HCC 741: Assistive Technology and Accessibility

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Spring 2011 Projects

Edmund Azigi – Inexpensive Alternative Way to Build Smart Canes for the Visually Impaired Capable of Detecting Obstacles
Walking canes offer the visually impaired the security of knowing they are clear of obstacles from the waist down. However, in order to ensure that an entire area is free of obstructions, these individuals must rely on cumbersome, expensive, or intrusive devices. Working under the supervision of Dr. Amy Hurst, Edmund Azigi worked to understand the perceptions and barriers of existing technology, and designed an alternative solution. He interviewed two visually impaired individuals and a supervisor for V-LINC (a Maryland based non-profit organization dedicated to building and developing assistive devices for individuals with disabilities) about current walking cane technology and its future. These interviews revealed that the chief issues involved the inability for basic canes to detect obstacles, the cost of more sophisticated guidance devices, and the weight, portability and intrusiveness of various devices. Azigi’s designs use infrared sensors over ultrasonic due to their accuracy and affordability.
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Joshua Benson – DIY Assistive Technology: Tool to Help Amputee Motorcyclists Shift Gears
The left foot is crucial for control of a motorcycle and is used to shift the motorcycle by pressing and lifting a shifter. For left leg below the knee amputees, this movement, particularly the lifting action, can be extremely challenging. Solutions to make shifting easier for these individuals exist such as modifying motorcycles or purchasing spring loaded prosthetics, but these options are expensive and difficult to install. With this in mind, Joshua Benson and Dr. Amy Hurst undertook the challenge of designing an inexpensive and convenient do-it-yourself shoe attachment that will allow left leg below the knee amputee cyclists to ride motorcycles without modifying their bikes.

Taking inspiration from a do-it-yourself design found online, Benson created a device that would slip over a shoe with a metal brace that is attached to a rubber harness. This inexpensive design made of easily available materials features a universal design that works with most motorcycles. Benson created a do-it-yourself instructional video that helps users get on almost any standard motorcycle and take off without the investment of changing the vehicle itself. This freedom opens barriers for amputees to easily ride motorcycles without spending thousands of dollars modifying their motorcycle.
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Michele Burton – Fashion for the Blind: A Study of Perspectives
Clothing is a major component of everyone’s life and a significant form of communication for both the wearer and observer.  However, fashion is most dominantly a visual form of communication. In this research Michele Burton and UMBC Professor Callie Neylan sought to gather the point-of-view of people who are legally blind as it pertains to beauty in clothing with a goal in mind to create clothes that had greater appeal to other senses beyond vision based on their feedback. They conducted face-to-face interviews and a 10-day diary study with eight legally blind (visual acuity of 20/400 or less) women ages 21 – 73 years. Their findings include how touch plays a major role in clothing’s appeal, how clothing is perceived when vision is not the dominant sense, and the challenges with lack of access and lack of assistive technology for clothing and fashion.
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Meghana Chakravarthy – Assistive Technology Blog for the Maryland Department of Disabilities
The assistive technology specialists at the Maryland Department of Disabilities wanted an Assistive technology (AT) blog to their website that serves as a medium to communicate and connect with their visitors. Meghana Chakravarthy, Denise B. Schuler, Lori Markland, and Joel Zimba designed and developed an assistive technology blog for the Maryland Department of Disabilities. Chakravarthy used Balsamiq to produce mockups of what the blog would look like before creating it in WordPress while adhering to web accessibility guidelines. Once the blog had been created, she utilized surveys to conduct user testing. The blog has been released at http://blog.mdtap.org/
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Sri Lavanya Chamarthy – Stethoscope Solutions for Physicians Who Are Hard at Hearing or Deaf
Hearing impairments are the most frequent sensory deficit, affecting more than 250 million people in the world. For physicians with hearing impairments, a critical element of the job becomes a challenge as traditional stethoscopes require hearing in order to detect various sounds inside of the body. Sri Lavanya Chamarthy and Dr. Mark Young investigate alternative methods for physicians with hearing impairments. After conducting research into existing technologies, Chamarthy conducted 18 phone  interviews with male and female participants ages 30-60 years to discern optimal solutions to the challenge of creating a stethoscope for deaf physicians.
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Wayne Chan – Kinect Gaming: Overcoming Disabilities Through Technology
Over the years, the video game industry has become a staple of social relaxation and entertainment in present day society by giving users the opportunity to be immersed into virtual environments. Until recently, games have been designed based around the concept of using a tangible device to interact with visuals presented on the screen. This design concept can prevent those with a physical disability from experiencing the enjoyment offered through playing video games.

