Project Link: Consumer Information for Persons with Disabilities
What is Project Link?
Project LINK, established in 1993 at the Center for Assistive Technology at the University of Buffalo in New York, is a free information service to help people learn about assistive devices. Assistive devices are essentially tools--they make it easier to do various tasks. Many people with disabilities are not aware of the wide variety of available assistive devices, or they lack information on where to obtain them. At the same time, companies marketing assistive devices have difficulty reaching people who most need their products, as listings of people with disabilities are confidential. Project LINK bridges the information gap between the people who purchase assistive devices and the companies which make and/or sell them.
To join Project LINK a person calls, toll-free, 1-800-628-2281; alternatively, he or she can fill out a short questionnaire, and return it on the pre-addressed and pre-stamped form. This information is stored in a confidential database. Companies who sell assistive devices can request that Project LINK mail out their product catalogs and other product literature. Project LINK does not give the names of its participants to the companies, but provides a mailing service for information on their products. There is no cost to consumers to register with Project LINK. They join Project LINK knowing they will receive free information in the mail on products that may help them, while having the assurance that no salesperson will contact them. Anybody may cancel his or her free membership at any time. Since the Project LINK database includes information on the types of activities with which people have difficulty, and the types of devices in which they might be interested, companies can have Project LINK carry out very targeted mailings.
Do People Find the Catalogs they Receive Useful?
At the end of last year, Project LINK mailed 1600 catalogs from a company called Maxi-Aids. Included with the catalog was a short questionnaire which asked questions about the usefulness of the information in the catalog and information on assistive devices purchased in the last year. 110 people returned the questionnaire; a summary of their responses is presented below:
- 88 % responded that they felt the products in the catalog were useful.
- 62 % were considering buying something from the Maxi-Aids catalog; examples include: bath lift, cane holder, dressing aids, glucose monitor, needle threader, talking watch, and writing guides.
- 72 % stated that they discovered products in the catalog that they did not know existed; examples include: automatic lifter seat, autopen, vibrating alarm clocks, dressing aids, jar openers, key holders, and salt detectors.
- Respondents purchased 104 assistive devices in the past year, spending a total of just over $32,000.
- Respondents' acquisitions of assistive devices over the past year were spread among local and national retail stores
- (67%), catalogs (22 %), local doctor or service provider (7 %), and gifts (4 %).
There were many very positive comments about the catalog:
- What a great catalog!
- -Many of these things will be a great help! I will order extensively from this catalog. I had heard of many of these products, but did not know where to purchase them.
Participants also offered constructive criticism, and their comments reflected other difficulties they have in purchasing assistive devices:
- You offered no shower chairs.
- There are several things I would like to buy, but because of low income I can only purchase one thing every few months.
- The index was quite frustrating to use.
- I didn't find any cervical collars.
How Many People Have Joined Project Link?
We now have just under 3000 people who have joined Project LINK. While initially established for elderly persons with disabilities, Project LINK is now open to people disabilities of all ages, their caregivers and service providers. Project LINK seeks new participants, and we hope that people reading this article will call (800)628-2281 - Monday-Friday, 9-5 Eastern Standard Time.
How Long Will Project Link Continue to Offer this Service?
Project LINK is currently supported through funds received from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, as part of a grant for the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Aging at the University at Buffalo. Project LINK's goal is to become self-supporting through funds received from companies that use LINK mailing services. Project LINK will remain a free service for persons with disabilities, their caregivers and service providers, as long as companies continue to use and support this service.
Who is the Contact Person for Project Link?
Companies and people interested in joining Project LINK can contact Jennifer Weir, Project LINK Coordinator, at:Project LINK
515 Kimball Tower
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14214
You can also call Jennifer Weir at the toll free number: (800)628-2281, or register via e-mail: JWEIR@UBVMS.cc.buffalo.edu.
Dr. Mann is Professor and Chair of the Occupational Therapy Department, and directory of the Center for Assistive Technology at the University at Buffalo. Dr. Mann authored the textbook _Assistive Technology for Persons with Disabilities_, and is co-editor of the professional journal, _Technology and Disability_.