computing to improve quality of life for those with disability
Organizing interdisciplinary talent
to accommodate disability with computing technology
The Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center is funded by NIDILRR to coordinate research that promotes independent living for disabled persons by expanding society’s capacity to provide them with full opportunity and accommodation.
Founded in 2001 and still active today, the Wireless RERC was funded at Georgia Tech by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (today the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research) to analyze the needs of disabled wireless technology users, to close the time gap between new technology becoming available and becoming accessible to disabled users, and to advise government and industry on related policy and development issues. The overall goal of the Wireless RERC is to provide resources for research, development, training, and policy that will enable disabled users to fully participate with modern technology and the opportunities it provides.
An early effort of the Wireless RERC was the Survey of User Needs (still run today) which has been taken by over 5,000 people with disabilities, answering questions about themselves, their abilities, and their wireless devices, activities, and services. The results of this survey have informed key device and service design decisions to make wireless products easier for the disabled to use. The Wireless RERC has also spun off development projects, including a wireless, wearable captioning system that gives deaf users a headsup display to read what is being spoken over the Public Address system at a stadium or a train station. The App Factory has seeded numerous accessibility apps including a working Braille keyboard for the iPhone and a currency identifier for blind Android users.
IMTC has been a key partner through the three five year funding terms the Wireless RERC has received thus far, assisting with diverse projects from an improved Emergency Alert system that better communicates with the disabled during a crisis (bed shakers, flashing lights, klaxons), to research into the language used by the National Weather Service, which often does not translate well to American Sign Language, to corporate collaborations with companies like Zyrobotics to create accessible, educational and therapeutic gaming experiences for children with disabilities. The varied expertise within the research faculty of IMTC, now over a dozen strong, have made it an flexible and capable partner in the worthwhile mission to improve independence and quality of life for disabled persons in the age of wireless technology.