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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, June 03, 2017 1:00 am

Website streamlines disabilities searches

Cody Thompson | The Journal Gazette

With the website displayed on a screen behind them, members of a local disability network gave a working presentation of their new disability services database, IndianaPop.org.

This website streamlines the search for disability services. Although it has been working for a while, it was officially launched Friday with a demonstration at the Holiday Inn at IPFW.

Alan Paulding, board chairman for disability network Fifth Freedom, uses a service dog and said he found the website useful.

“I found some things I never even think about,” he said.

Douglas Schmidt, director of communication for Fifth Freedom, compared the website to searching through a library.

“It's the difference between stumbling around the library, going up and down the aisles, trying to find something remotely useful and asking the librarian where to get started,” he said.

The website, which is colorful and easy-to-use, allows a user to plug in any disability into a search box. Once he or she presses the search button, the website retrieves the results.

When one types the word “deaf” the website produces 141 results, “blind” produces 78, and “wheelchair” produces 39. Above the search bar is a message: “ Finding disability services online can be like digging for a needle in a haystack. But with IndianaPop, now you have a magnet.”

Each result is a link to a service with contact information, maps and other tools. The website is part of Indiana's Fifth Freedom Network, which is designed to help improve or seek resources for people with disabilities.

The organization is the largest disability network in the state, Executive Director Sheri Caveda said. The network was bogged down by phone calls inquiring about different services, she said.

“They can't find what they're looking for,” she said. “They're overwhelmed.”

So six years ago, the idea to aggregate services into a searchable directory began to take shape. It took four years of development, with significant web design help from Reusser Design in Roanoke.

The president of the company, Nate Reusser, said Fifth Freedom was a great partner. He said the website is a wonderful tool that goes back to the mission of Fifth Freedom.

“We were just one small part of that,” he said.

Fifth Freedom accumulated most of the information. However, Reusser said his company plans to take on similar projects in the future.

Caveda is pleased with the finished product. She said there are already thousands of users even though her organization has yet to do any advertising. 

“This is the most exciting thing we've been able to offer to the entire disability community in Indiana,” she said.

Schmidt said the National Organization of Disabilities conducted a survey that determined 88 percent of people with disabilities went to the internet to search for services and 76 percent said they often couldn't find them.

“It's hard, you know?” Schmidt said. “It's difficult to find what you need.”

Christine Dahlberg was at the event Friday. Dahlberg is executive director of the Indiana Governor's Council for People with Disabilities. She said this website addressed one of the key issues in the disability community.

“IndianaPop is the answer to their question of where can I find information,” she said.

cthompson@jg.net