Matching clothes is a challenging task for many blind people. In this paper, we present a proof of concept system to solve this problem. The system consists of 1) a camera connected to a computer to perform pattern and color matching process; 2) speech commands for system control and configuration; and 3) audio feedback to provide matching results for both color and patterns of clothes. This system can handle clothes in deficient color without any pattern, as well as clothing with multiple colors and complex patterns to aid both blind and color deficient people. Furthermore, our method is robust to variations of illumination, clothing rotation and wrinkling. To evaluate the proposed prototype, we collect two challenging databases including clothes without any pattern, or with multiple colors and different patterns under different conditions of lighting and rotation. Results reported here demonstrate the robustness and effectiveness of the proposed clothing matching system.
Urban intersections are the most dangerous parts of a blind or visually impaired pedestrian's travel. A prerequisite for safely crossing an intersection is entering the crosswalk in the right direction and avoiding the danger of straying outside the crosswalk. This paper presents a proof of concept system that seeks to provide such alignment information. The system consists of a standard mobile phone with built-in camera that uses computer vision algorithms to detect any crosswalk visible in the camera's field of view; audio feedback from the phone then helps the user align him/herself to it. Our prototype implementation on a Nokia mobile phone runs in about one second per image, and is intended for eventual use in a mobile phone system that will aid blind and visually impaired pedestrians in navigating traffic intersections.
This paper addresses the critical issue of accessibility of interactive applications and services in the Information Society by disabled and elderly people, following two paths. Firstly, the paper develops an argumentation for proactive and generic strategies towards designing for the broadest possible end-user population, including disabled and elderly people, as opposed to reactive, adaptation-based approaches. To this end, the paper provides an overview of research and development work in the area of accessibility in Europe, and follows the evolution of research work from adaptation based solutions to the notion of universal access to the Information Society. The paper also reviews the current state of the art in the area of universal design, and elaborates on the contributions of the unified user interface development method towards the development of an accessible Information Society. Secondly, the paper discusses necessary steps to advance the available results beyond ...
This article briefly reviews the findings of the 1982 report, provides background information on the developments in the field of assistive technology since 1982 and summarizes key issues discussed in all articles. The basic information in this paper serves as a foundation for the subsequent articles, outlining key definitions and service delivery programs. The paper concludes with a commentary on future challenges to achieving systems change in the assistive technology field.
It is commonly suggested that the unappealing appearance of many assistive devices discourages their adoption and use by elderly people. This study investigated users' perceptions of walking aids through 22 semi-structured interviews and three focus groups. It was found that device acceptance incorporates issues related to device appearance and stigma and enhancement of individual autonomy. Each individual held unique preferences for both aspects of image and autonomy. Additionally, device acceptance is dependent upon the context. Concern with the negative image of the device was limited to the first mobility device and was temporary.
Recent advances in medicine, rehabilitation and public health have increased life expectancy and caused the prevalence of disability to rise. These trends have resulted in a convergence between the aging and disability populations; more older adults are experiencing onset of disability in later life and more persons with life-long disability are living into old age. Environmental interventions, including assistive technology (AT) and home modification (HM), are an important strategy for maintaining independence, productivity and community participation. However, older adults remain underserved in AT and HM. This article suggests that the lingering effects of 'ageism' and 'structural lag' in aging and disability policies and programs limit the access of older adults with disability to environmental interventions. Major policies influencing access to environmental interventions by older adults with disability and recent trends in AT/HM research, policy and practice are described. Strategies for improving the access of older adults to AT/HM services are suggested.
The Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is designated as a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on the topic of Adaptive Computers and Information Systems. The purpose of this Center is to 'assure that individuals with disabilities will have adequate accessible technology and technology interface to assist them to participate fully in the communication and rapid exchange of information that will be integral to the economy and lifestyle of the future.' This priority stems from a concern that an increasingly technical society has the potential for becoming more and more inaccessible to individuals with impairments. Information systems, including but not limited to computers, are now becoming essential components in the workplace, education, home life, and increasingly community life as well. The RERC addresses three types of technologies: (1) Microcomputers and other programmable, flexible input/output devices; (2) Next-generation information systems and the information superhighway, and (3) Existing and emerging communication and of the Center include: working with makers of mass-market equipment and software to improve their designs; basic and applied research on human factors and disability issues as they relate to information systems; development of guidelines and standards for computer and information system accessibility; and information and outreach efforts to involve consumers in the development of guidelines and accessible designs.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview and overall structure for discussion of accessibility issues for people with disabilities. It also defines the relationship between creating a more accessible web for people with disabilities and creating a web that is accessible to people who are mobile, as well as those who are engaged in other activities while accessing information from the web. The relationship of accessible web sites to web indexing engines and intelligent agents are also discussed.
