Assistive Technologies Research: Sensory Disabilities

Clinical report: use of the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure in vision technology.

Petty LS, McArthur L, Treviranus J.  Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto, ON.  Can J Occup Ther. 2005 Dec;72(5):309-12.

BACKGROUND: The Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM) has gained wide acceptance in general occupational therapy research and practice, however, the use of the COPM in assistive technology assessments and outcomes is not as well documented.

PURPOSE: This clinical report discusses the utility of the COPM in assistive technology, as illustrated by the assessment and follow-up of clients requiring high technology vision aids.

RESULTS: The COPM makes important contributions to the outcomes of providing vision aids. The COPM ensures a needs review that incorporates all areas of occupational performance, which in turn directs the clinician to match the technology to client needs. From a clinical perspective, the quantitative follow-up data are helpful to determine clients’ improvement in occupational performance as well as their satisfaction with the assistive technology. For administrative purposes, the COPM results provides accountability to the funding agency.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: The COPM can be readily integrated into the assessment and follow-up of assistive technology service delivery and adds value to both components of the process.


Evidence for the use of hearing assistive technology by adults: the role of the FM system.

Chisolm TH, Noe CM, McArdle R, Abrams H.  University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620, USA.  Trends Amplif. 2007 Jun;11(2):73-89.

Hearing assistive technologies include listening, alerting, and/or signaling devices that use auditory, visual, and/or tactile modalities to augment communication and/or facilitate awareness of environmental sounds. The importance of hearing assistive technologies in the management of adults with hearing loss was recently acknowledged in an evidence-based clinical practice guideline developed by the American Academy of Audiology. Most currently available evidence for hearing assistive technology use by adults focuses on frequency-modulated (FM) technology. Previous research is reviewed that demonstrates the efficacy of FM devices for adults in terms of laboratory measures of speech understanding in noise. Also reviewed are the outcomes from field trials of FM use by community-dwelling adults, which, to date, have been disappointing. Few to no individuals, in previous studies, elected to use FM devices at the end of the trial periods. Data are presented from a 1-group pretest-posttest study examining the role of extensive counseling, coaching, and instruction on FM use by adults. In addition, the potential influence of the cost of devices to the individual was eliminated by conducting the study with veterans who were eligible to receive FM systems through the Veterans Affairs National Hearing Aid Program. Positive outcomes were obtained at the end of a 6-week trial period and were found to remain 1 year after study completion. Implications for increasing the evidence base for the use of FM devices by adults are discussed.

Hearing assistive technology considerations for older individuals with dual sensory loss.

Kricos PB.  Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL 32611-7420, USA.  Trends Amplif. 2007 Dec;11(4):273-9.

This article focuses on the current state of the science related to audiologic rehabilitation of individuals with dual sensory impairment, with an emphasis on considerations for provision of appropriate hearing assistive technology for this population. A substantial increase in the number of older adults is predicted in the coming years, many of whom will have significant age-related impairments in hearing and vision. Thus, hearing care professionals will be called on increasingly to attend to the special needs of people with dual sensory impairments to ensure maximal quality of life and independence for these individuals. Access to sound is critical for individuals who live with compromises in both vision and hearing. Hearing assistive technology may improve not only their speech perception but also their connection and orientation to the environment, as well as enable greater mobility. Thus, the audiologist’s provision of appropriate and carefully selected hearing assistive technology may contribute dramatically to the quality of life of the individual with dual sensory loss. Prefitting, fitting, and postfitting considerations in providing hearing aids and other assistive technology to individuals with dual sensory impairment are reviewed.

Robot-assisted shopping for the visually impaired: proof-of-concept design and feasibility evaluation.

Kulyukin V, Gharpure C, Coster D.  Computer Science Assistive Technology Laboratory, Department of Computer Science, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322-4205, USA.  Assist Technol. 2008 Summer;20(2):86-98.

This article presents RoboCart, a proof-of-concept prototype of a robotic shopping cart for the visually impaired in supermarkets. RoboCart autonomously leads shoppers to required locations and cues them through synthetic speech and a portable barcode reader to the salient features of the environment sufficient for product retrieval. In a longitudinal pilot feasibility study, visually impaired shoppers (n = 10) used the device to retrieve products in Lee’s MarketPlace, a supermarket in Logan, Utah. The main finding is that RoboCart enables visually impaired shoppers to reliably and independently navigate to and retrieve products in a real supermarket.


Using virtual environments to prototype auditory navigation displays.

Walker BN, Lindsay J.  Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.  Assist Technol. 2005 Spring;17(1):72-81.

There is a critical need for navigation and orientation aids for the visually impaired. Developing such displays is difficult and time consuming due to the lack of design tools and guidelines, the inefficiency of trial-and-error design, and experimental participant safety concerns. We discuss using a virtual environment (VE) to help in the design, evaluation, and iterative refinement of an auditory navigation system. We address questions about the (real) interface that the VE version allows us to study. Examples include sound design, system behavior, and user interface design. Improved designs should result from a more systematic and scientific method of assistive technology development. We also point out some of the ongoing caveats that researchers in this field need to consider, especially relating to external validity and over-reliance on VE for design solutions.