Assistive Technologies Research: Cognitive Disabilities

Assessing the benefits of using assistive technologies and other supports for thinking, remembering and learning.

Scherer MJ.  Institute for Matching Person & Technology, Webster, New York 14580, USA.  Disabil Rehabil. 2005 Jul 8;27(13):731-9.

PURPOSE: Planning assistive technologies and other supports for individuals with cognitive disabilities requires a comprehensive and individualized assessment of current goals, past experiences with the use of technologies and other supports, and the person’s predisposition to the use of alternative or additional supports. This paper discusses a foundation for the refinement of an existing assessment process to match technologies to individuals with cognitive disabilities.

METHOD: Prior research and a literature review identified the critical needs for an assessment process that would serve to identify key elements known to influence the successful use of assistive technology and other supports by persons with cognitive disabilities.

RESULTS: The components of successful, effective and satisfied support use result from a good match of device and support features, user goals and preferences, and environmental resources. The relationship to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health and the International Standardization Organization’s international standard ISO DIS 9999 is discussed. CONCLUSIONS: As the number of assistive technology options increase, individualized interventions for individuals with cognitive disabilities will be easier to accomplish. The key to successful and optimal use of these products will be an appropriate and comprehensive assessment of consumer needs and preferences and the identification of additional accommodations and supports.


Distributed cognitive aid with scheduling and interactive task guidance.

Lopresti EF, Simpson RC, Kirsch N, Schreckenghost D, Hayashi S.  AT Sciences, LLC, 160 N Craig St, Ste 117, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.  J Rehabil Res Dev. 2008;45(4):505-22.

A cognitive assistive technology system has been designed for use by people with memory and organizational impairments. This system will provide a distributed architecture for both scheduling assistance and task guidance, as well as intelligent, automatic replanning on the levels of both the schedule and individual tasks. A prototype of this architecture has been developed that focuses on interactive task guidance capabilities. Scheduling software has been developed but not fully integrated with the task guidance features. The system has been preliminarily tested through simulated trials, monitored use of the prototype in a clinical setting, and usability trials of the task-design interface with rehabilitation professionals. Participants were able to respond appropriately to cues provided by the system and complete prescribed tasks.


Improvement patterns among survivors of brain injury: three case examples documenting the effectiveness of memory compensation strategies.

Van Hulle A, Hux K.  Barkley Memorial Center for Speech and Hearing, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE 68506, USA.  Brain Inj. 2006 Jan;20(1):101-9.

Three case examples illustrate possible patterns of improved functioning that may emerge as survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI) attempt compensation for persistent memory deficits impeding independent living. The task selected for report was independence in remembering to take regularly-prescribed medications. Strategies applied to promote learning included use of written reminders and use of two assistive technology (AT) devices-a wristwatch alarm (WatchMinder) and a digital voice recorder and alarm system (Voice Craft ). With participation in the intervention programme, two of the three individuals demonstrated increased independence in remembering to take medications; the third did not. The case examples illustrate varying responses of people with TBI to intervention using compensatory strategies and AT devices. Professionals and caretakers working with survivors must recognize the uniqueness of each survivor, must adjust intervention programmes accordingly and must be willing to persist in trying to increase functional independence repeatedly for many years post-injury.

Indoor wayfinding: developing a functional interface for individuals with cognitive impairments.

Liu AL, Hile H, Kautz H, Borriello G, Brown PA, Harniss M, Johnson K.  Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-2350, USA.  Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2008 Jan;3(1):69-81.

PURPOSE: Assistive technology for wayfinding will significantly improve the quality of life for many individuals with cognitive impairments. The user interface of such a system is as crucial as the underlying implementation and localisation technology. We studied the user interface of an indoor navigation system for individuals with cognitive impairments.

METHOD: We built a system using the Wizard-of-Oz technique that let us experiment with many guidance strategies and interface modalities. Through user studies, we evaluated various configurations of the user interface for accuracy of route completion, time to completion, and user preferences. We used a counter-balanced design that included different modalities (images, audio, and text) and different routes.

RESULTS: We found that although users were able to use all types of modalities to find their way indoors, they varied significantly in their preferred modalities. We also found that timing of directions requires careful attention, as does providing users with confirmation messages at appropriate times.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that the ability to adapt indoor wayfinding devices for specific users’ preferences and needs will be particularly important.


Perspectives on mobile robots as tools for child development and pediatric rehabilitation.

Michaud F, Salter T, Duquette A, Laplante JF.  LABORIUS-Research Laboratory on Mobile Robotics and Intelligent Systems, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada.  Assist Technol. 2007 Spring;19(1):21-36.

Mobile robots (i.e., robots capable of translational movements) can be designed to become interesting tools for child development studies and pediatric rehabilitation. In this article, the authors present two of their projects that involve mobile robots interacting with children: One is a spherical robot deployed in a variety of contexts, and the other is mobile robots used as pedagogical tools for children with pervasive developmental disorders. Locomotion capability appears to be key in creating meaningful and sustained interactions with children: Intentional and purposeful motion is an implicit appealing factor in obtaining children’s attention and engaging them in interaction and learning. Both of these projects started with robotic objectives but are revealed to be rich sources of interdisciplinary collaborations in the field of assistive technology. This article presents perspectives on how mobile robots can be designed to address the requirements of child-robot interactions and studies. The authors also argue that mobile robot technology can be a useful tool in rehabilitation engineering, reaching its full potential through strong collaborations between roboticists and pediatric specialists.


Technology for improving cognitive function. A workshop sponsored by the US Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR): reports from working groups.

Bodine C, Scherer MJ.  Assistive Technology Partners, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado 80203, USA.  Disabil Rehabil. 2006 Dec 30;28(24):1567-71.

The U.S. federal Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR) and its Subcommittee on Technology (IST) sponsored a state of the art workshop on “Technology for Improving Cognitive Function”, from 29-30 June 2006 in Washington, D.C. This paper summarizes the content of the working groups charged with providing strategic direction for the future of technology for persons with cognitive disabilities.