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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: BACKGROUND: The strong relationship between motor and cognitive development suggests that the limited motor experience of children with physical disabilities can impact their cognitive and perceptual development. The assessment of their cognitive skills is also compromised due to limited verbal communication and motor gestures. Robots have been used to give children with disabilities an opportunity to independently manipulate objects and to reveal their cognitive skills when they use the robots. Little is known about…the neural correlates that subtend robotic augmentative manipulation and the ways in which using a robot to manipulate objects may change the task's cognitive and perceptual demands. Several technical considerations pose a challenge to such studies. OBJECTIVE: This paper presents a methodology for the technical implementation of neurophysiological exploration of robot-augmented manipulation and presents an evaluation of the technical feasibility of performing a comparison between augmented manipulation and direct manipulation as response modalities in a cognitive task. METHODS: A costume made interface was designed that would allow the interfacing of the EGI NetStation® Electroencephalographic (EEG) signal acquisition system, the E-Prime® stimulus presentation system, and a 3-Dimensional task performed with either a robot or through typical direct manipulation. The technical feasibility and the stability of the designed technical implementation was tested with 10 adult participants. RESULTS: Initial analysis revealed specific robot control interface related artefacts. Further testing confirmed the source of artefact. Independent component Analysis was successfully used to separate this artefact component. Advantages, disadvantages, and results obtained from this method for technical implementation are presented. Implications for the study of neural correlates of augmentative manipulation are discussed.
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Persons who rely on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems face tremendous difficulties to maintain a conversation, in part as a consequence of a poor output rate. Word Prediction is a popular AAC technique that can save up around 50% keystrokes. However, only modest communication rate improvements have been reported in the literature. OBJECTIVE: Therefore, we studied the effect of using Sentence Prediction as a complementary, and faster technique, to Word Prediction, in…a text-based AAC system. METHODS: To evaluate this strategy we conducted user tests with a Word and Sentence Prediction prototype we have been developing for a client from a local rehabilitation center. Communication rate was measured with the system having full and partial knowledge of sentences to be composed. RESULTS: With able bodied non-AAC users, mean rates of 18.8 WPM and 21.0 WPM were obtained, respectively, combining Sentence Prediction with Word Prediction, and using Sentence Prediction only. The Sentence Prediction with Word Prediction was the fastest configuration for the AAC user participant, with 7.2 WPM. These results were obtained with the system having knowledge about all the sentences the subjects had to produce (100% sentence knowledge). In a subsequent test, sentence knowledge conditions were degraded to measure performance under non-ideal conditions. The conditions with less sentence knowledge (25% and 0%) had results close to the Word Prediction only condition, around 8 WPM for the able bodied users and 1.3 WPM for the AAC user, which is an indicator that under low sentence reuse conditions Sentence Prediction does not compromise user performance. CONCLUSIONS: Since Sentence Prediction can potentially improve communication rate, we think this technique should be considered as a valuable complement to Word Prediction on text-prediction AAC solutions.
Keywords: Augmentative and alternative communication, rate enhancement techniques, vocabulary prediction, word prediction, sentence prediction
Abstract: The Concept Coding Framework (CCF) technology represents a long term commitment to develop and deliver an open infrastructure for multi-modal and multilingual language support for a wide area of applications. In this way the varying needs among several smaller groups of users of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) may be met as part of a more inclusively designed  mainstream environment of much broader interest. With support from the EU via the AEGIS project, a "CCF-SymbolServer"…has been developed. It can be installed locally on any of the major desktop platforms (GNU/Linux, MacOS X and Windows), or online, to support many kinds of local or web based services and networked mobile systems. In any of these environments the CCF-SymbolServer can provide its multilingual and multi-modal representation services to other applications. Three such applications, developed and tested with users within AEGIS, are presented: 1) CCF-SymbolWriter, an extension for symbol support in LibreOffice/OpenOffice Writer; 2) CCF-SymbolDroid, an AAC app for Android mobile devices; 3) the new CCF supported version of Special Access to Windows (SAW6). Three current follow-up projects are briefly presented in the outline of perspectives for further research and development.
Abstract: Persons with severe Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) cannot operate electric wheelchairs through standard joysticks because they lack muscular power and are affected by deformation of the hands. To address this difficulty, first the authors determined the requirements of input devices based on a survey of the daily life of persons with DMD and the authors developed new joysticks for an electric wheelchair considering the characteristics of the hand functions of persons with DMD. These devices were…based on a quantitative evaluation of the hand functions of persons with severe DMD, which consists of fingertip force and range of motion of the fingers. Two new joysticks were developed, considering hand function, posture, and hand shape of two persons with severe DMD. Thus, the devices can be operated using slight force and movement of the fingers. Furthermore, the authors examined the shape of the hands of persons with severe DMD to determine the shape of the devices.