This article summarizes demographic information about people with disabilities and their use of assistive technology. Issues relating to the lack of a coordinated national level data collection effort about Americans with disabilities are discussed. These issues have broad implications for assistive technology systems because the lack of data on assistive technology use hampers efforts to build policies supportive of consumer-driven assistive technology services.
The Wichita RERC, a consortium of the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas, and the Wichita State University, College of Engineering, has been a pioneer in the investigation and application of rehabilitation engineering techniques in vocational environments. The RERC concentrates on three thrust areas: 1. Research and Demonstration in Educational Settings 2. Research and Demonstration in Prevocational Environments, and 3. Research and Demonstration in Actual Employment. Researchers encourage the development of autonomous behaviors in students with disabilities. Over time, the RERC has identified some key concepts related to the role of assistive technology and proper management crucial to transition. Data generated has been extremely candid, pragmatic, and on occasion, at odds with conventional thinking of educators and advocates. The next step in the employment process is assessment and placement. Systems that incorporate proven and innovative techniques that enable assessment professionals, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and consumers with disabilities to effectively control their work destinies are being developed by RERC staff. Once employment is obtained, modification or fabrication of worksites is necessary. These can be very sophisticated or relatively low-tech. Hundreds of applications of rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology enabling persons with disabilities to earn a competitive wage have been documented over the years with special emphasis on cost. Non-federal research activities conducted by the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas have resulted in several products that were marketed to persons with disabilities. Current research efforts include the development of a state-of-the-art wheelchair control system, and a microprocessor-controlled nebulizer. The Wichita RERC is unique among its peers in that it has conducted applied research resulting in service delivery at clinical models in the areas of housing and manufacturing for over twenty years.
Our society's changing demographics include the aging of our population and a greater number of persons with disabling conditions. As a result, many people experience obstacles in their homes that are inconvenient, limiting and dangerous. They are beginning to realize that their homes can better support their needs through home modifications; that they can remain in their homes and neighborhoods rather than move to more institutional settings. The ability to meet this growing need for home modifications is hampered by lack of information, limited funding and inadequate services. Because these barriers are interlinked, a complex scenario evolves that negatively affects the availability of home modifications. A Blueprint for Action is the print product of the second national conference on home modifications which was convened to address these barriers. 'A Blueprint for Action: The Second National Working Conference on Home Modifications Policy', held in April, 1996 in Washington, DC was attended by over 60 of the nation's leading experts in disability, aging, housing finance, remodeling, design and construction, community development and long-term care. Planned by the National Home Modifications Action Coalition, this conference provided the opportunity to develop home modification agendas at community, state and national levels. The publication reflects the four key action areas of the conference - Consumer Knowledge, Funding, Service Delivery and Systems Change. A Blueprint for Action was developed from the background papers written on the four themes, discussions and working groups at this second conference. Portions of the papers are excerpted. This report includes a discussion of barriers and recommendations for national, state and community change. Its use is intended to increase the availability and affordability of home modifications for individuals of all ages. A Blueprint for Action reflects the diverse perspectives and approaches of the many experts who have contributed to the conference and the papers. Most importantly, A Blueprint for Action is an action plan for promoting home modifications through coalition building and sustained and coordinated activities.
This article presents an overview of the major R&D initiatives at the Neil Squire Foundation based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Five projects are highlighted and include a remote gateway environmental control system, a keyboard/mouse emulator, a robotic system, a voice recognition product, and a speech assisted reading and writing program. These R&D activities illustrate the Foundation's commitment to developing products that enhance the employability, independence, and quality of life of adults with disabilities of all ages, i.e., in an attempt to 'level the playing field'. The benefits to users towards the achievement of this important goal for each project are also described.