Wayne Chan and Dr. Amy Hurst investigate the possibilities afforded by the Microsoft Kinect to create a game control system that does not require a tangible input device. By utilizing a combination of software to obtain interoperability and tracking data between the Kinect and a laptop, Chan created scripts that allowed body gestures to correspond to button presses on a controller.

In order to ensure feasibility, Chan created scripts for three different genres to determine usability across various game styles. FAAST was the primary application used to conduct testing as it manipulated key binding scripts to interact with the laptop. These scripts were written and edited based on having a lower body disability, improving video game realism as well as resolving problems found from testing. The results showed that the Kinect is a viable tool for users who cannot manipulate traditional input devices.
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Derrick Davis – A Case Study On the use of Assistive Hand Braces
Derrick T. Davis endeavored to find a solution to creating comfortable and practical hand braces for individuals losing use or flexibility of their hands due to various disabilities. For the project, two participants were selected; a 47 year old with Multiple Sclerosis and a 53 year old with Dupuytren’s disease. Davis conducted interviews and journal entries to understand these user needs. Through these interviews he learned why their current hand braces were uncomfortable and ill fitting. These braces were uncomfortable because they were made out of still materials that prevented the user from moving their hands, and were not custom-made to fit properly. Since these braces were so impractical, Davis’ participants questioned the very purpose of this Assistive Technology. Future work will entail prototyping a better model of hand brace.
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Chris Kidd – Kinect-Based Measuring for 3D Printing of Assistive Technologies
Many assistive technologies, although designed to enhance quality of life, become a headache for users. Price, fit, and comfort level are chief assailants in the total acceptance of certain assistive technologies – for many AT users, “one size fits all” doesn’t. By utilizing software developed to integrate the Microsoft Kinect, OpenSCAD, and MakerBot 3D printers, Chris Kidd and Dr. Amy Hurst are developing a system intended to create easily affordable and customizable assistive technology. Measurements are taken using the Kinect’s depth camera, and sent to a programmable 3D environment (OpenSCAD) to automatically customize pre-existing 3D models. These customized designs are manufactured on a MakerBot 3D printer in order to produce low cost, comfortable assistive technology.
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Ted O’Meara – CogConnect: Mobile Rehabilitation for Stroke Patients
The recovery for stroke patients can be an expensive process both in time and money. Of the estimated $73.7 billion spent on stroke in 2010, over 50% of that came from rehabilitation and initial hospitalization. Ted O’Meara and UMBC Professor Dr. Ravi Kuber, created a prototype mobile application that would serve to assist in remote rehabilitation of stroke patients. By offering a remote rehabilitation application, patients would be able to continue therapy past the typical length of treatment, maximizing the patients’ skills.

