2003 Conference Proceedings

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RERC on Communication Enhancement (AAC-RERC) -Activity Update

Frank DeRuyter, PhD
Kevin Caves, BSME, ATP
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, NC
Email: deruy001@mc.duke.edu 
Email: Kevin.Caves@duke.edu 

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Communication Enhancement (referred to as the AAC-RERC) is a partnership made of six major alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) research and development universities and the most widely-distributed AAC publisher. The project is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and is housed administratively at Duke University. Frank DeRuyter, PhD serves as the principal investigator and Kevin Caves, BSME, ATP is the project director.

The AAC RERC was designed as a "virtual center," rather than the single location center model of the past. The broad NIDRR absolute priorities presented the unique opportunity to implement a new approach to the RERC model that took advantage of existing expertise and sites in the AAC field. The AAC-RERC uses internet-based and virtual collaboration tools including video and audio conferencing, online calendars, listserves, remote computer control, and web-based data collection to coordinate and conduct activities. The seven entities (Duke University, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of New York at Buffalo, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Augmentative Communication Inc), with the assistance of a strong participatory consumer base, focus on the research, development, training, and dissemination aspects of the center. A motto of the AAC-RERC regarding consumers of AAC technology has been "nothing about us, without us." All RERC partners have worked to ensure that consumers and their families have been, and continue to be included, in all phases of the center's activities. By collaborating with a variety of existing resources including industry, technology manufacturers, end-users, other researchers, dissemination groups, and organizations working with AAC and people with disabilities, the AAC-RERC has been able to leverage resources that far exceed that which is provided by the RERC grant award itself.

This RERC uses innovative communications technologies to benefit researchers, engineers, speech language pathologists, educators, rehabilitation service providers, manufacturers, developers, and users of AAC technologies. The RERC (1) investigates system appeal and attitudinal barriers toward technology use by children as well as elderly people with communication disorders, their listeners, and service providers; (2) studies the organizational strategies of adult AAC users to determine if preferences are predictive of performance using AAC; (3) studies how to improve AAC technologies for young children with significant communication disorders by evaluating learning demands and functional performance (also involves development of design specifications); (4) evaluates and enhances communication rate efficiency and effectiveness through the development of procedures and software technology that simulates and measures the performance of AAC technologies; (5) identifies barriers to employment, describes strategies to overcome them, documents design specifications for AAC technologies, and describes action plans to achieve successful employment outcomes; (6) increases employment opportunities for graduates of an employment and AAC program; and (7) develops a coordinated program that monitors and seeks out technology developments in both commercial form and prerelease development stages that affect the engineering and clinical AAC field.

For more information visit:
RERC on Communication Enhancement
Duke University Medical Center
Box 3888
Durham, NC 27710
Phone: (919)681-9983
Fax: (919)681-9984

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