A comprehensive usability study was conducted to assess the suitability for older adults of the 'Remote Gateway' (RG), a prototype portable wireless automated integrated environmental control device. Using a full-scale simulated living room and bedroom, 153 older adults, half of whom had mobility restrictions, participated in a protocol where they were introduced to, observed and experimented with the RG. A subset of the sample (n = 79) also performed eight daily living tasks (e.g. answering the telephone, turning lights and TV on/off, and answering a door) both manually (without the RG) and electronically with the RG. Data collected included behavior observations of task times, task-associated problematic behaviors, as well as questionnaire data on several dimensions related to the RG, e.g. aesthetics, cost, advantages and disadvantages, and personal interest in adopting the RG. Results showed, overall, the RG performed well. The seniors executed the daily living tasks with relatively few associated problems, which was reflected in positive self-reports of the overall usability of the device. The mobility restricted seniors felt the RG was more difficult to use and more difficult to hold than the less disabled seniors. The older adults stated a clear preference for the RG to be connected to household items that enhance personal safety, e.g. surveillance cameras. Although the participants clearly perceived the RG to be of benefit to seniors with mobility disabilities, relatively fewer perceived the RG in terms of convenience or as a device that could potentially prevent in-home accidents. Specific design recommendations for the RG are also offered.
There has been a growing need to significantly improve the availability of effective, practical assistive technology products and techniques from research laboratory into commercial use and clinical application. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Rehabilitation Research and Development (Rehab R and D) Service has responded to this issue by establishing the Technology Transfer Section (TTS). In realizing the inherent problems associated with attracting manufacturers to invest in new rehab products, the TTS has put into action a pro-active, veterans-need, mechanism that can: (1) provide resources to accomplish manufacture of pre-commercial models; (2) conduct national clinical evaluation studies to validate the product's success in meeting an identified need; and (3) define readiness for commercial production. Securing a manufacturer at the onset significantly improves, pending positive evaluation outcome, the product's commercial availability. The transition from research prototype to commercial product has significant barriers that stymie the process. The VA Rehab R and D's TTS 'GATEWAY' process offers a unique approach to breaking through the barriers facilitating new rehab technology being available to veterans - and the entire population - with disabilities.
Another group that is underserved by the assistive technology service delivery system is older persons with disabilities. Becuase of the projected increase in this population in the coming years and the comcomitant demand on health care, social services and assistive technology, it is important to examine the needs and concerns of this population in depth and move towards greater acceptance of and access to assistive technology for elders.
A national survey of the aging network - State Units on Aging (n = 42) and Area Agencies on Aging (n = 342) - was conducted to examine their activities to address the assistive technology (AT) and home modifications (HM) needs of older adults. The study contrasts the awareness of and importance placed on AT/HM programs and services by state and local administrators of aging agencies; describes interagency activities; identifies challenges in service delivery; and discusses several innovative sevice models. These findings indicate that although state-level collaboration between the aging network and the rehabilitation system is on the rise, there has been little measurable impact on service delivery at the local level where the needs of elders with disabilities are addressed.
In the United States, the population over 65 years old has been increasing rapidly in this century. There are many impairments and chronic diseases associated with aging. Fifty-five percent of elderly persons in the United States have arthritis. Arthritis can affect both upper and lower extremities. Hands impacted by arthritis may have pain, swelling, contractures and deformities. Lower extremities affected by arthritis may cause difficulty in ambulation and balance. One of the most widely used assistive devices for walking is the cane. While canes can support up to 25% of the users' body weight, the user's hand receives much pressure from the cane handle. The design of the cane handle is important for persons with arthritis, the material, size, shape and texture can impact on user comfort. The purpose of this study was to evaluate five cane handles designed specifically for users with arthritic hands and gain an understanding of the factors in the design of cane handles that contribute to user satisfaction for persons with painful arthritis in their hands. Three of the cane handles were developed by the University at Buffalo Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Aging (RERC-Aging). The other two were commercially available. All study participants were selected from the RERC-Aging Consumer Assessment's study sample pool which includes more than 500 participants over 60 years of age with various disabilities and who require assistive devices or home modifications. The present study selected 12 participants with arthritis in their hands who used canes as walking or balance aids at the time of the study. The study participants were asked to use each of the five cane handles and the cane they owned and used, to perform five typical cane tasks. After each trial, a questionnaire with six categories of evaluation criteria was used to gather participants' responses for each cane handle. Results indicate the Ortho-Ease, a commercially available cane handle received the overall highest scores. The aesthetics, functional and physical criteria were identified as predictive factors for user satisfaction of cane handles.
