Project Director: Nathan Moon, Ph.D. (GT). Task leaders: Task 1 John Morris, Ph.D. (Shepherd Center); Task 2 Andrew Roach, Ph.D. (GSU); Task 3 John Bricout, Ph.D. (UoT).
The User Experience and Expectations Research project will conduct user-focused research to better understand the role of wireless technologies, from smartphones and tablets, to such emerging wirelessly connected technologies as wearables and interconnected objects, and applications within the Internet of Things (IoT). The goal is to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by integrating their experiences and expectation using methods such as national surveys, focus groups, and interview sessions.
Task 1: User-Focused and Survey Based Research
Lead: The Shepherd Center, John Morris, PhD.
Research indicates uptake of wireless technologies by people with disabilities is on a par with users without (Morris et al., 2014). Despite their considerable advances in recognizing the needs of people with disabilities, device manufacturers, software app developers, service providers, and other wireless industry stakeholders continue to struggle with issues of accessibility. New generations of users with disabilities have embraced wireless technology; young children use technology such as laptops and PowerPoint presentations as early as the second grade, and teens have access to gaming consoles, mobile phones, and tablet computers (Pew Research Center, 2015). Transition-aged youth with disabilities are now more similar to their peers without disabilities in terms of Internet access and use of social media than that of older people with disabilities and without disabilities (Kessler Foundation and NOD, 2010). While the "disability divide" and “socialization gap” is shrinking, questions remain about the effects of wireless communications technology on social inclusion, community participation, and sense of well-being among individuals both with and without disabilities.
The user focused research conducted since 2001 has been used widely by the wireless industry, policy makers, other researchers, and advocates. The WIT RERC’s Consumer Advisory Network (CAN) has grown to more than 1,600 individuals with disabilities and continues to expand to reflect more fully the diverse demographic characteristics of the U.S. population with disabilities, including individuals with developmental disabilities, those for whom English is a second language (e.g. ASL), minority groups and transition-aged youth. This task will undertake in-depth assessments on wireless technology trends across life domains and gather data on next generation wirelessly connected technologies, how people with disabilities use them to support participation in community activities (e.g. entertainment, employment, education), emergency situations, independent living options, and related life activities.
The project team will work with a number of industry partners (including AT&T, Verizon, Samsung, Google, Blackberry, the CTIA-The Wireless Association, Telecommunications Industry Association), regulators (FCC, FEMA), advocacy organizations (Center for the Visually Impaired, Tools for Life, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, etc.) to update our survey tools to be more reflective of today’s technological landscape and accessibility to the same. Additionally, questionnaires for other research projects will be conducted on use of social media, emergency communications, and wearable technology.
Task 2: Employment and Community Living Research
Lead: Georgia State University, Andrew Roach, PhD.
The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) illustrates the need for additional information on use of wireless technologies by individuals with disabilities across a number of life domains, including employment of young adults with disabilities. Sixty percent of the young adults with disabilities who participated in the 2009 NLTS2 Wave 5 interview study indicated they were employed outside the home, employment outcomes for individuals with IDD were lower (38.8% of respondents with intellectual disabilities, 37% of those with autism). Technological accommodations are useful in opening vocational options for individuals with disabilities, but only 7% of NTLS2 respondents reported receiving work accommodations; and only 10% of these accommodations involved technology. Thus, expanded use of wireless technologies holds unrealized promise for opening career options for individuals with IDD. Wireless devices are valuable in providing prompting, video modeling, and self-management supports for employment-related skills and behaviors (Mechling, 2011). Wireless technologies can assist in planning and time management for individuals with a variety of developmental and intellectual disabilities, autism, and traumatic brain injury (Janeslatt, et al., 2014). Despite these advances, individuals with IDD have less access to the benefits of wireless technologies (Carey et al., 2005; Braddock et al., 2004) and their potential for realizing improved outcomes in competitive employment remains understudied for this population. Wirelessly connected technologies have the potential to support social connectedness and enhance community participation. Additional information is needed to understand the ways adults with IDD might use wireless technologies to improve their social connectedness and involvement in their communities.
This task will explore the use of wireless technologies to support competitive, integrated employment, and facilitate social connectedness and community participation of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Research will be conducted to collect focus group and survey data regarding knowledge about and use of wireless technologies to support integrated, competitive employment and to enhance community participation for individuals with IDD and relevant stakeholder groups. Focus group results will inform subsequent development of a survey to be administered to a broader group of stakeholders for the purpose of gathering more representative information regarding the use of wireless technologies by individuals with IDD and the professionals who work with them. Survey items will address a variety of topics including specific technologies used, perceived utility and effectiveness of wireless technologies, barriers and facilitators of their use, and looking forward in a futures sense, potential technologies and uses afforded by the Internet of Things (IoT).
Task 3: Engaged Connected Connected Futures Research
Lead: University of Texas Arlington, John Bricout PhD.
For people with IDD, informal caregiving provided by family members may prevent or delay unwanted institutionalization (Carbonneau et al., 2010; Mittleman 2006). It also confers other benefits, and reﬂects changes in community and policymaker preferences for supporting people with disabilities to live in their homes and communities as independently as possible (Runge et al., 2009). Caregiving however, may result in considerable strains for individuals providing care (Schoﬁeld et al., 1998), and the provision of respite through the temporary relief of the caregiver through provisions of substitute care is consistently identiﬁed by caregivers as one of their critical unmet needs (Brodaty et al., 2005). Prior research has examined formal and informal social supports to reduce the burden and distress of caregivers (e.g. Gaugler, et al., 2005; McNally 1999; Stroup et al., 2003), and care coordination and information sharing is becoming increasingly important to bridge service gaps (Nguyen et al., 2014). Studies have emphasized the need for caregiver respite, particularly for people with developmental disabilities (Doig, McLennan, & Urichuk 2009). Socially Assistive Robotics (SAR) engage users with a series of wirelessly based technologies and accompanying wearables that can augment human performance and learning and create meaningful emotional connections (Anzalone et al., 2015; Argall & Billard, 2010). For people with IDD, the SAR capacity for engagement, performance enhancement, and augmented learning promises to provide necessary supports whenever the need for caregiver respite arises. Wireless SAR will increase the ability of the individual to engage in self-determined activities, as well as respite for care-givers, thus, mutually life-enhancing.
Exploratory research will be conducted to support generating models, interventions and applications for Socially Assistive Robotics (SAR); an innovative approach for significantly increasing the capabilities, and social participation of people with disabilities across environments of their choice. Additionally, the work will explore its use to effect respite roles for caregivers of people with developmental disabilities. Wireless assistive agents with accuracy in automatic speech recognition designed with various types of representations and features such as extraction techniques, speech classifiers and performance evaluators have been some of the recent advances in communications (Dadwal 2012). Robots and wearables can be linked using a single wireless platform to provide the caregiver, medical team and robot with critical information on the status, capacity and well-being of the individual with a developmental disability. This task has two subtasks. The first subtask is the SAR-based model of caregiving which is driven by the needs of the users with IDD and their caregivers, particularly the need for caregiver respite and the benefits for people with developmental disabilities. This is critical in conducting research involving people with disabilities as it responds to their lived experience and profound societal challenges of disparities and accessibility (Mwachofi, 2007). The second subtask will connect the objectives of exploring the interactions between humans and robots, such as how the robot may interact physically, through behavior, rhythm, and gesture with the person with disabilities in order to create a trusting, positive relationship with the SAR when the adult caretaker and person with disabilities are not co-located.