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Development of Assistive Technologies


Three dissertations were completed in the Learning with Disabilities (LWD) IGERT program at Wright State University each developing innovative technologies to assist persons with disabilities. The LWD specialization is a collaboration between four Ph.D. programs at WSU: Biomedical Sciences, Computer Science, Engineering, and Human Factors and Industrial/Organizational Psychology. The focus is on the development of assistive technologies to help people with disabilities. Maurissa D’Angelo’s dissertation was titled “Analysis of Amputee Gait using Virtual Reality Rehabilitation Techniques.” The virtual reality system provided real-time feedback and objective performance metrics to help the participants to improve gait.

This research demonstrated the potential of Virtual reality to provide efficient and effective rehabilitation for amputees and other disabled individuals. Carissa Brunsman-Johnson’s dissertation was titled “Adaptive User Interfaces to Support Web-based Information Seeking for the Blind.” A keyword search aid was developed to help persons who are blind to find information on websites. The keyword system significantly improved search efficiency. The system improved the success rate in finding information and reduced both time and mental workload. Robert Keefer’s dissertation was titled “A User Centered Design Prototype of a Mobile Reading Device for the Visually Impaired.” This project developed a voice user interface to help people who are blind to control an image processing system for scanning and reading newspapers.

Address Goals

It is remarkable how many assistive technologies end up in the closet barely used if ever. This program illustrates the power of problem centered research, where multiple disciplines collaborate to solve a problem that involves the performance of humans and technology. In the Learning with Disabilities specialization students must grapple with the physical and psychological aspects of disabilities, with the capabilities and limitations of information technologies, and with the interface between humans and technology. This promotes a systems approach where the human and the technologies are treated as an integrated system of systems. An important challenge for the students in this program is to work directly with persons with disabilities to acquire a deep understanding of the person’s needs, as opposed to more conventional approaches where design can be technology focused – defining the solutions around the technological opportunities.