After creating low fidelity, wireframe level prototypes and conducting interviews with an occupational therapist, a physician in private practice and physical therapists, Ted began to create the high fidelity prototype, called “CogConnect.” This application, developed for iPad, “involves a pointing exercise, where the user presses a button on the screen and retains pressure on the button as it moves around the screen, within a specific time frame. The button will shrink in size and move more rapidly around the screen area, and the time frame for the user to retain pressure on the button increases as the user successfully completes the rehabilitation. This exercise has been intended to improve patients’ visual tracking, attention, focus, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.”
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James Parson – Developing an E-Textile for the Visually Impaired
Walking canes, seeing eye dogs, and human assistants are all viable means of aiding those with visual impairments. However, these methods all have their limitations. Canes are cumbersome, dogs are expensive and require extensive training, and human assistants leave users dependent on someone else. With this in mind, James Parson conducted research into the feasibility, as well as design of, an e-textile that would emit an auditory warning when users approach obstacles. Parson used a Lilypad Arduino and an Arduino speaker to produce a device that would emit a sound in order to give an alert to the visually impaired wearer.
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Mitra Sadat-Akhavi – Do-It-Yourself Assistive Technology (DIY-AT) Online Survey
Mitra Sadat-Akhavi, under the guidance of Dr. Amy Hurst, explored the current do-it-yourself (DIY) Assistive Technology practices through an online survey. The survey investigates the current trends of DIY Assistive Technologies through questions that ask about the current interests and needs of individuals who either use Assistive Technologies or work with people who do. It also asks questions to understand how people modify, customize, and build solutions to fit their needs. Data from this survey will be used to inform the design of future DIY Assistive Technology projects. So far, eight people participated in this survey, and all of them have engaged in DIY activities to increase accessibility. All of the survey participants had repaired, replaced or modified their own assistive technology, and four of them came up with the solution on their own.
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Jasmine Tobias – Do-It-Yourself Assistive Technology Online Community

People with disabilities who rely on assistive technologies (AT) for their daily tasks face difficulties in accessing and successfully adopting devices. Commercially provided AT is often expensive and delivery time may take months to years. In addition, AT abandonment rates are high due to poor usability, changes to requirements over time, and psychosocial factors. Homemade, do-it-yourself AT can provide a cost-effective alternative solution for some and may even help people evaluate whether or not similar commercial solutions will be a good fit before committing to a larger investment.

Jasmine Tobias proposes applying the concept of sharing do-it-yourself assistive technology in an online community that would allow users to share and exchange product ideas for creation. Tobias interviewed eight participants in order to define a need for this type of online community and conducted comparative analysis with other websites in order to develop a unique product before creating a low fidelity prototype that she later user tested with two participants.
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Matthew Tretter – Research into the Emotiv Epoc as a Gestural Interface
This project explores the potential of interacting with the Emotiv Epoc headset device with gestural interfaces to assist persons with certain motor impairments, quadriplegia, or limb loss. Matthew Tretter and UMBC Professor Dr. Ravi Kuber set to create an alternate interface to that of a typical mouse and keyboard. The interface was designed to assist users in creating simple sentences using their own head movements.

Tretter and Kuber developed a prototype to test the functionality and accuracy of gesture detection with gyroscopic mouse functions. Pilot testing of three participants showed that the accuracy of gesture detection was not great enough to warrant further testing however, they found that the Epoc headset as a gyroscopic mouse could be a viable AT. Two alternative input methods were tested including a timed-based hover condition and the user’s audio in order for the user’s speaking to cause a selection. They found that while both input methods were similarly successful, users perceived the audio queues to be the quicker solution.
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Navid Wlotzka – The Tippy Hut Prototype with Sensory Devices
The Tippy Hut was developed by Adaptive Design Association, Inc. (ADA) as a device for all children, especially those with autism. Made of cardboard, the Tippy Hut is a low cost, isolated area, away from all distractions of the outside world. It is a place for children to relax and refocus, before resuming their daily activities. The current Tippy Hut that exists does not have any type of sensory stimulation devices integrated to help calm the child.

Navid Wlotzka, Alex Truesdell, and Lille Troelstrup implemented a prototype of the Tippy Hut featuring stimulation devices targeting auditory, visual, and touch sensations in children. Passive speakers were implemented for the sound sensory stimulation, electroluminescent wire was utilized for sight sensory stimulation, and a four pound weighted lap pad with a cotton-textured blanket was added for the floor. Wlotzka observed two children, one with autism and the other without, using the Tippy Hut while informally interviewing parents on the childrens’ likes and dislikes.
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