University Support In Technology Evaluation  And Development

This project is made possible with funding from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

Scope of Work

Introduction

Fox and Boyles conducted a study in which they discovered only 54% of individuals with a disability use the internet compared with 81% of individuals who do not identify having a disability (Fox & Boyles, 2012). What this illustrates is that having a disability may be a contributing factor that prevents one from having access to technology. It reveals a need to involve those with disabilities in navigating technological advancement for their own advantage.

Technology has influenced the lives of nearly everyone in one manner or another. Most of us take it for granted, perhaps not even noticing the extent to which our everyday activities are either completely reliant upon technological advancement or have just been made significantly easier. Often, technology is developed in a way in which persons with developmental disabilities are excluded from the digital environment. In an age where every year we are more integrated into a global digital society, it is imperative that people with developmental disabilities are not left behind. If people with disabilities cannot utilize the technology others take for granted then they will be left disenfranchised from the way in which society will operate in the future.

Not only is there a need for technology to become more accessible and available for those who have a disability, there is an opportunity to use technology to help promote a more inclusive life for people with developmental disabilities. Currently, in Ohio alone, over 90,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive supports from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD). In recent years, technological advancement has provided an opportunity for supported living services to become in many ways less intrusive and foster a greater independence.

One such advance is the use of remote monitoring. Remote monitoring/supports means the monitoring of an individual in his or her home by using one or more of the following systems: live audio feed, sensor technology, radio frequency identification, web-based monitoring system, video feed, or other devices. The system shall include devices to engage in live two-way communication with the individual being monitored as described in the Individual Service Plan. While remote monitoring is available as an alternative to having staff in the home for many people, at present, only 170 individuals take advantage of this service.

What is the Technology Project?

The Technology Project is a collaborative enterprise between the Department of Developmental Disabilities and The Ohio State University Nisonger Center. The project aims to take an in-depth look at the role technology, including remote monitoring, plays in the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families, create a vision for how the use of technology may be improved and expanded upon, and identify technological advances that might benefit people with developmental disabilities by increasing their independence.

Activities

The Technology Project can be separated into 3 parts:

  • Conduct Focus Groups and Interviews regarding remote monitoring
  • Conduct a national review of technologies that currently enable people with developmental disabilities to live and participate in their communities with less direct support from caregivers
  • Identify areas of future technology development that might benefit people with developmental disabilities

The focus groups and interviews will provide detailed insight into the reception and use of Remote Monitoring. We will discuss the topic with people who have used the service, people who are closely associated with those using the service, and people who have never used it. This will provide insight into what people like and dislike about Remote Monitoring as well as provide insight into what sort of stigmas may be associated with the service. With this information Remote Monitoring will be expanded and refined.

In order to write a national review of technology, external resources will be leveraged to gain an understanding of the technology landscape. These resources will be everything from news articles to interviews with experts and technology conferences. The review will document the use and reception of technology as well as an analysis of its accessibility and ability to facilitate independence among persons with developmental disabilities.

Through the Technology Project, a plan will be developed to introduce an independence facilitating technology into the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

What are examples of independence facilitating technology?

Technology that provides support to someone with a disability is called assistive technology. There are many different disabilities and there are assistive technologies that support many of them. Examples include: tools used in speech therapy to teach an individual how to initiate specific phonetic sounds; switches which are easy to use buttons for people that lack mobility or the ability to use a complicated technological instruments; apps that help someone to communicate; a man who has a vision impairment who uses Google Glass to live stream his daily activities.

The assistive technology sought by the Technology Project is something that facilitates independent living while reducing the person’s reliance on the need for direct-support staff. To this end there are apps that prompt one when to get off of the bus, watches that will send GPS coordinates to a trusted contact, cars that drive themselves, devices that will send notifications to one’s phone when food has cooled to an appropriate temperature, technology that will shut down appliances if they are left on too long, etc. There is a plethora of examples of technology that would meet our purpose in some way. The Technology Project aims to find one that can meet the most need and facilitate the greatest amount of independence.

Conclusion

Technology has already shaped the way we communicate and live. With the rapid introduction of autonomous cars, the internet of things, virtual and augmented reality, and wearable technology, the digital landscape and its influence on our lives is about to change in a way that is unparalleled to any change we have experienced to date. The new landscape has potential to be a practical and beneficial alteration. It is an exciting time – one in which people with developmental disabilities will have the opportunity to live more independent and socially engaged lives.

The Ohio State University is a leader in technological innovation and research. It is the perfect organization to recognize the affect technology can have on persons with developmental disabilities.

Partners

  • The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities
  • The Ohio State University, Nisonger Center – University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

Project Team

Jordan Wagner, Technology Project Coordinator.
Christopher Steiner, Support Analyst.
Daniel K. Davies, Project Consultant – Founder and President of AbleLink Technologies.

Marc J. Tassé, Ph.D., Project PI.

References

Fox, Susannah, and Jan Lauren Boyles. 2012. Disability in the Digital Age. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/08/06/disability-in-the-digital-age/.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Jordan B. Wagner
Coordinator, Technology Project
Tel.: (614) 688-3155 Office