In light of America's population demographics, the emergence of 'new' disabilities, and the lightening pace of technology advances, it is anticipated that demand for assistive technology devices and services will continue to increase. Unfortunately, the availability of skilled service providers is limited and an array of training opportunities at various levels are needed to increase the supply of practitioners. At the same time, credentialing systems are being developed to ensure that practitioners actually have the necessary skills to provide quality assistive technology services.
Nearly 25 million people in the United States have a hearing loss. These hearing losses vary in severity from a mild loss that interferes with a person's ability to communicate by speech, to profound or total deafness. People in the latter group usually communicate by sign language or other visual means of communication. Although hearing aids, TTY's (also known as TDD's, telephone devices for deaf people) and other assistive devices are widely used, the majority of persons with hearing loss do not make use of technological aids. Costs are high, many technological aids are not as effective as they could be, and many potential consumers are unaware of the benefits that technological aids can provide. The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Hearing Enhancement and Assistive Devices is designed to address these problems in an efficient and productive way. This is done by developing and evaluating improved cost-effective technological aids for the various groups of people with hearing loss, according to their needs (e.g. people with moderate hearing losses, people with severe or profound hearing losses, young children, older adults and people with both vision and hearing loss). Specific projects include the development and evaluation of improved instrumentation for detecting hearing loss at an early age, development and evaluation of improved hearing aids, providing improved access to modern telecommunications, developing and evaluating specialized technology for community, home and work environments including technology for the various groups noted above, who have special needs. All of this work is supported by an active program of dissemination and training to ensure effective utilization of the research results and assistive devices developed by this research center.
This articles explains the background and unique capabilities of the Consumer Assistive Technology Transfer Network (CATN). CATN assists consumers, developers, researchers and/or engineers, nationally and internationally, with assistive technology resources in the US. These resources involve 56 state/territorial assistive technology programs, 16 rehabilitation engineering research centers, and over 600 research and development federal laboratories. The purpose of the CATN is for consumers to identify devices and applications regarding difficult to solve assistive technology problems as well as to develop and commercialize inventions. The CATN is also for developers, researchers and/or engineers to try out assistive technology-related research and development of devices/applications with consumers for relevance to commercialization and manufacturing. The following areas will be discussed in this article: background and overview of the CATN resource network; internet accessibility; how to define the AT solution or application in a request; development of resource mapping to identify and filter applicable AT resources for requests from consumers to the centers/labs, and from labs/centers to consumers; disability and partnership considerations in mediating application requests with technology transfer; and implications of the CATN for SBIR programs, partnerships, product development and commercialization.
This article analyzes the underlying values of public policy toward people with disabilities and technology and the impact on assistive technology service delivery and financing. While the values of the independent living movement are beginning to make inroads into policy, change in practice is moving more slowly. Likewise, although assistive technology concerns have been incorporated into many pieces of legislation, the service delivery system continues to be inaccessible in many ways. Financing is still one of the major problems in accessing technology. Sources of funding are described as well as a variety of creative approaches to filling the gaps in funding.
Technology evaluation and technology transfer are both means to increase the quality and quantity of assistive devices in the marketplace. Despite a respectable level of activity in both arenas, there is little documentation on the terms used, the structure of the process employed and the roles of the participants. This paper draws from the existing literature and applies the experience of one program to provide an overview to technology evaluation and transfer.
The RERC-TET is a collaborative program to evaluate and commercialize prototypes of new assistive devices. The evaluation process involves consumers conducting user trials, business people performing market analysis, and university researchers conducting technical testing. All three groups work together to move promising new devices to the marketplace. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research sponsors this collaborative program with two goals: to help useful prototype devices reach the marketplace thereby improving the quality of assistive devices, and to work towards establishing a community-based program for device commercialization, run by and for persons with disabilities. The RERC-TET is designed to add value to prototype devices, by demonstrating their utility and market viability. This paper reviews seminal prior literature, describes the RERC-TET's program, presents points of access for prospective users, and explains how the program's capabilities add value to new assistive devices.
