On April 17th, 2013 NIDRR hosted NIDRR Presents—Current and Future Trends in Information Communication Technologies (ICT) for People with Disabilities: How RESNA is helping to lead the way at their Washington, DC offices and by teleconference with guest speaker Dr. Alex Mihailidis from the University of Toronto, the Toronto Rehab Institute, and the President of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). Dr. Mihailidis presentation provided an overview of information communication technologies (ICTs), common ICT platforms, current and new users of ICT, the expanding scope and emerging areas of ICT, and RESNA’s active role in developing ICT standards.
ICTs provide access to information through various telecommunications devices, systems, and infrastructures allowing individuals to communicate and receive information in real-time using a variety of different technologies and platforms such as instant messaging, voice over IP (VoIP), video conferencing, social media via computers, smart devices (i.e. phones, tablets), and kiosks. Many people have been using ICTs in their daily lives for some time, but an increasing number of people with disabilities and older adults are beginning to use ICT, as are clinicians, medical professionals, and caregivers (personal and professional). Clinicians and medical professionals are using ICT to access information, for education and professional development, to communicate with peers and patients, and to store and review electronic health records. Caregivers are finding ICT increasingly useful as a means of education, information, and peer support. Areas of application for personal and professional caregivers and service providers include: safety and security, health monitoring and treatment, activities of daily living (ADL) assistance, communication and connectedness, leisure, and cognitive stimulation. The emergence of ICT users with functional, sensory, and cognitive disabilities as well as users from varying socio-economic status is influencing trends in ICT. Various disciplines are converging to ensure the needs of all users are being met through zero-effort technology, pervasive computing, and artificial intelligence. Dr. Mihailidis presented four different examples of uses for ICT (including two NIDRR-funded projects):
Dr. Mihailidis discussed the large role of RESNA in establishing guidelines and policy in the area of technology for individuals with disabilities—particularly the development of uniform standards for cognitive technologies. He raised several key questions in regard to when and where a particular type of technology is appropriate, who chooses said technologies, how potential users are educated about these systems, and the future of new user populations. ICT has great potential as it becomes increasingly more pervasive in everyday life (i.e. education, employment, health and safety, and travel). However, as daily living products are getting ICT-like interfaces (i.e. microwaves, ovens, thermostats, etc.), more than 80 percent of users who require simpler or special interfaces do not have them. Finally Dr. Mihailidis discussed the potential of “the cloud” and auto-personalization through “Raising the Floor” coalition initiated by the UIIT-RERC to build a Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII). The GPII would:
- Make it easier for people to discover what (features or AT) would enable them to use the technology they encounter
- Store this information in the cloud (or on a device on a keychain) and allow users to use this information to make any device or interface they encounter instantly and automatically change into a form they can understand and use
- Make it much faster, cheaper, and simpler to develop, deploy, market, and support new access features, products, and services internationally
RESNA is the premier professional organization dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of people with disabilities through increasing access to technology solutions. RESNA advances the field by offering certification, continuing education, and professional development; developing assistive technology standards; promoting research and public policy; and sponsoring forums for the exchange of information and ideas to meet the needs of our multidisciplinary constituency. Please visit the RESNA website for more information on their programs, becoming a member, certifications, and professional specialty groups and standards board.
The RESNA Catalyst Project provides technical assistance and information to 56 statewide Assistive Technology (AT Act) Programs, 33 Alternative Financing Programs (AFPs), and 57 Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT) Programs.
The Catalyst Project also provides technical assistance to 19 Access to Telework Programs funded under the New Freedom Plan and administered by RSA. The Access to Telework Program provides financial loans to purchase equipment to work remotely or for self-employment. RESNA Catalyst Project is funded through a cooperative agreement by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education (Grant #H224B100001- CFDA 84.22B).
Visit the NARIC booth at annual RESNA 2013 conference June 19th through June 24th, 2013 in Bellevue, Washington!