Survey Reveals Positive Benefits for People with MS Using Assistive Technology By Ellen Kampel & John Williams How vital is it to the overall mental and physical health of people with multiple sclerosis to remain independent and active by using assistive technology? Extremely important according to the results of the survey, Staying Connected: An Investigation of How Technology Affects People Living with MS.
The survey explored the challenges and opportunities technology provides to more than 400,000 people living with MS in the United States. It identifies needs that will guide the MS Collaborative effort in connecting the MS community by elevating the awareness and understanding of accessible technology, offering greater opportunities for connection within the MS community, and the people who matter to them, and expanding access to information about treatment options.
Simultaneously the survey revealed that relatively few people with MS who have experienced symptoms related to diminished vision, slurred speech, decreased in muscle control and cognitive problems have discovered ways to make adaptations to these challenges using technology. It revealed that awareness and the use of accessible technology demonstrated room for improvement. People also cited that the lack of knowledge as the biggest barrier to making technology adaptations.
Some respondents mentioned that MS complicates learning to use new technology. Others replied that they were reluctant to ask for adaptations because they did not want to standout among their co-workers as being different. Others said they adapted a computer to manage MS related challenges and that technology helps them stayed employed.
The findings will be applied to the development of a customized tool on the My MS My Way site to help people with MS understand how their particular needs and circumstances align with the technology tools, resources and approaches available. Survey insights will used to form the MS Technology Collaborative program.
The survey, which was conducted on-line and on the telephone in the spring of 2007, was co-sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceutical and Microsoft. The 30-minute questionnaire consisted of close ended questions related to the use and awareness of technology in social connections, employment and treatment.
The Staying Connected National Report is based on an analysis conducted among 2,390 Americans with MS, age 18+. The full report was released in October 2007 and can be read by visiting myMSmyWAY.com.
Ellen Kampel is the public affairs manager for the Accessibility Unit in Microsoft. John M. Williams has been writing about disability issues since 1978.