TechMatch is a free, Web-based assessment tool that matches people with cognitive disabilities to computer technology. It was produced by Personal Technologies, LLC, apparently also known as Life Technologies, LLC. This is the same company that makes CogLink, e-mail software for people with cognitive disabilities, which I previously reviewed.
The TechMatch Web site does not meet accessibility standards, as is indicated by many images with missing alternative text. Its tool, an assessment questionnaire, is not designed to be used directly by people with cognitive disabilities. Instead, it is intended to be used by the people who care for and about them.
The company promotes TechMatch as offering “…clear and straight forward advice about the strengths and weaknesses of each potential technology…”. It says its tool, which is a questionnaire, assesses factors of six areas affecting successful computer use by people with cognitive disabilities. (The tool lists actually only five areas of questions.) When completed, it produces a summary of the advantages and the disadvantages of each computer technology for the person being assessed.
To access the questionnaire, the TechMatch Web site requires visitors to create a user name and a password. It also requests personal information, i.e, first name, last name, postal code and the visitor’s role in relation to the person being assessed. Upon submitting the information, a verification link is sent to the e-mail address used. No explanation is provided on the log-in form about why the questionnaire can not be completed anonymously.
There are 34 multiple-choice questions. The following are descriptions of the sets of questions. They ask about:
- electronic devices and computer technologies the person uses; the difficulties experienced; and the related activities in which the person does and wants to engage. There are also questions about Internet use.
- the types of environments in which the person visits and lives; the level of comfort using computer technology; and the type of related support available to the person.
- eye and hand coordination and use; the ability to carry and to use objects; and reading ability.
- the person’s ability to plan; to learn; to follow instructions; to concentrate; to remember secret names and passwords; and to protect computers from accidental damage.
- the person’s financial capability to buy computer technology; attitude for and motivation for new challenges; and general feeling about change.
The end result was a report of suggestions for generic computing technologies: netbook, laptop, desktop, cell phone and public computing. The remaining item on the list was Pack Drive, the company’s own product. It is a USB Flash drive containing Internet applications designed for people with cognitive disabilities.
Personal Info Unnecessarily Requested
An option is provided to print a comprehensive report. Choosing it produces a form. The evaluator’s contact information is requested, along with personal information about the person being evaluated. This includes age, date of birth and medical diagnosis. On the form, there is a statement that the information is for inclusion on the printed report only, and will not be saved in any way. To me, it is too risky and unnecessary to provide such information simply to obtain a comprehensive report.
The privacy problems are concerning. The site has no standard privacy statement. On its sign-up form, there is not even a simple statement that the entered e-mail address will not be sold or used for marketing purposes.
TechMatch’s goal for its assessment tool is admirable and shows promise. It may be useful for those who do not know much about computer technology. Yet its table of computer technologies lists only six generic options. From this, I suspect no others are suggested by any of TechMatch’s reports. That there are so few, and that they are so similar, seems to me to be a distinction without much of a difference.
I had expected reports would choose from a database of devices and software that were related to computer- and assistive technology. These databases, e.g., AbleData, already exist. Had the assessment been tied to such a database, it and the effort to complete it certainly would have been more useful.
- TechMatch development was funded through NIDRR grant #H133S070096.
- No endorsement of TechMatch, Pack Drive, their manufacturer, or any of its products is intended or implied.