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Assistive Technology in the Community Grant

Abstract

A nationally recognized Center for Independent Living (Paraquad) and a leading institution of higher learning (Washington University) are collaborating together for a five year project, "Assistive Technology in the Community", funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The activities funded through this proposed research project will bring together the strengths of the independent living movement with the scientific expertise of the academic community. The goal of the project is to promote assistive technology (AT) as a method of increasing the participation of people with disabilities in major life activities.

The project is broadly divided into three assistive technology activities: assessment, program implementation, and education/dissemination of project findings. The first activity involves assessing people with disabilities’ use, disuse, injury, and effects that AT has on their participation in major life activities. A compilation of survey tools will be used for assessment: two survey instruments that have been developed to assess the participation and environmental barrier reduction aspects of AT (PARTS/M and FABS/M); Matching Person and Technology (MPT) will be used to assess the AT fit and needs; and the Psychosocial Impact of Assistive Devices Scale (PIADS) for psychological response to AT.

The second activity will involve implementing a community-based assistive technology program. The findings of the assessments will help to establish an Assistive Technology Program that will be offered through Paraquad. The program will have an assistive technology professional on staff who will assist Paraquad participants to learn about assistive technology that will promote participation and choice in life activities that they deem to be important. The assistive technology professional will convene monthly assistive technology demonstrations by local venders who will bring sample assistive technology devices, demonstration materials, and related resources. The purpose of the program will be to improve the satisfaction in participation in self-targeted major life activities of people with disabilities.

The third activity will involve educating and providing useful information to consumers, independent living staff, educators, healthcare professionals, assistive technology industry leaders, and public policy-makers. In years two and four, Assistive Technology Consumers’ Fairs will be held which will feature general information on existing products with demonstrations of how people with disabilities who own them, use them (testimonials). New developments in assistive technologies, AT assessment and worksite/home accommodations will be presented. In years one, three and five of the proposed project, the collaborating organizations will host Assistive Technology Educational Conferences for educators, assistive technology industry leaders, healthcare providers and public policy-makers to discuss research based advances in the field of assistive technology. Discussions and planning for future developments in the field of community use of AT will be scheduled. In years three and five, findings from the Assistive Technology in the Community project will be presented.

Conducting research on the type of assistive technology used and the influence AT has on major life activities will make a major contribution to the understanding of what technologies work in community settings. The results of this project will provide much needed information to consumers, providers and manufacturers of AT. The work proposed in this project will be a major step toward realizing this goal.