Assistive Technology Study Begins. (Technology in Education & Daily Living)

Article excerpt

In a move toward grass-roots based research, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) has awarded a five-year, $300,000 per year grant to the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) for unprecedented, in-depth study on the benefits of assistive technology to people with disabilities. The work is getting under way.

As part of the grant, CFILC is incorporating its 29 independent living centers throughout California to work with its members and stakeholders. They are collecting research data on access and use of AT to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Researchers from California State University at Northridge are training participants, including community advocates in research methods and to assist with data collection and analysis. These community advocates conduct focus groups, surveys and action research in their respective regions. Advocates will also train university students to do community-based research related to AT and independent living.

"NIDRR's decision to award the grant to CFILC recognizes the type of infrastructure already in place by the non-profit organization and its independent living center members," said Project Director Patricia Yeager, executive director of CFILC. "Normally, these grants go to Universities, who facilitate the research to a small sample. CFILC's approach allows researchers to train community advocates throughout the state for a larger and more representative sample."

Yeager went on to say, "It's also important to note that consumer involvement is key. We are not doing research on people with disabilities and AT. We are doing research with people with disabilities on the effects of AT in their lives."

The Technology for Independence Project is looking at the impact of assistive techology on the lives of its stakeholders, including those with disabilities, their families, friends and employers. CFILC's AT Community Research Network has identified four areas where it will continue to concentrate its efforts, though the research is not restricted to those areas. Those areas are:

Employment Outcomes--With emphasis shifting from helplessness to work, the impact of AT in the workplace is being examined. The Research Network is looking at types of equipment which are helpful in the workplace for people with a wide variety of disabilities doing a range of jobs. The findings will help employers, rehabilitation counselors, secondary guidance counselors and teachers.

Health and Function Issues--This area is focusing on a person with a disability and his or her access to health services using AT. Successful implementation of independent living often depends on the tools that can maintain that independence. Access to accessible mammogram machines, weight scales and other health-related tools are critical to maintain independence. The research is looking at how AT impacts the health and independence of people with a wide variety of disabilities and on those who provide assistance to them.

Technology for Access and Function--Technology for access includes public and private spaces and uses. From digital telephones and their usage by non-digital hearing aid wearers to stair glides for seniors who do not want to move out of their home with stairs, the project is looking at how well AT can help in community and even family involvement. Research will help direct public policy makers to find the solutions needed to help implement the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) with regard to accessibility, public right of way, programs and information. …