People with disabilities enrich the diversity of society and expand our realm of possibilities. The continued conflict about the role of disability in American society has received particular attention among the public and scientific community due to an accident involving a prominent Hollywood celebrity. On May 27 of 1995, Christopher Reeve was injured in a riding accident. When Mr. Reeve experienced a traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), the issue of disability in America was brought to the forefront of our collective conscience. The current discussions prompted by Christopher Reeve have stirred many deep-rooted concerns which had been lying below the surface. The focus on cure research in spinal cord injury brought about by the testimony and press coverage surrounding Christopher Reeve has awakened memories of former times when research for a cure was the driving force while the quality of life as defined by the 'patient' was a non-issue. In current culture, people with disabilities are striving for recognition of their abilities and accomplishments with the goal of achieving greater integration into American society regardless of any functional limitations. Disability has very diverse origins and, therefore, searching for a cure opens the question as to who are we trying to cure. In other words, which disability should be the focus of cure research and what justifies one disability having a higher priority over another. Should public policy address cure research from the perspective of developing technologies and procedures which eliminate individual disability or should public policy take a societal viewpoint to accommodate citizens regardless of their functional capabilities?.
The full inclusion of people with disabilities in rehabilitation science and disabilities studies is necessary for growth and long-term success. Full inclusion of people with disabilities can only be accomplished through building research capacity and changing rehabilitation research paradigms. There must also be a national effort to build a rehabilitation research infrastructure with short- and long-range programs to recruit and train scientists with disabilities. The building of research capacity requires the cooperation and collaboration of federal agencies, national laboratories, universities, and advocacy organizations. Research capacity and research quality must be increased to achieve the goals expected by people with disabilities.
Universal design can be defined as design of products and services so that they can be used by the largest number of people - including people with disabilities - right out of the box. Its principal claim is that for market reasons alone, companies should be sure that they include the needs of customers with disabilities, aging customers, customers who use different languages, etc., from the very beginning of their product development process. By using universal design, companies can maximize their potential market. As important as product development is to the business process, it is only one stage in a products life cycle and one element in its success. Product design lies within a constellation of activities such as market analysis, marketing, advertising and customer support. There are implications for all of these in universal design. The most accessible product will not serve its intended customers if they have never heard of it, do not understand what it can do for them, cannot read its manuals and cannot communicate with a customer representative. This paper will review some of these business process issues in detail. It will describe what a number of companies in the information industry are doing now in these arenas. It will end with suggestions as to what work needs to be accomplished so that universal design can permeate more business practices in more companies.
With a large portion of the population having a disability or being elderly, there is a need for more studies of assistive technology and for encouraging people to pursue careers in rehabilitation engineering. Despite the advances of the 1970s and 1980s, people with disabilities are far from fully integrated into society. Professionals need to be sensitive to issues important to the person with a disability, and to the communities in which they live. The primary issue of concern to persons with disabilities is access; access to gainful employment, access to training, access to promotion, access to health care, access to assistive technology, access to recreation, access to socialization, and most importantly, access to dignity. The challenge to society is to open the doors and permit persons with disabilities to maximize their potential.
The Internet is available 24 hours per day and offers a wealth of information via web sites, mailing lists and other resources for individuals with disabilities. These individuals can use the Internet as a tool to gain information related to their disabilities, assistive technology, employment, leisure activities, public policy and more. This article will describe some of the sites on these topics that may be of particular interest to individuals with disabilities, their family members and assistive technology service providers. This article provides the reader with a summary of the resources available regarding disability-related information on the Internet.
The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Evaluation and Transfer (RERC-TET) operated from 1993 to 1998. Its objectives were to identify prototype assistive devices, evaluate their potential value for consumers, and work to commercialize those with apparent value. The RERC-TET met its objectives by evaluating hundreds of prototype assistive devices, and transferring an average of five per year to manufacturers through licenses. The RERC-TET implemented the principal of Participatory Action Research, by integrating people with disabilities in teams of technical and marketing personnel. This paper reviews the contributions of consumers to the evaluation and transfer programs conducted.
Better, safer and easier-to-use home environments are important in an aging society. Unfortunately, only a small proportion of people who need more accessible living environments modify or adapt their homes. There are a number of reasons improved living environments have not 'caught on'. While there are many excellent educational programs and materials for educating consumers, the approaches have targeted the consumer as the problem. In addition, suggested modifications have often been inconsistent with consumer preferences. This article suggests that a great deal of knowledge exists about how to improve living environments; the next step is how to make these improvements part of the mainstream consumer marketplace.
