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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: Each year the American Society on Aging (ASA) holds a design competition for new products for older persons. Many of the products are ‘assistive’ and very useful for elders with disabilities. This paper describes the winning submissions for the 1997 ASA Design Competition.
Abstract: The provision of specialized services in the community has necessitated the development of outreach vehicles for the services to be rendered. Determining the best type and design for the vehicle is critical for its success. Sunny Hill required a vehicle that would be capable of transporting professionals, equipment and supplies for a wide range of services to communities spread throughout the province of British Columbia. This vehicle was also required to provide an independent workspace, a comfortable working environment and independent power and heat at any location the services were needed. In order to meet these requirements Sunny Hill decided…on a heavy duty truck frame long enough and sturdy enough to transport 4000 lbs of cargo, support an independent workspace, have an electrical system that could power all necessary equipment, provide lighting and heat in all types of environments and have two reasonably soundproof compartments capable of operating independently or in conjunction with one another. In designing the vehicle it is important to concentrate on the chassis first, the body second and interior last. The vehicle chosen was a 34-foot truck chassis with a GVW of 19 000 lbs and powered by a 7 liter Cummins diesel engine. Diesel was chosen for its durability and high power for operations in mountainous regions. Power for the workspace could be supplied by either a 10-kW diesel generator or two land-lines. The interior was specified to maintain a comfortable working environment in temperatures ranging from −20 to +30°C, be reasonably soundproof and conform to Barrier Free Design Codes (CAN/CSA-B651-M90). In obtaining quotes for the vehicle specifications, the performance of the equipment was specified rather than the actual equipment. This put the onus on the manufacturer to specify appropriate equipment as opposed to Sunny Hill specifying the actual equipment. The final cost of the fully outfitted Sunny Hill Outreach Vehicle was $145 000 (Cdn).
Keywords: Outreach, Service delivery, Design vehicle
Abstract: The potential of automatic speech recognition (ASR) for deaf and hard-of-hearing people has been recognized. This paper reviews the use environment for the deaf and hard-of-hearing person and an ASR device, using ergonomic analysis techniques. Within the deaf and hard-of-hearing population, there are many interpersonal differences, stemming from audiological and rehabilitation characteristics and social and occupational settings. Some members of the population may find ASR devices inadequate or prefer other communication aids. Environmental characteristics, particularly noise and light, affect ASR device use. The technology of automatic speech recognition itself introduces device limitations and challenges. In ergonomic analysis, these three aspects…– user, environment and device – are connected by the task, in this case the communication task. Deaf and hard-of-hearing users need to communicate with many different people, ranging from intimate associates to perfect strangers and disembodied voices. They need to communicate in one-to-one situations and in groups both small and large. In many of these communication settings, relationships are more important than information and use of ASR would interfere with valuable eye contact as much as aid communication. Imposing order on many communication settings is problematic, but multiple conversations and interruptions create interference with selecting the correct signal to transcribe.
Keywords: Automatic speech recognition, Deaf, Hard of hearing, Ergonomics, Communication
Abstract: 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 service 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.
Keywords: Assistive technology, Home modifications, Aging network, Older adults with disabilities, Service delivery models
Abstract: To reduce costs for healthcare services, states and organizations are increasingly recycling Durable Medical Equipment (DME). The market for recycled durable medical equipment is now close to $300 million in sales (Tomsho, 1996). Assistive technology, which includes durable medical equipment, is defined as ‘any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities’ (20 U.S.C. Chapter 33). To study how these recycling programs were established and how they operate, a national survey of existing assistive technology recycling programs was…conducted by the New York State Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRAID) Project. This survey revealed that recycling programs use a variety of operational approaches to accommodate community needs and resources and each program is somewhat unique. This report provides an overview of the methods employed by recycling programs to assure access to assistive technology by persons with disabilities.
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: Cane handles, Arthritic hands, Elders, Evaluation, User satisfaction
Abstract: 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).
Keywords: Information response, Information referral, Internet, Disability, Planning
Abstract: 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?
Keywords: Research, Disability, Public policy, Human rights