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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Web site review From: Journal of Assistive Technologies, Volume 5, Issue 3
The web site askTARA.org.uk (not to be confused with the DLF’s asksara site) is a catalogue and a magazine about products and services that can help people stay independent. They do not sell things but can tell users where to buy from, how much to pay and what other people thought of the products. Currently, they are focusing on telecare products but once the site is established it will expand to include telehealth products. The site is designed to be more consumer-led than similar sites offering advice and information to users looking for guidance on assistive technology devices. This will increasingly appeal to self-funders and those people with individualised budgets.
This is a new web site, in fact, it is still very much under construction. I learnt about it when I met one of the people responsible for putting it together at a recent telehealth conference and thought it worth pointing out its potential to readers of the Journal of Assistive Technologies (JAT). The site is a partnership development involving Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands (IEMW) and The Community Gateway Community Interest Company, a social enterprise based in the West Midlands. It has been part funded by the 14 local authorities that make up the West Midlands regions and the IEMW. It is tailored to individual councils and is, therefore, branded with their logos so that users know they are looking at their own council version of askTARA. Local authorities will embed the askTARA links in their own council web sites so that service users can skip seamlessly between the local authority page and their own version of the askTARA. However, this does not exclude other users from gaining a great deal of information about telecare and assistive technology devices.
The user does not have to set up an account to use the site but has the option to register to receive their newsletter. Users are invited to submit comments on the products reviewed. As this is such a new site the user reviews are limited and like all such sites this will take time to expand and become of real value. Making readers of JAT aware of this site may well encourage more participation and help to populate the site giving assistive technology users the benefit of the wealth of experience of the readers of this journal.
The aim of this web portal of assistive technology and telecare products is to provide information on these products so that service users, and carers, can have more understanding of the great range of products in the market and, therefore, empowering them to make a more informed choice. It aims to remove the barriers to information about telecare and consequently increases the awareness of telecare and assistive technology products. The web site works in much the same manner as popular web sites such as Trip Advisor – as people can review products and provide ratings – just as you would do before booking a holiday, therefore, increasing the transparency of what actually works. The site is much more consumer driven and steps away from the more traditional medical terminology and jargon.
The front page has a blog called Kieran’s column. Kieran is a wheelchair user in Staffordshire who goes out and tests the low-level telecare products that are available to everyone on the high street – such as products available in Argos, etc. for under £5. The aim is, over time to have similar blogs from each council, therefore, applying some localism to the site.
The site has some way to go to completion but I think it is one well worth adding to your “Favourites” and keeping an eye on future developments.
Ann AspinallTelehealth Project Manager at NHS Gloucestershire, Brockworth, UK.