A New Resource for Health Care Information


The BC Coalition of People with Disabilities has developed an initiative to turn technical, scientific and wordy material into user-friendly language and alternate formats, ensuring more effective access among people with disabilities to health and wellness information. Although many disabilities impact access or understanding of health care information, nearly everyone in the non-medical community has had trouble reading some form of health related material.

The Wellness and Disability Initiative (WDI) offers information for Canadians with disabilities via their website, Resource Centre and telephone/fax service. “Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel and develop yet another health information site,” explains Shelley Hourston, Director of the Wellness and Disability initiative. “We want to help people with disabilities find reliable and relevant health information in a format that they can use and understand.”

The WDI’s first obstacle in creating such a resource was identifying significant barriers preventing practical access to health information. Such impediments include poor reading ability, old age, English as a second language and formatting barriers. In the early stages of the initiative the following facts reinforced the need for the WDI:

– More than 15.5 per cent of Canadians have a disability. Many disabilities impact the ability to access or understand health information in traditional formats.
– Statistics Canada s report, Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society, revealed that 22 per cent of Canadian adults have significant difficulty reading print material; another 24 to 26 per cent can manage very simple reading tasks only.
– Literacy has been identified as a key determinant of health.
– A program featuring health information in plain language will also serve populations using English as a Second Language.
– Our aging society will result in a higher proportion of seniors and accompanying health and disability issues than ever before.

Plain language and alternative formats are now used to ensure these obstacles are overcome. Plain language information is any technical or medical writing translated into reader-friendly, everyday words with few medical or scientific terms. When technical terms must be used, plain language writers explain the meaning of the words. Alternate formats change regular printed material into accessible formats for sensory disabilities. They include videos, cassettes, large print, Braille, American Sign Language and computer aids.

The website offers a clear, annotated and categorized index to internet health and wellness information in reader-friendly formats. Material available at the WDI Resource Centre will also be included. A major benefit of web or electronic information is that visitors can utilize their own software to generate translations of web pages to voice, large print or Braille.

While modern technology has resulted in an explosion of health information on the internet, the Wellness and Disability Initiative is helping to ensure that technology does not increase the knowledge gap for people with disabilities. The BC Coalition’s Resource Centre is available for those who do not have access or who are not comfortable using internet technology. The Centre is equipped with a collection of consumer health material in easy-reading formats, audiotapes, videos, ASL and large print.

Without having to visit the Centre or surf the web, the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities has made easy access to health care information only a phone call or fax away.

WDI staff are available Monday to Friday to respond to inquiries.

A core component of WDI is the AIDS and Disability Action Program (ADAP) collection that was launched by the BC Coalition in 1987; the collection has been recently updated and revised. There is an ongoing expansion of the recent research and newsworthy information in the database, including material on healthy sexuality and HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease prevention resources for people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, teachers and health care professionals. The improved ADAP database was launched October 22, 1999. The ADAP collection can be accessed by all of the aforementioned resources.

For more information about WDI, contact:
Shelley Hourston, B.A., M.L.S.
Wellness and Disability Initiative
British Columbia Coalition of People with Disabilities
204 456 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1R3 Canada
Phone: (604) 875-0188 or toll-free 1-877-232-7400
Fax: (604) 875-9227
E-mail: wdi@bccpd.bc.ca
Website: http://www.bccpd.bc.ca/wdi


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