Publication Details

Clarke, R. J., Noble, G. I., Algie, J. & Kyriazis, E. (2010). Utility of virtual communities for `carers of children and disabilities'. In H. Yeatman (Eds.), The SInet 2010 eBook (pp. 191-202). Wollongong: SInet UOW.


A pilot study of services for children with disabilities conducted in the Illawarra (Noble et al.2005) identified a basic lack of awareness on the part of parents and carers about available services. In particular, there was a lack of awareness of the availability of different support services, application processes to acquire assistance, information about specific disabilities,and the location of various support services. The study indicated that there was no centralsource of information for parents and carers of children with a disability in the Illawarra. Instead, parents and carers had to learn about these issues by `word of mouth', raising issues of information accuracy and timeliness. The study identified a real and pressing need for thecreation of a user-friendly `one-stop shop' for all disability information needs and recommended that a comprehensive online resource be created. Along with information, anonline resource would provide the tools to assist in the planning and management of the child's disability over time.The purpose of this paper is to describe a prototype portal supporting a virtual community that might serve as a one-stop shop for parents and carers of children with disabilities. The potential organisation and utility of this type of virtual community will be described byreferring to a model which was developed from the virtual community literature and theneeds identified in Noble et al. 2005. The limitations of portal technology to support a virtual community of parents and carers of children with disabilities will also be discussed.