Welcome back to our series that highlights NIDILRR’s Outcome Domains. This month, we will be looking at NIDILRR’s Technology for Access & Function Outcome Domain. This outcome domain focuses NIDILRR-funded research that investigates rehabilitation and biomedical engineering and assistive technology that produces results which help people with disabilities to achieve and maintain maximum physical function, live in their own homes, attain gainful employment, and participate in and contribute to society. This research program addresses a broad range of technology, from systems of public technology, such as telecommunications and the built environment, to orphan technology for individuals with disabilities and encourages universal design practices.
In 2018, NIDILRR funded 56 projects that look at technology for access and function for people with disabilities from different angles. These projects include:
- Researchers at the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) on Inclusive Cloud and Web Computing research and develop methods to enable software providers to easily and rapidly implement inclusive user experiences so that consumers are empowered to participate fully in cloud and web systems. The researchers are working on projects that are focused on forming a better understanding of how end users want and should interact with and utilize enabling software components. The development projects within this DRRP are focused on implementing prototypes of cloud-based technologies and moving them rapidly towards deployment and eventual commercialization.
- The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC): Develop and Evaluate Rehabilitation Technology and Methods for Individuals with Low Vision, Blindness, and Multiple Disabilities is developing and applying new scientific knowledge and practical, cost-effective devices to understand and address the real world problems of consumers who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind. Researchers at this RERC are laying the groundwork for more informed decisions on rehabilitation materials and strategies for people with visual disabilities and Veterans with traumatic brain injury; are developing new tools for accessing graphics, such as Tactile Graphics Helper; are developing new tools for accessing devices and appliances with digital displays; and are implementing a sustainable open source, crowd-sourced video description system for web-based videos.
The projects within the Technology for Access & Function Outcome Domain produce peer-reviewed articles, factsheets, videos, guides, and more. Here is a sample of what two of the Technology for Access and Function Domain projects have produced:
- The article, Adapting the Wii fit balance board to enable active video game play by wheelchair users: User-centered design and usability evaluation from RERC on Exercise and Recreational Technologies for People with Disabilities, discusses a study where an adapted version of the Wii Fit Balance Board (WFBB) was designed to improve accessibility and evaluated the usability of the off-the-shelf (OTS) and adapted WFBB in people with mobility disabilities. The study found that more than half of the sample could not use the OTS WFBB, while all participants were able to use the adapted version. This research was covered in our Research In Focus series article Ready Player One: With Some Design Tweaks, people with Physical Disabilities Could Join in Active Gaming Using an Adapted Balance Board.
- To make images on social media accessible to screen reader users, alternative text (image descriptions) need to be added that describe the information contained within the image. The article, “It’s almost like they’re trying to hide it”: How user-provided image descriptions have failed to make Twitter accessible, discusses a study that looked at the accessibility of Twitter for people with visual disabilities and found that only 0.1% of those tweets included descriptions. The results of this study suggest that few users enabled the ability to post alternative text, which indicates that Twitter could increase accessibility by turning the feature on by default. The findings also indicate that simply making it possible to provide image descriptions is not enough, and reveal future directions for automated tools that may support users in writing high-quality descriptions.
If you would like to learn more about NIDILRR’s Outcome Domains, other projects or products within the Technology for Access & Function Outcome Domain, or would like more information about assistive technology for people with disabilities, please contact NARIC’s information specialists.