Printer Friendly

Assistive technology study begins. (Technology In Education & Daily Living).

In a move toward grass-roots based research, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) has awarded a five-year, $300,000 per year grant to the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) for unprecedented, in-depth study on the benefits of assistive technology to people with disabilities. The work is getting under way.

As part of the grant, CFILC is incorporating its 29 independent living centers throughout California to work with its members and stakeholders. They are collecting research data on access and use of AT to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Researchers from California State University at Northridge are training participants, including community advocates in research methods and to assist with data collection and analysis. These community advocates conduct focus groups, surveys and action research in their respective regions. Advocates will also train university students to do community-based research related to AT and independent living.

"NIDRR's decision to award the grant to CFILC recognizes the type of infrastructure already in place by the non-profit organization and its independent living center members," said Project Director Patricia Yeager, executive director of CFILC. "Normally, these grants go to Universities, who facilitate the research to a small sample. CFILC's approach allows researchers to train community advocates throughout the state for a larger and more representative sample."

Yeager went on to say, "It's also important to note that consumer involvement is key. We are not doing research on people with disabilities and AT. We are doing research with people with disabilities on the effects of AT in their lives."

The Technology for Independence Project is looking at the impact of assistive techology on the lives of its stakeholders, including those with disabilities, their families, friends and employers. CFILC's AT Community Research Network has identified four areas where it will continue to concentrate its efforts, though the research is not restricted to those areas. Those areas are:

Employment Outcomes--With emphasis shifting from helplessness to work, the impact of AT in the workplace is being examined. The Research Network is looking at types of equipment which are helpful in the workplace for people with a wide variety of disabilities doing a range of jobs. The findings will help employers, rehabilitation counselors, secondary guidance counselors and teachers.

Health and Function Issues--This area is focusing on a person with a disability and his or her access to health services using AT. Successful implementation of independent living often depends on the tools that can maintain that independence. Access to accessible mammogram machines, weight scales and other health-related tools are critical to maintain independence. The research is looking at how AT impacts the health and independence of people with a wide variety of disabilities and on those who provide assistance to them.

Technology for Access and Function--Technology for access includes public and private spaces and uses. From digital telephones and their usage by non-digital hearing aid wearers to stair glides for seniors who do not want to move out of their home with stairs, the project is looking at how well AT can help in community and even family involvement. Research will help direct public policy makers to find the solutions needed to help implement the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) with regard to accessibility, public right of way, programs and information.

Independent Living and Community Function--One of biggest benefits to AT is community integration, whether it is giving a voice to someone who cannot speak or allowing someone to get out of his or her house. The project is looking at the common AT items that enable integration of people with a wide variety of disabilities and how those items are found and paid for. It also considers ways AT can be harnessed to provide more community integration throughout all cultural communities.

"By looking at these four criteria, our research will provide better insight into the importance of AT in the lives of people with disabilities," said principal researcher Dr. Tanis Doe, who directs the research project and assists in the teaching of research skills and analysis of the data. "Everyone from families to employers to government agencies will have a better understanding of AT and its impact on maximizing independent living and community integration."

In the first year of the grant, the AT Community Research Network will report what is already known regarding the issues. Through a statewide conference with AT and independent living advocates and executive directors from the member ILCs in California, the Research Network will identify key issues and begin initial research training. At the conclusion of the year, community advocates will have been trained in methods to begin the project.

By the second year, the community advocates will begin collecting primary data and begin focus group moderation. The data will reveal what consumers need and want from AT and identify the consumers themselves. In the third year, AT Community Research Network will survey the data collection and look at the solid numbers and begin to draw conclusions from the data. It will also reach out to web-users to identify high-end AT users and impact.

In the fourth and fifth years, the project will be in its final stages, and the AT Community Research Network will begin evaluating and disseminating information. By using data, the Research Network can evaluate the data itself and draw conclusions. These new conclusions, based on these new numbers, will be disseminated to show the impact of AT on individuals with disabilities.

"By year five, a lot of the questions regarding AT and the effect on the integration of people with disabilities in the family, community and workplace will now have solid data to go with abstractions," Dr. Doe said. "We all know AT helps people with disabilities live more independently, but we don't know how much. By the end, we'll have a better idea."

CFILC is a statewide, non-profit organization made up of more than two dozen Independent Living Centers. Through unified action, CFILC envisions civil rights for all people with disabilities. CFILC's mission is to support independent living centers in their local communities through advocating for systems change and promoting access and integration for people with disabilities. Visit the CFILC web site at for more information.

Vince Wetzel is the Director of Media Relations for CFILC (California Foundation for Independent Living Centers). He may be contacted at (916) 325-1690. This article is adapted by permission from (
COPYRIGHT 2002 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Wetzel, Vince
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Previous Article:PVC pen holder. (Low-Tech--No-Tech).
Next Article:Federal Assistive Technology Legislation 1988-present. (Legislative Update).

Related Articles
Consumer responsiveness: knowing it when you see it.
Physical disability and technology needs: a preliminary study in response to federal mandate.
Factors Associated with Assistive Technology Discontinuance Among Individuals with Disabilities.
Federal Assistive Technology Legislation 1988-present. (Legislative Update).
Where can I learn about computer technology that might benefit my child? (tech talk).
World Congress & Exposition on Disabilities. (A World of Knowledge Discovery and Understanding).
Introduction: 2007 Consumer's Guide to Assistive Technology.
Low and Middle Assistive Technology Devices: The Basics.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |