Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Advanced Communications Policy (CACP) has been awarded a $4.625 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living’s (ACL) National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). The grant funds the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies (Wireless RERC). The center will create research and development of wireless devices and technologies for a transformative future where individuals with disabilities achieve improved quality of life and enhanced community inclusion.
The award is the fourth consecutive five-year grant given to the team of researchers and engineers. In this cycle, CACP has expanded its partnerships with other research universities including Georgia State University’s Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD), and the University of Texas Arlington (UTA), School of Social Work.
The goal of the Wireless RERC and its advisory board is to accelerate access and promote inclusion to the wireless ecosystem with disability stakeholders, the wireless industry, and government agencies. The grant begins a new era of innovation built on 15 years of expertise in making wireless technologies accessible.
“This funding will allow us to move into next-generation technologies with the intent to be both forward thinking as well as cognizant of legacy services utilized by many people with disabilities,” said Helena Mitchell, CACP executive director and principal investigator of the Wireless RERC. “Building on strong partnerships will yield advancements that improve access to wireless products and services. Engaging with new partners will open avenues to accessible solutions for an inclusive, wirelessly connected future for all.”
Georgia State’s Andrew Roach, the associate director of the CLD, said the research team plans to focus on user-focused research that will expand understanding of the utility of wireless technologies in supporting competitive integrated employment, social connection, and community involvement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Leveraging emerging technologies to facilitate the independence and inclusion of individuals with disabilities aligns with the CLD’s mission, vision, and values,” Roach said. “In particular, we think our work, in concert with the efforts of the rest of the Wireless RERC team, has the potential to positively impact services and supports for individuals in Georgia and across the nation.”
Research endeavors will focus on the user experience to directly inform the Wireless RERC efforts in development. Employment and workforce preparation research will focus on the use of wireless technologies to facilitate social connectedness of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Socially assistive robotics will be studied for their ability to increase capabilities of people with disabilities in varied environments. Internet-of-Things design factors and augmented reality design elements will round out research into social and cultural research elements.
“Creating an inclusive environment advances our goal of achieving a just society by removing barriers to societal participation,” said John Bricout, UTA project leader. “A transdisciplinary approach to problem solving, made possible by our forward-thinking partners, allows us to innovatively engage 21st century technologies in the service of people with disabilities.”
The Wireless RERC expansion of its emergency lifelines activities will create devices to ensure systems are timely and responsive across a wide range of platforms. New development work on wearable devices and connectivity will lead to the design of accessible and facilitative wearable devices usable in a variety of social and personal environments. Advanced auditory interfaces are posed to support gesture and audio pairing through next-generation technology. Under the new grant, the Wireless RERC outreach to consumers and training on usability of wireless products reaches new audiences.
“Our public policy initiatives to facilitate inclusion of people with disabilities in the wireless space will continue to be a critical component of the Wireless RERC. Over the years, we have submitted more than 60 filings for proposed rulemakings before the FCC and other regulatory agencies pertaining to issues of telecommunications access and emergency communications. Our filings have been referenced or cited more than 170 times in ongoing rulemakings, including final rules and orders regarding advanced technologies and accessible mobile alerts,” said Mitchell.
The Wireless RERC is one of approximately 15 RERCs in the United States. Other RERCs are devoted to fields such as aging, visual impairment, public transportation, and information technology access.
Georgia Tech participants in the Wireless RERC are led by the Ivan Allen College School of Public Policy and also include the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, College of Design, College of Computing, College of Sciences School of Psychology, Interactive Media Technology Center, and the Wearable Computing Center.