Keywords: Electric wheelchair, assistive technology, input device, Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Accessibility evaluation of Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) is a field of ongoing research. Towards an evaluation framework for automatic accessibility assessment, a novel methodology using Virtual User Models (VUMs) is presented. OBJECTIVE: To establish a new framework for GUI accessibility assessment using an automated hierarchical task analysis method which uses virtual user models for cognitive disability to replicate real testers. METHODS: A two-phase process which involves the creation of custom GUI…interaction scenario sequences in an implementation-agnostic manner and then the simulated reproduction of these interactions by virtual impaired users. Emphasis is given on the cognitive disabilities, after the development of an advanced cognitive model to be applied over well-established VUM architectures. RESULTS: The results of the actual testers were found correlated to the results extracted from the VUMs performing the same tasks. CONCLUSIONS: The proposed approach is a holistic accessibility assessment of GUIs using Virtual User Models (VUM) in task simulations which can describe cognitive declined functionality as parameterized by VUM.
Keywords: GUI simulation, cognition simulation, accessibility assessment, evaluation, user experience, virtual user model
Abstract: BACKGROUND: The importance of providing accessible and accurate information on Assistive Technology products to all the stakeholders needing it is widely acknowledged. A standardization in the description of assistive products can facilitate the selection of the products that best match the individual needs. Furthermore the definition of a standard for describing product technical details is needed for building up the knowledge base for Decision Support Systems. OBJECTIVE: The aim of our work was the…development of a Taxonomy that can be used to standardize the description of ICT-Based assistive products. METHODS: The taxonomy described in this paper has been developed by the ETNA project – a EU-funded Thematic Network that has been carried out within the framework of the European Assistive Technology Information Network (EASTIN). The taxonomy has been built trough a consensus procedure within the ETNA consortium. RESULTS: The taxonomy is based on a two-level hierarchy of Clusters and Features, and has been connected to the third-level categories of the ISO 9999 standard "Assistive Products for Persons with Disability – Classification and terminology". A procedure has also been defined to manage the continuous update of the taxonomy. CONCLUSIONS: The taxonomy has been implemented on the EASTIN information system, the web portal of the European Assistive Technology Information Network.
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Concepts of sustainability are beginning to emerge in relation to appropriate provision of wheelchair and seating assistive technology (WSAT) from design to follow up and management. OBJECTIVES: 1. Raising awareness and understanding of and actively considering the complex nature of stakeholders' participation in the wheelchair and seating provision. 2. Establishing a consensus regarding key goals and sustainability indicators when developing an action plan for sustainable wheelchair and seating provision systems, that would allow…for effective process monitoring and measurement. METHOD: Qualitative research design, involving key stakeholder perspectives by utilising a soft systems methodological framework including organisational ethnography and critical participatory action research was chosen to study this complex system. Research processes involved participant observation, individual interviews and a series of collaborative workshops. These processes were made up of four main pillars: 1) stakeholder identification, 2) understanding perspectives, 3) meaningful collaboration and 4) strategy development. Pillars 2 and 3, sought to understand stakeholder perspectives individually and collectively, are addressed in this article. RESULTS: Pillar 2 presents rich pictures which were created to represent collective experiences of wheelchair and seating provision. Pillar 3 presents solutions for building sustainable systems. Findings identified the complexity of the system and key areas for development. Specific concerns reported to exist related to individual and nationwide organisational roles, responsibilities and regulation which appeared to influence the disproportionate rhythm of the wheelchair and seating provision system. CONCLUSIONS: A better understanding of this primary need is required to set provision of WSAT for prioritisation at a public and policy level both nationally and internationally.
Keywords: Wheelchair and seating assistive technology, primary need, stakeholder perspectives, sustainability, policy
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Current outcome measures for continence management devices do not adequately address psychosocial impact. The PIADS is an assessment tool that has been shown to reliably predict the adoption and use of assistive technology devices, but it is not widely used for continence devices. OBJECTIVE: To explore whether the PIADS requires modification to address the particular needs of continence device users and to inform any subsequent item development. METHODS: The study used…interpretive methods in which qualitative information from semi-structured interviews was combined with the findings from cognitive interviews for questionnaire pre-testing. A total of 40 participants in UK and Canada were interviewed. RESULTS: Few participants had difficulty in understanding or relating to the majority of PIADS items. Several items were not considered relevant to continence and some areas for potential new items were uncovered. Embarrassment and concealment of urinary incontinence from others were common topics. CONCLUSIONS: The PIADS appears to fundamentally address many, but not all, of the important psychosocial concerns of adults who have continence difficulties. A version for continence, the C-PIADS, will require modification of the PIADS and is likely to contain some new items.