Grant to study mobile tech for young adults with disabilities

University of Michigan researchers have received a $4.5 million federal grant to study how mobile technology--including apps for smartphones and tablets--might help young adults with spinal cord dysfunction and neurodevelopmental disabilities, according to an article in the Ann Arbor Journal.

The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research will help launch the new U-M Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center (RERC), Technology Increasing Knowledge, Technology Optimizing Choices (TIKTOC). The center will involve researchers and clinicians from U-M's departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Internal Medicine, College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, School of Public Health and the School of Information.

"Researchers will explore how technology already familiar to younger groups, such as mobile devices and video games, can be used to implement innovative types of support, reminders and motivation for young adults with spina bifida, cerebral palsy and other disabilities," the article states. "These new tools will leverage research in artificial intelligence and cognitive science to help adolescents and young adults develop skills ranging from self-administration of medication and emptying bladders through a catheter to managing stressful social situations and being motivated to pursue personal life goals."

Projects funded by the grant include developing apps and other tools that can help clients report daily activities and track trends over time via smartphones and other mobile devices. Another project will also support the development of a cloud-based mobile system called Spinal Cord Injury Living and Learning System that provides a virtual coaching program to motivate people to follow through on self-care. All projects led by the new center are designed for easy transfer to the marketplace.

In related news, children with fine-motor impairments from neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, spina bifida and muscular dystrophy, soon will be able to use a tablet computer thanks to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology. A professor of electrical and computer engineering and a graduate student developed a wireless input device that leverages a sensor system to translate physical movements into gestures to control the touch screen of a tablet.

To learn more:
- read the article in the Ann Arbor Journal