Significant demographic and ideological changes affecting who we are, what we can do, and where we live require a world that is more accommodating to variances in mobility, vision, hearing, cognition, and manual dexterity. Universal design, in contrast to specialized design, is an approach to creating everyday environments and products that are usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, regardless of age or ability. Universal design implies responsiveness to the needs of diverse users. This paper explores how consumer participation is essential to ensure that design is responsive to user needs and that it is universally usable. Four areas of participation are examined: consumer involvement in defining user needs; consumer evaluation to inform industry and educate the consumer; consumer participation to impact regulatory requirements; and consumer assessment in design exploration and education. Moreover, consumer participation is a two-way exchange. It not only benefits designers by providing much-needed information for the design of products and environments, but also has direct and indirect benefits for those who participate. These benefits are also discussed.
In this article, we describe the benefits for people with disabilities of using the Internet and information technologies. We include brief case studies to illustrate how people with different functional limitations use electronic resources in their everyday lives. The examples illustrate the ways that the Internet and information technologies can empower people with disabilities by (1) enhancing access to information about the community, (2) providing venues for electronic publishing, (3) offering opportunities for networking and advocacy, (4) increasing access to education, and (5) enhancing employment opportunities. People with disabilities encounter a number of barriers when attempting to use the Internet and information technologies. Although we outline some of the barriers, the focus of this article is on the benefits of the Internet and information technologies. We strongly advocate that rehabilitation professionals acquire expertise necessary to assist people with disabilities in gaining access to and the effective use of information networks, thus improving their quality of life, opportunities for employment, education and recreation.
The growing number of older adults and younger persons with disabilities who would benefit from home modifications have not yet been matched by a delivery system capable of responding to their needs. The delivery system for home modifications is a patchwork of fragmented and uncoordinated services with significant gaps in types of services available and geographic coverage. These problems are compounded by factors that limit both the demand for and supply of home modification services. This article discusses the incidence and need for home modifications; what is known about service delivery; barriers to developing an effective system; promising recent developments; and recommendations for next steps.
On 24 April 1996, a Special Interest Forum (SIF) was held in Washington DC, on the topic of 'Home Modifications and the Fair Housing Law'. Its purpose was to promote innovation in the design of home modifications and to examine related aspects of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. The Amendments move toward making housing more accessible and usable by a diverse population, including people with disabilities. This report captures the main points raised by the presenters and elaborates on many of the issues. The SIF was organized by the Association of Safe and Accessible Products (ASAP). Funding was provided by the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center), State University of New York at Buffalo, as part of a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development entitled 'Fair Housing Means Universal Design'.
There is an increasing recognition of the growth in the need for and benefits of, home modifications. At the same time there is a lack of awareness of resources. There are also threats to many existing funding and financing sources. The public has limited familiarity of the private or public resources for home modification projects that are available to households of all income levels: the most frequently asked question from callers to the Center for Universal Design's national information services relates to paying for home modifications. As with almost all affordable housing initiatives, programs directed at home modifications for people with low incomes have insufficient funds to meet their needs. Waiting lists are common while many people receive no assistance. Federal initiatives that currently provide millions of dollars of support for home modifications for low and moderate income households are in danger of elimination or reduced funding. This will create greater competition for the uses of the remaining funds and new demands on funding from within states. Another factor in under-utilization of home modifications is that manufacturers and the housing industry do not sense great demand in the private sector. Too few households see home modifications as viable remodeling options. Remodelers have not developed skills and experience and manufacturers and retailers do not emphasize product development, design or marketing. This article reviews funding, financing, and other resources for home modifications, outlines the current constraints and future limitations to these resources, and suggests actions to increase the availability of home modifications.
This article provides an overview of several international housing issues facing societies with a high proportion of older persons. Using examples from a number of countries, the article discusses the strains placed on the quantity and type of housing available for older persons; the trend toward independent living; the role of government in housing policy; and the role of home modification, universal design and assistive technology in enabling older persons to live in the community.
Three primary factors account for why an unprecedented number of American inventors are focusing their talents on developing assistive technology: (1) the technology market is providing them with an ever-growing collection of new and affordable development tools; (2) there is new legislation concerning (and government money to support) both the social and technological rights of disabled people; and (3) the US population is aging, and therefore increasing the demand for assistive devices. The ultimate goal of these research and development (R and D) efforts is technology transfer, i.e. moving the devices out of the research laboratory and into the hands of consumers. Yet devices invented in Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs), universities, or even small private research laboratories, rarely make it to the commercial market. This paper suggests that a basic incompatibility exists between the talents of those who invent and the skills needed to achieve technology transfer, and suggests ways of dealing with this dilemma.
