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Developing Technologies that Enable Individuals with Disabilities: A Unique Design Experience

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Student Learning and Teamwork

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.462.1 - 22.462.8



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Paper Authors

author page

Nina Robson Texas A&M University

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Developing Technologies that Enable Individuals with Disabilities: Unique Design Experience for Undergraduate Students ETD IT/IET Interest Group AbstractPeople with disabilities encounter a significant number of barriers and challenges, including lackof employment opportunities and access to adequate facilities. Today, over 60% of people withdisabilities do not have jobs. Lack of awareness about the challenges faced by persons withdisabilities still is a considerable concern. In an effort to ease some of those challenges, asemester long design project has been introduced, as a part of an existing engineering technologydesign course, to encourage the students to develop technologies that can empower people withdisabilities to overcome barriers to employment. The students are introduced to local nonprofitagencies that train and find employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. During thesemester long course, the students work in close collaboration with physical therapists at thelocal hospitals as well as with the disability services at XXX University to better understand theemployment barriers faced by the disabled on a daily basis. The students work in teams and arechallenged to design the assistive device in direct collaboration with a particular person who isdisabled.By the end of the first month, students are asked to propose a basic idea of their conceptualdesign. In the end of the semester, the students present detailed design document for theproposed assistive device. The proposals are reviewed by a committee consisting of engineeringprofessors and health care professionals. The review criteria of the assistive technology consistof overall solution, cost, ease of use and implementation, safety features, quality and accuracy,function, plans for testing and evaluation. The top two designs are then suggested for a possiblefinancial assistance, prototype and fabrication. The effectiveness of the approach is assessedthrough a collaborative effort with all those involved via evaluations, surveys, as well asfeedback from the students and the users of the assistive devices.The project gives undergraduate students a chance to make a difference, by developingtechnologies to aid people with disabilities. It also enhances the design experience of theundergraduate students in our department. We expect that this project, which focuses onenabling the disabled, will encourage more students and engineering professionals to becomeinterested in seeking degrees in Engineering with special emphasis on human-centered design.

Robson, N. (2011, June), Developing Technologies that Enable Individuals with Disabilities: A Unique Design Experience Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17743

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