in communities and institutions. What we came up with is a campaign strategy to engage people with developmental disabilities and their friends with some meaningful insight and information provided back to the BCSAF. We wanted to try to identify and potentially validate what some barriers are that face people with developmental disabilities and, even better, identify some key strategies that could eliminate some of these barriers. We conducted focus groups to ask people with developmental disabilities what their comfort level was with computers, how often they went online, etc. We discovered that while they did go online, there were varying comfort levels with computers. Many did not have credit cards or many different log-in IDs. One of the points that came up that was quite interesting was that a lot of our focus group participants have been told not to ever give their email address on any site. As we’ve been commissioned to create a site that could engage this group, we were realizing that there was an issue around asking them to potentially provide their email address, which is our current standard of practice when we’re asked to build community for organizations. One of the best things that did come out was the high degree of comfort with Facebook. Almost everyone is on it, and that’s ultimately what triggered the way in which we decided to proceed of this project. Some of the principals that we came up with:
- We couldn’t overload people with too much stuff so the website had to be simple and straightforward. It had to be inclusive. The idea was that most people with developmental disabilities wouldn’t join a new site or potentially post videos of themselves. We had asked the focus group whether they used video and it wasn’t very high in terms of actually creating videos, although they watched YouTube a lot.
- Address the concern about privacy and sharing email addresses, and just be really straightforward, not too tricky or clever and also accessible for people with limited vision as well. For example, we had one focus group member who had a developmental disability and was blind.
- Create a signature piece that would focus all of the campaign into a specific video explaining all of the issues and providing an overview in 2 min.
- Use Facebook for our campaign. We realize that the ability to leverage the social network with the key for them to be able to interact without creating a new password and user login. As so many of the self advocates were online on Facebook this made a lot of sense.
We did decide to create an organization website but we kept it very straightforward with some basic information and some links and information about the campaign, and then really look to engage people on Facebook and the way that we decided to do that was to create a specific game/Facebook application that could ask some very straightforward questions and give some insight into the needs of people with developmental disabilities. One of the interesting things that we did try on the website and I’m curious about whether this will be a success in the long-run or not, was we included a talking Avatar on any of the pages that gave a sense of what the specific page was saying and, even though the Avatar could only be limited to about 90 seconds, that seemed to be enough to get the message out from what people were looking to find. On the Facebook application, we developed an application that displayed pictures, but to find the picture you had to pop a number of balloons, seven to eight balloons and each pop of a balloon revealed a portion of the picture until it was fully revealed. The only things was is that for the balloon to be popped, a person had to answer a question or watch a video and the videos were a number of different videos that the BCSAF had collected, for example, interviews and insights from concepts meetings and conferences. We felt that the idea was that somebody would feel more engaged and compelled to answer a question as they got into how the game worked, and so far, the take-up has been medium to light, but we look forward to seeing whether in the long-term it would be more successful. The other piece that we really recommended and worked with a partner to develop was a signature video that explained the BC Self Advocacy Foundation and some of the issues that face self-advocates, and we felt that that signature video was a key part of the home page. On the website now, the signature video really is the first thing that anyone would see, and we felt that it was important to do this because many people don’t know the history of what has transpired in British Columbia for persons with disability. It was essentially that for many years, anyone that exhibited any kind of developmental delay was institutionalized in British Columbia. This was a very serious and upsetting time for people caught in essentially a prison-like atmosphere. One additional feature that we did that has proven to be perhaps the most valuable was that on the website there were a number of blog articles that were created by persons with a developmental disability and we allowed, if you had a Facebook account to post a comment to that blog posting and that has been very successful because it has meant that people did not need to sign up to a new website like ours, but could leverage their Facebook account. We’ve seen a lot of usage of this based on the number of people that are on Facebook. Overall, we feel that this website has been quite successful and are looking forward to seeing all of the pieces grow in time. One of the features of the Facebook application is that we can change the question in a few months to see what will happen. We look forward to collecting additional information from people in order to make that happen.