With the increasing incidence of low vision, especially among older persons, magnifying devices can play an important role in maintaining functional independence and quality of life. However, high rates of dissatisfaction with magnifiers have been reported. This study sought to identify factors which contribute to dissatisfaction and to correct them. Older persons who had reported dissatisfaction with their magnifiers were given the opportunity to see and try out a variety of magnifiers and lighting arrangements and to make a choice with input from informed persons. Demonstrations and training were also provided. Under these conditions, almost all of the cases reported satisfaction with their new magnifiers. Three case studies are included to illustrate some of the findings. Discussion centers on features of service systems which would increase the probability of the successful provision of magnifiers. These features include: the opportunity to choose among different magnifiers, professional assessment and guidance, training in device use, home trials and proper lighting.
For a manufacturer, technology transfer is successful when externally-initiated product ideas match a complex set of criteria. These criteria are usually manufacturer-specific. If an inventor or technology transfer facilitator fully understands the criteria of the target manufacturer, the success rate of the transfer increases. A description of technology transfer at Maddak, Inc., a manufacturer of assistive technology, is offered, including their product evaluation criteria. A case study of technology transfer is presented, and strategies for improving technology transfer are proposed, including cost estimation, market size projection, and the use of manufacturer profiles.
Objective: In this paper we describe the design of a website based on written information about diabetes for people with intellectual disability and their care providers. Methods: The design process was collaborative with adults with intellectual disability, care providers, and professionals. The design followed the W3C Guidelines – Accessibility Guidelines Double A. Results: Preliminary results are promising and the site is having about 850 pages accessed per month. Conclusion: The consultative and design processes used resulted in a unique and acceptable educational tool for people with intellectual disability who have diabetes and their care providers.
Memory problems are often associated with ageing and are among the most common effects of brain injury. Such problems can severely disrupt daily life and put huge strain on family members and carers. Electronic devices have been used successfully to provide short and timely reminders to memory-impaired individuals. We are currently developing an electronic memory aid that runs on a personal digital assistant. The system has the ability to enter data not only on the device itself, but also from other stations by means of mobile telephony. Users, carers or administrative staff can remotely enter device data, which creates flexibility of data entry and monitoring. This paper describes usability issues identified in the design of the memory aid interface and preliminary findings of the field trial in which the device is currently being tested.
This study investigated the possibility of using Information Visualisation (IV) in the user interface of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems. AAC systems exist to assist people to overcome communication handicaps. Computer-based AAC systems can contain stored communication material for people with impaired communication to retrieve and use during interaction. As the size of the stored information corpus in an AAC system increases, the task of searching and retrieving items from that corpus will become more demanding, which will make it less easy for someone to successfully access and use such material. IV has therefore been investigated here as a way of accessing AAC content. A prototype visualisation interface was developed as a means of retrieving stored biographical text in an AAC context. Trial of this prototype showed that it was possible for people to successfully retrieve the stored information with the IV-based user interface, indicating that an IV-based interface could have potential within AAC. Further work could be pursued to investigate performance with larger corpora and alternative visualisation metaphors; alternative metaphors (using timelines, for example) may be preferred by different people who use AAC. University of Dundee Postgraduate Research Award
Having been shut out of use of the telephone, the major means of communication for personal, social and vocational purposes for over one hundred years, deaf people have enthusiastically welcomed the advent of text and other visual modes of communication via the Internet. Deaf people are using the Internet for the usual purposes hearing people do: socialising, entertainment, learning, business, etc. Evidence is emerging that they too are using the Internet to forge new links and alliances both nationally and internationally. From these links may be emerging a new sense of "Deafhood" (Ladd, 2003), with common experiences of being Deaf in a hearing-speaking world uniting signing Deaf people from all around the world into a "Deaf-World" (Lane, Hoffmeister & Bahan, 1996) which transcends national and geographic barriers. A theoretical analysis of such activities in the Deaf-World will be informed by an extension of Granovetter's (1983) notion of "the strength of weak ties" which posits that in social networks "weak ties" among acquaintances and more distant contacts will provide more new knowledge and information (in this case about innovative communication technologies) than "strong ties" like family and close friends will do. It is considered that the contacts made on the Internet are examples of weak ties which will help expedite the development of new ideas and wider contacts among Deaf people and the development of a more outward looking Deaf World that incorporates broader international perspectives. Following up on previous research in Australia, Germany and Norway (Power, Power & Horstmanshof, 2007; Power, Power & Rehling, 2007; Bakken, 2005) this paper reports a study of the online links and activities of Deaf sites and individuals on the Internet in Europe. It examines Deaf-related blogs, vlogs, Second Life and other social networking sites to determine themes of Deafhood and evidence of the development of more contacts that are weakly tied to the Internet user that emerge in the online communications and activities of Deaf people.
