February 20, 2015 marked the 4th Annual Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) retreat for the APAcT cohort. APAcT, known as the Alliance for Person-Centered Accessible Technologies, is a collaborative unit of individuals, including both graduate students and faculty, from Arizona State University (ASU) and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB).
Li Jinsheng was among the first people with a visual impairment to take the gaokao. What is the gaokao? It is China’s nationwide university entrance examination. One could compare it to the American SAT, a test we know all too well. Very recently, the Human Rights Watch pushed forward their goals to make the gaokao more inclusive, and the changes mark a great victory for disability advocacy in China. Until now, the test had been strictly for those without disabilities such as visual impairments, thus maintaining discrimination concerning who is able to participate in the test.
Forget about hands-free devices for your phone, let’s talk about a hands-free car. Get in, buckle up, and with the press of a button you hit the road. Cruising at a top speed of 25 mph may be a bit slow, but it doesn’t trump the feeling of freedom. Google’s release of their redesigned self-driving vehicle has everyone thinking about the future of transportation. The car is 100% autonomous, with the current model lacking a steering wheel or pedals.
Put simply, the release of Google Glass has not been as successful as anticipated. Despite the slow upward drift in the sales, people simply aren’t sharing the same level of excitement as that for other novel gadgets. That’s a big statement, especially considering how much the current generation loves new technology. The big question everyone is currently facing is, why? There are plenty of possible causes (e.g. social, economic) for this blip in sales, but it is also possible that Google may have inadvertently joined the battle to make assistive technology more inclusive.
“The fashion industry works on a singular vision of beauty.” In light of this truth, inclusion in the fashion industry has been an ongoing issue, but also one that has been attracting increased attention in more recent years.
Research supporting treatment and therapies for people with developmental disabilities, such as Down and Fragile X syndrome, continues to be an area of active investigation. However, a current problem with clinical trials associated with this line of research is the means to subject participation. Research participation is generally explained using lengthy documentation that can often be burdensome and overwhelming. This paperwork is crucial to the experimental consent, as it outlines what the experiment will entail, what the participant’s role will be, what the possible side effects are, if any, etc. In the past, this documentation was handled by a parent or other guardian if found to be too demanding for the participant. However, as Brian Skotko of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusett’s General Hospital stated, “this is an era of participatory research.”
The second annual Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop, hosted by the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University, went above and beyond that of the previous year. The conference, a two-day gathering of renowned roboticists, neuroscientists, and rehabilitation specialists, facilitated discussion of ongoing issues related to research in rehabilitation and sensorimotor function. Neuroprosthetics were of particular interest at the conference because of their potential for 1) helping to restore function to a paralytic limb and 2) designing an artificial limb with high functional capability. This field is of particular interest to rehabilitation technology in that these novel designs are implementing an interface capable of integration with the user’s own central nervous system, making it possible for users to have more natural control of the device with decreased cognitive load, more precise level of control, and most importantly, a reinstatement of sensory information in the affected limb. The conference, as a whole, celebrated current advancements in robotics and neuroprosthetics while shedding light on key current issues. Having attended both years, it was remarkable to see the progress of a single year.
The first electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve responsible for our auditory processing first occurred in the early 1950s. Since that time, the development and utilization of the cochlear implant has peaked, aiding any and all users who have issues with hearing due to damage to the auditory system. To recap the specifications of today’s current cochlear implant, the device involves an implanted electrode array, and an external receiver, transmitter, microphone, and speech processor. While this sounds like a hefty bit of hardware to be connected to the area behind a person’s head, the device itself is relatively small and functions quite well to replace the damaged portion of a person’s auditory system.
When we think of the design of a prosthetic hand device, one of the most important considerations in question is processing of sensory information. With these devices, our nervous system is unable to process tactile and proprioceptive (i.e. sense of touch from our finger tips/hands and knowing about where our hand is in the space around us, respectively) information. When this information is unavailable, we must carefully watch our movements in order to avoid dropping or damaging an object we grasp. From a practical standpoint, this can make using a prosthetic device burdensome. Thus, we can imagine how using a prosthetic hand can be challenging, as we are constantly distracted and multi-tasking in our everyday lives.