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Technology and Disability communicates knowledge about the field of assistive technology devices and services, within the context of the lives of end users - persons with disabilities and their family members. While the topics are technical in nature, the articles are written for broad comprehension despite the reader's education or training.
Technology and Disability's contents cover research and development efforts, education and training programs, service and policy activities and consumer experiences.
The term Technology refers to assistive devices and services.
- The term Disability refers to both permanent and temporary functional limitations experienced by people of any age within any circumstance.
- The term and underscores the editorial commitment to seek for articles which see technology linked to disability as a means to support or compensate the person in daily functioning.
The Editor also attempts to link the themes of technology and disability through the selection of appropriate basic and applied research papers, review articles, case studies, programme descriptions, letters to the Editor and commentaries. Suggestions for thematic issues and proposed manuscripts are welcomed.
Abstract: The growing number of disabled and elderly citizens, on one side, and the wide spreading of technology in everyday life, on the other, has led to a consistent effort devoted to the research of technological solutions for improving the quality of life of disabled and elderly people. Technology can actually provide a wide range of solutions, at different levels of complexity and cost. The recent progress of research in advanced robotics allows robotic solutions to be…applied to assist disabled and elderly people in everyday life. The MOVAID project, promoted by the European Commission within the TIDE programme, and co-ordinated by the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (Pisa, Italy), represents one of the first attempts to propose robotic assistance in such a personal sphere of activities as everyday life at home. Ten partners from five European countries joined the MOVAID Consortium, including Universities, validation centres, and industries. The MOVAID project proposed, applied and validated some innovative concepts for the design and development of a modular robotic solution to the problem of personal assistance, by implementing a mobile robotic system and dedicated interfaces to standard appliances. The final objective of the MOVAID project was to demonstrate two points. First, how mass consumer technological products, when accessible for disabled and elderly people, can enhance their level of autonomy in everyday activities. Second, how a robotic solution is not only technically feasible, but also acceptable from the user's point of view, if integrated in a modular assistance system. The basic philosophy of the project relies on the concepts of `design for all' and `user oriented approach', as key factors for the introduction of technology in everyday activities. Such concepts were realised in the functional and physical distribution of the system in the house, including docking facilities for the mobile robotic unit. The MOVAID system consists of a number of fixed workstations (PCs), located where main activities are carried out at home, such as the kitchen and the bedroom, along with a mobile robotic unit able to navigate in the house avoiding unexpected obstacles, to grasp and manipulate common objects and to dock to the fixed workstations for data exchange and power supply. Commands to the robot are given in a high level language through a graphical interface running on the fixed workstations. On the user interface, a continuous visual feed-back from on-board cameras is also shown to the user, allowing him/her not only to monitor what the robot is doing, but also to collaborate with it, by indicating objects and positions directly on the screen. Moreover, to allow and ease access to standard technological products, interfaces for standard kitchen appliances were studied, and a prototype of a microwave oven interface, offering the oven basic functionality, was developed and tested. Typical tasks for the system, defined on the basis of identified users needs,are: to warm up some food in a microwave oven and serve it at the user's bed;to clean the kitchen work surface; and to remove dirty sheets from a bed. The developed prototype MOVAID system has been successfully validated withpotential users in Italy, France and Switzerland, both through demonstrationsand user trials, carried out in a residential house for disabled people inItaly. The paper summarises the project and its achievements. The basic philosophyand the approach are introduced and a detailed description of the system isthen provided, including the technical aspects related to the componentsdesign and development. Finally, the results of the validation phase on thesystem prototype are reported and discussed.
Keywords: disabled and elderly people, personal assistance, robotic assistance, personal robot, design for all, user-oriented approach
Abstract: The Handy 1 was developed in 1987 by Mike Topping to assist an eleven-year-old boy with cerebral palsy to eat unaided. The system is the most successful low-cost, commercially available robotic system in the world to date, capable of assisting the most severely disabled with several everyday functions. This paper outlines the development of the Handy~1 and it's user acceptance during the last decade.
Abstract: This paper provides an overview of the major areas of research within the Department of Applied Computing at the University of Dundee. This research focuses on the areas of Interactive Communication Systems, Telecommunications and Remote Learning, Computer based Interviewing and Knowledge Elicitation, Health Informatics, Software Engineering, and Digital Signal Processing. A major strand throughout these areas is a focus on Human Computing Interaction issues, and the use of computing technology to facilitate…interpersonal communication, particularly for people with disabilities. The research has produced many new insights in these areas and a number of commercial products have been licensed as a result. The Department's unique approach is based on placing the user at the centre of the design process, and having people with disabilities make major contributions as participants in the research and also as researchers.
Abstract: Biomechanical techniques can play a major role in the objective evaluation of technical aids performance. Little information exists regarding elbow crutch handgrip performance. This paper applies different biomechanical techniques to evaluate handgrip performance. These techniques include quantitative recording of pressures in the hand-handgrip interface, and subjective tests which, properly treated, provide objective information about the evolution of pain and general comfort in different parts of the hand, together with the user's opinion…of different designs. The present work shows an application of biomechanical techniques to the design of a new handgrip for elbow crutches. In our example, the best alternative among four proposed designs, was determined by the user criterion comfort of use.
Abstract: The experience physiotherapists and occupational therapists gain from wheelchair prescription, adjustment and adaptation, is often a form of practical knowledge which may be difficult to generalize and communicate. This paper presents a method to make this experience and the discussion about goals and ranking of wheelchair functions more explicit and more systematically documented. According to our practice, illustrated by a case study, it seems to be a helpful tool for decision and evaluation in the individual…cases. The next step will be to use this approach to gather quantitative data from different groups of clients.
Keywords: wheelchair, ergonomics, evaluation, client case
Abstract: When it comes to designing assistive technology, rehabilitation engineers have to bear in mind that the disabled person is not the only person to be addressed. Quite often a facilitator, who can be a family member, a professional carer, a therapist or a teacher, is the key person to ensure function and efficiency of the assistive technology in use. These facilitators are seldom experts in rehabilitation technology or computer programming. To exploit the high potential of…this highly motivated but often inexperienced group we seek to tackle this problem from two sides. The first approach has been realized in a PC-based environmental control and communication system, which we have equipped with three different and dedicated user interfaces: one for the disabled person, another for the facilitator and a third one for the integrator -- the knowledgeable person responsible for the first set-up of the system. The paper describes the goals, benefits and success of this multiple-user dedicated interface design. The second approach presently is the topic of a European Union R&D project, by which a concept for telematic service provision is developed and will be put to trial in 1999. Users of PC-based assistive technology and their facilitators will be equipped with an easy to use telematic link by which a service provider can be contacted. The service link consists of speech and video telephony, remote controlling and monitoring the client
Keywords: assistive technology, user interfaces, remote service provision, AAC, environmental control