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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: 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.
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: Technology, Assistive, Hearing, Deaf and vision
Abstract: 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 super-highway, 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.
Keywords: Computer access, Information systems, Human factors, Assistive technology and user interface
Abstract: The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Improved Wheelchair Mobility at the University of Pittsburgh officially began on August 1, 1993. This article summarizes the scope of the research, training, information dissemination, technology transfer plans and activities of the RERC, and highlights the progress made during the first year. Emphasis has been given to those activities that will have a short term impact on the lives of persons with disabilities. Funding for the RERC on Wheelchair Technology is from a center grant award from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).
Abstract: 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.
Abstract: 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.
Abstract: The Palo Alto Rehabilitation Research and Development (Rehab R&D) Center was founded in 1978 the second of four centers established by the department of Veteran Affairs national Rehabilitation R&D Service. The Rehab R&D Center has an annual budget of over $2 million and a staff of over 40 full- and part-time individuals working on projects that cover broad spectrum of rehabilitation topics. The Rehab R&D Center is staffed by engineers and scientists with expertise in biomechanics, biomaterials, computer modeling of biological systems, rehabilitation robotics, and medical rehabilitation. The staff is dedicated to building an intellectual foundation in rehabilitation based on…state-of-the-art engineering, medical science, and technology. Investigators at the Rehab R&D Center collaborate extensively with physicians, therapists, and the researchers at the Palo Alto VA Health Care System, at Stanford University, and with others throughout the nation and world. The Rehab R&D Center is located in close proximity to the clinical centers at the Palo Alto VA Health Care System. Investigative partnerships with the Spinal Cord Injury Center, the Hand Center, the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Program, the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, and the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center have led to numerous research studies. An enduring, successful affiliation exists between the Rehab R&D Center and the Stanford University Schools of Engineering and Medicine. Most Rehab R&D Center investigators hold Stanford University faculty appointments. Many graduate and undergraduate students are routinely involved in Rehab R&D Center research and design projects.
Keywords: Rehabilitation research and development, Orthopedic biomechanics, Neuromuscular systems, Human machine integration, Technology transfer
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: Adaptive equipment, Disability and lifespan, Environmental control, Enabling technology, Research and development
Abstract: The New Mexico Technology Deployment Pilot (NMTDP) project is a collaborative effort among Laguna Industries Inc., the University of New Mexico's Research Institute for Assistive and Training Technologies (RIATT), and Sandia National Laboratories. The project partners are collaborating to develop, test, and demonstrate a model process for accelerating dual-use technology extraction and deployment from federally owned technical institutions to the commercial sector. The major activities of the project include: developing a model process, identifying product needs, translating needs and dual-use technologies into products, and partnerships with industry. As a result, it is anticipated that consumers with disabilities will benefit from…improved technologies and competition in the marketplace.