2006 Conference General Sessions






Pat Brown
Center for Technology and Disability Studies
of Washington
Box 357920
Seattle WA 98195-7920
Phone: 206-685-0289
Fax: 206543-5771

Presenter #2
Mark Harniss, Ph.D.
Center for Technology and Disability Studies
of Washington
Box 357920
Seattle WA 98195-7920
Phone: 206-685-4181
Fax: 206-543-4779


Presenter #3
Kurt Johnson
for Technology and Disability Studies

University of Washington

Box 357920
Seattle WA 98195-7920 USA

Phone: 206-685-4181
Fax: 206-543-4779


Support systems for individuals with disabilities Consist of three components:
personal assistance services (PAS), assistive technology, and adaptive strategies (Litvak & Enders, 2002). All three are necessary and important and no sin9le component can provide an individual with adequate support alone. In any given situation or environment, an individual may rely more heavily on one type of support than another.

In this presentation, we report on one aspect of support systems, specifically, the development of novel assistive technology devices to enhance the quality of life of people with cognitive disabilities. These devices are memory and problem solving aids that will help an individual perform the tasks of day-to-day life more independently. They have the potential to enhance independence by decreasing reliance of individuals with cognitive disabilities on the family/friend/caregiver we report on two studies that are part of a series of studies leading to the development of assisted cognition devices. In the first study, we conducted interviews with individuals with disabilities, their caregivers and employment training specialists. An open interview format was used (Patton, 2001). Participants and informants were asked to describe everyday life experiences and how disability has affected independence in everyday situations. In addition, to these broad questions, we asked individuals to describe their use of technology or in the case of caregivers and employment specialists, the use of technology by the individual with disabilities. A series of commonly used devices were discussed and the issues that make a device easy or hard were clarified. The results of these interviews were transcribed and analyzed using qualitative software. Themes related to support needs as well as the discrepancies between informants will be discussed.

In the second study, we conducted usability tests with individuals with cognitive disabilities to learn about user interface designs that would be meaningful and understandable for this population. Individuals with traumatic brain injury and mental retardation were provided a variety of user interfaces to determine the appropriateness of different modalities for providing information to the user. Individuals were provided with several standard interfaces (e.g., existing cell phones, PDAs) as well as less common interfaces (e.g., a cell phone with text to speech, devices with large screens, devices with simplified selection menus). They were then given specific tasks to accomplish with each device. As they attempted to navigate the device, they were asked to talk aloud about what is easy or difficult about the interface. In some cases, they were asked to follow the directions given by the device (e.g., a device might request that the subject turn left, walk forward a few steps, then turn right). Researchers asked follow-up questions and took field notes durin9 the session. The results of these usability studies were coded and analyzed using qualitative software. Themes related to interface modality, interface design, and universal design will be discussed.

(Silverstein, 2000) identified four goals of a disability policy framework. They include:
1. Equality of opportunity (i.e., individualization, meaningful opportunity, inclusion and integration)
2. Full Participation (i.e., involvement in decision making, informed choice, self-determination, self-advocacy)
Independent Living (as a legitimate outcome of public policy resulting from the provision of independent living skills development, long-term services and support including personal assistant services and assistive technology devices and services, and cash assistance), and
4. Economic self-sufficiency (as a legitimate outcome of public policy resulting from the provision of employment related support systems, cash assistance with work incentives, and tax policies to employers and employees) (p. 2).
Assistive technologies for cognition have the potential to support these goals by mediating the experience of disability for individuals with cognitive disabilities by enhancing systems of support. In particular, these devices may reduce barriers participation and may provide caregivers with cost-effective, safe strategies for providing assistance to the individuals they support.

Litvak, S., & Enders, A. (2002). Support systems: The interface between individuals and environments. In G. Albrecht & K. Seelman & M. Bury (Eds.), Handbook of disability studies. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Patton, M. Q. (2001). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (3rd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications.
Silverstein, R. (2000). Emerging disability policy framework: A guidepost for analyzing public policy. Iowa Law Review, 85(5).

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