The proportion of the population over the age of 65 is increasing, and this includes persons with developmental disabilities. For this population, impaired mobility is often the result of the combined effects of the aging process, chronic diseases, and developmental disability. Unfortunately, there has been virtually no research on the interaction of these factors on mobility. Neither has there been a focus on mobility related assistive devices that might increase independence and safety, and improve quality of life for older persons with developmental disabilities. This study investigated the types of ambulation problems experienced by older persons with developmental disabilities and their use of mobility devices. The sample included 27 participants over the age of 60 with developmental disabilities living in community residences in Western New York. All but one participant used a walker and all had difficulty in walking. Participants and their caregivers were interviewed. Videotapes of participants' performance using their walkers were reviewed by an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. The assistive device most used by participants was the walker and 92.59% of participant reported satisfaction with their walker. Reasons for using a walker included skeletal problems, muscle weakness, balance problems and prevention of injuries to lower extremities. In most cases the physical therapist recommended the device, and provided training and follow-up. Caregivers in both the home and day program played important roles in ensuring correct use of the device. No accessibility problems were found in the community residences. These residences provided a social environment that fostered the use of walkers. The high level of consumer satisfaction with the walkers suggests effective service delivery for this population.
Distance learning is one of the hottest issues in higher education. Because it depends heavily on digitized information, and because digitized information is displayed independently, distance learning courses are potentially an ideal mechanism for mainstream students with disabilities in education. However, in the rush to move ahead, systems are frequently designed without considering the special interface problems to information technology for students with disabilities. Distance learning can either be an open door to learning and mainstreaming, or it can create new need needless barriers to inclusion.
This paper discusses a model for a national information system on disability-related information. The model attempts to optimize the benefits of both centralized and distributed information models. It also seeks to maximize the ability of local and regional resource individuals as well as individual consumers to act both as dissemination points and source points for information. The model uses a high-technology Internet-based system at its core, with people-based, non-technology based dissemination at its periphery. It provides both a single entry point that can be used for any type of disability-related information and a means to rapidly route the inquiries to locations or individuals with the appropriate level of expertise to provide accurate and timely information. Information would be fed into the system from a variety of levels and would include overview/summative information, information filtered to provide more in-depth and focused coverage and access to complete or very comprehensive coverage for topic areas. This information system could be accessed via mail, telephone (to an information broker), or directly over the Internet. The overall structure allows for distributed responsibility (and funding load) and a cooperative/competitive model that would have individuals from different expertise areas cooperating together while maintaining some competition within expertise areas in order to keep the program vibrant and effective. The overall goal is to reduce redundant preparation of similar information while increasing the ability of consumers to access information from people who are expert in particular areas (rather than having an agency trying to answer all questions on all areas).
Background: Instruments for assessment of outcomes of mobility device interventions in terms of participation in everyday life and society for persons with walking disability are lacking. Objective: To describe the development process of the 'Nordic mobility-related participation outcome evaluation of assistive device interventions' (NOMO 1.0). Methods: 1) Rasch analysis of a mobility-related participation questionnaire based on data from interviews with 111 powered wheelchair or scooter users. 2) Construction of a new self-report instrument, based on the ICF framework in a Nordic context. The development encompassed consultancy with mobility device users (N=41), assistive technology professionals (N=20) and researchers (N=17), and three rounds of pilot testing among mobility device users (N=113). 3) Reliability testing of the instrument among 147 mobility device users. Results: The Rasch analysis demonstrated construct validity, but low discriminative ability. The subsequently developed instrument was found to be content valid and feasible, and the test-retest reliability was satisfactory. Conclusions: The NOMO 1.0 is available free of charge in four Nordic languages. Further psychometric testing of the NOMO 1.0 is being planned.
In June 1994 Draft Recommendation V.18 was approved by the International Telecommunications Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector Study Group 14. This recommendation provides a platform for a future universal text telephone for the deaf and hard of hearing. This article first briefly describes the history of deaf telephony, which led to many diverse solutions to this problem, and then outlines the features of Recommendation V.18 that will provide a migration path toward a single international text telephone.