Retadis: technology that improves the lives of people with disabilities

Technological development has contributed to facilitating social and labor integration, as well as, improve the quality of life of the elderly and people with disabilities. It has helped to overcome geographical barriers, shorten distances and open new avenues of participation in society for these disadvantaged groups.

Nowadays the adapted technology it is essential for supporting independent living, but, nevertheless, there are still two important barriers to its full implementation. First, the lack of knowledge of the possibilities it offers and, second, the high cost of most applications, both hardware and software. On the one hand, it is unknown due to the lack of dissemination of the solutions that exist today and, for On the other, the heterogeneous characteristics of the users to whom this technology is directed make it necessary to find highly personalized solutions that are therefore less marketable.

Both aspects are dealt with by the Fundación Telefónica project called RETADIS (Territorial Network of computers adapted to people with disabilities), started in 2006 with the support of the Plan Avanza of the Ministry of Industry. It is a network of centers equipped with technology adapted to people with disabilities and implemented in the 17 Autonomous Communities and in the 2 autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla (a total of 26 autonomous centers). In each center, two adapted computers have been installed with numerous applications, technical aids and the necessary software to ensure communications for Internet access and for interconnection with the rest of the network equipment. And in addition, each center has been installed in the premises of associations of people with disabilities with which a collaboration agreement was signed in December 2006.

The installation of equipment has been complemented with a web page (www.retadis.es) of support, technical assistance and training, to advise and collect the queries made by any of the people with disabilities who use these computers throughout the national territory. The technical assistance service has a network of collaborators who, through a forum or personally, respond to queries in the shortest time possible, among them the Telefónica Volunteers.

The project has been enriched with the constitution in 2010 of the Network of RETADIS Centers for Personal Accessibility, a group of 50 people with disabilities known as “personal users”. These people, in addition to personalized technology for exclusive use in their homes, have all the services offered by the RETADIS project through its 26 centers and the website.

The range of products that has been installed in the computers, both for the 50 personal users and in the centers, is in line with the needs of the users and constitutes a wide range of devices, ranging from a Braille line to recognition programs speech, head mice, tablets with Siscodis communication software (program developed by Telefónica), adapted keyboards, motion tracking cameras, virtual keyboards, etc. All this has made it possible to respond to the needs of all users and has constituted an ideal means to facilitate social and labor integration and improve the quality of life of these users.

It is also necessary to highlight the important work carried out in these years by the Telefónica Volunteers. These are active, unrelated or retired workers who dedicate their free time to supporting these users, either by going to the Network Centers or by contacting users by email or telephone. For the last stage of the project, these volunteers are serving as Sponsor Volunteers, establishing a closer and more personalized relationship with personal users and, in some cases, going to their homes.

The main conclusion of these six years of project is that technology has facilitated the access of this group to leisure, culture and training activities in addition to having made it possible to relate people from different geographical areas to form a very enriching network of friends and interests. In-person visits have even been encouraged to inform users belonging to different Autonomous Centers.

One could cite countless cases of users who, thanks to the technology provided by RETADIS, have seen their lives change. This is the case of Arantza, from Vitoria / Gasteiz, one of the personal users with a degenerative disease who can use the computer thanks to a adapted mouse to your needs. Or Abderrahim who from Ceuta communicates with the whole world actively using social networks thanks to another mouse supplied by RETADIS. Or José María who in Palencia and thanks to an adapted mouse, a special keyboard and a simplified access program, uses the computer very naturally. And finally, we can also cite the case of Caridad, who at her home in Madrid has a voice recognition program that makes it easier for her to write on the computer and also has two volunteers from Telefónica who help her at home or through the network to solve your doubts.

There are more cases, such as Santi in Valencia, Patricia in Lugo and Katia in Torrelavega that all three have a tablet PC adapted to your wheelchairs and with the right software to be able to communicate with your friends and family. Also Roser, in Barcelona, ​​who being blind has the screen reading software to be able to use his laptop with which he goes everywhere and Trinidad, Tamara, Pedro, Pino, Julio Cesar and a long etcetera until reaching nearly 500 users who from their homes or from their centers have achieved thanks to the RETADIS project that technology be part of their lives and significantly increase their independence and quality of life.