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BlueAssist pilot study

Background and aims

It is difficult for some people to get from one place to another. But mobility is an important prerequisite for realizing self-determination in the areas of work, living and leisure time. BlueAssist is an app for promotion of independent mobility in persons with cognitive or complex disabilities. The app was originally developed in Belgium by the vzw Ithaka foundation for sheltered living in Oostend. In 2011 a non-profit organization of the same name was founded to build a BlueAssist network in Europe.  

BlueAssist is a simple system that makes it easier for persons with a disability who are out and about to communicate with others. For example, specific questions can be displayed on a smartphone, such as, “I have to get off at Bärengraben Station. Would you please tell me when we get there? Thank you”. The app also contains a button for making a telephone connection to a support person.

The aim of this research project at the University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education is to strengthen the independent mobility, activity, and social network of persons with cognitive or complex disabilities. To the end, the BlueAssist app will be adapted for use in German and French-speaking regions and tested in two cities. Use and effects of the app, also on the social environment, will be measured.

Questions

The project will answer the following research questions:

  • What effects does BlueAssist have on the independent mobility, number of activities, number and frequency of social contacts and the well-being of users, and what is their assessment of the technical ease of handling of BlueAssist?
  • What effects does use of BlueAssist have on professionals concerning their assessment of their own competency in supporting the independent mobility and activity of persons with disabilities? What is professionals’ assessment of the technical ease of handling of BlueAssist?

Methods

The evaluation was based on case studies. In the framework of an intervention study, this research project investigated effects on the mobility of persons and their social networks as well as the effect of BlueAssist on the burden of caregivers of the persons with disabilities. The technical ease of handling of the app was tested in experiments.

It was expected that users of BlueAssist would be out and about on their own more often and that their social network would grow. Targeted public relations work helped to increase the willingness of the social environment to help.

Results

The app was experienced as supporting independent mobility and generally as useful for people with disabilities and for support persons. In the context of the intervention, it was found that it was difficult to reach persons who could use BlueAssist.

Kontakt

Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at]hfh.ch zfe