Research in Brief: Technology Terms

In 2016 we began the Research In Focus series, highlighting new and interesting findings from NIDILRR-funded studies, presented in a reader-friendly format. As a follow up, we offer our occasional series Research In Brief, where we break down some of the terms you might find in peer-reviewed studies.

In this month’s Research in Brief, we explore terms related to technology. These include:

  • Assistive technology is any type of technology used to assist people with disabilities. An assistive technology could be a simple cane or walker, or a complex robotic device for assisting with motor tasks. Other assistive technologies include computer software that speaks aloud what is on a computer screen, software that converts spoken words into text, or “augmentative/alternative communication” allowing people to communicate verbally by gazing or pointing at symbols or typing on a keyboard.
  • Universal design is a principle of designing technology so that people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities can use it out of the box. For example, many Apple products include assistive software that makes them usable by people with visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive disabilities without any special modifications. Another example of universal design can be found in the Oxo Good Grips product line, featuring mainstream handheld appliances that are easier for people with arthritis and other disabilities to use.
  • User experience, often abbreviated UX, refers to end users’ subjective experience using a technology. When evaluating user experiences, important elements include users’ perceptions of a technology’s ease-of-use, its acceptability (such as whether or not a user feels comfortable using the technology in front of others), and how well the technology appears to solve a problem or improve functioning.

To learn more about these concepts, check out these Research In Focus articles:

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