Evaluating Outcomes of Assistive Technology for People with Developmental Disabilities who are Aging
Joy Hammel, Tamar Heller, & Glenn Hedman
University of Illinois at Chicago
Susan Nochajski
State University of New York at Buffalo
2002

What the Project is About:
Assistive technology (AT) and environmental adaptations can be used by people with developmental disabilities to improve health, ability to do everyday activities, and ability to live in the community. However, issues related to funding, quality of services, caregiving training, access to information and technology, and long term support and training can be barriers to getting and using that technology over time. This 5 year project studies how assistive technology and environmental adaptations are being used by people with developmental disabilities as they age in the community, the barriers they face, and the strategies they develop to use technology in everyday life. We are doing the following activities:
  • Outcome Study: Follow a group of 60 people with developmental disabilities in Chicago, IL and Buffalo, NY who receive AT to track the process, their satisfaction with it, problems, costs, and how well the AT solutions worked over time for them.
  • Assistive Technology Long term Advocacy & Support (ATLAS) Study: Deliver a program in which consumers and important others in their lives learn how to identify aging issues and advocate for needed technology or environmental adaptations to help meet these needs. This includes home visits by an occupational therapist and an information/advocacy specialist, networking with other people with developmental disabilities who are in advocacy and leadership roles, and learning how to use the computer and Internet to access resources about rights and options available. Test this program with 60 people from Chicago and Buffalo to see how it works.
  • Training Materials: Create a series of training and advocacy materials for consumers, families and community agencies on how to use assistive technology and environmental adaptations to meet community living needs as they age.

What We’ve Learned So Far:
Our research has shown that assistive technology and environmental modifications do help to keep up or increase people’s participation in everyday activities. People with developmental disabilities are using AT for self care, communication and mobility. They have expressed a strong need for more AT to help them stay in the homes as they age, to access the computer and Internet to meet other people with disabilities to share strategies, and to get out into the community to do social and leisure activities.
Twenty people have participated in the long term advocacy and support program (ATLAS). They have successfully learned how to advocate for needed technology. Many have gotten access to computers and the Internet in their homes and communities and several are now surfing the World Wide Web. Many have advocated for help to adapt their homes and community sites to make them more accessible. One group home tore down their bathroom and replaced it with an accessible bathroom that is now used by everyone that lives there.
We have also found resistance from some agencies and people that work in them to getting the technology people really need. We are working with several community agencies to educate them on people’s right to these resources to live and participate in the community. We will continue to see what happens as more people come into the program and advocate for technology over time.

Advisory Committee Help:
As a member of the RRTC Advisory Committee, you can be of great help on this project.
  • We would like to link people in the ATLAS program with other people with developmental disabilities who are actively involved in advocacy and activism. We are especially looking for groups and organizations that people that will respond to them and actively include them in activities. Can you give us some recommendations on how to do this? Are there any advocacy and leadership activities available on the web?
  • We are interested in peer mentoring and buddy systems where people link up with other people in their communities, or via the Internet, who are using technology. What are your ideas on how to do this? Would you be interested in being a mentor?
  • Many people have asked to learn how to access the computer and Internet. We are looking for websites that are easy to access and examples of personal web pages of other people with developmental disabilities. We are especially interested in sites that don’t require a lot of reading. Can you give us some recommendations?
  • We are looking for examples of home, buildings and community spaces that are really accessible and welcoming to people who are aging with developmental disabilities. Do you know of any in your community that we could feature?

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