An Online Health & Social Support System for People With Lung Cancer

Or rather – “A cross-disciplinary approach to identifying requirements for an online health and social support system for people with lung cancer”. This was our submission to the ACM ASSETS 2012 Conference, but unfortunately was rejected – to some extent because it didn’t fit a limited -in my opinion- view of the definition of accessibility and its link with disability.

Our abstract asserts that people with lung cancer have reduced access to peer support due to situational and combinatorial impairments (including those related to ageing). Low income and a reluctance to use the Web extend this exclusion to online social networking. Addressing this issue is difficult, however, as the sensitive nature of data about their condition -usually collected in a confidential, clinical setting- means accessibility experts cannot use it to develop interventions. To overcome this problem, we devised (along with domain experts in the lung cancer field) a new technique for formulating user requirements for an online health and social support system for people with lung cancer, their carers, and healthcare professionals. Requirements were derived from personas and scenarios created by lung cancer experts following an ethnographic coding process to facilitate summarisation, aggregation, and anonymisation of a complex, confidential data set. This novel approach allowed us to identify the barriers that currently restrict access to online health and social support for people with lung cancer, and articulate the appropriate ways of addressing them. For patients (who are often afraid of what they? Is this  may encounter on the Web) providing a safe and sensitive environment in which to engage with others and obtain information about their condition is key. Healthcare professionals identify a single point of reference for accessing data about a patient’s condition as offering a significant advance in improving patients’ health. In this case, we see contributions to the accessibility to online social support, and preliminary contributions to new methods of understanding user requirements.

I suppose the questions is – what do you think? Is this an accessibility issue, or not?

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