Emerging New Practices in Technology to Support Independent Community Access for People with Intellectual and Cognitive Disabilities

Neuro Rehabilitation
Year Published: 

New technology holds promise for helping people with cognitive disabilities access their community. A recent paper describes the various electronic devices and software applications currently on the market to help individuals navigate their community on foot and by public transit. While being unable to navigate one's community without assistance is a major barrier to community inclusion, little research has been devoted to exploring technologies that could promote community access. The authors review some of the advantages and drawbacks of emerging technologies for community access, and report results from a case study of a smartphone application in use. Of the technologies discussed, computer based video instruction (CBVI) has shown promise in small trials. Using CBVI, individuals are able to rehearse their routes using video shot from a first-person perspective while a voice-over gives instructions such as "push the request for stop signal when you see the Target sign." A three- person trial of CBVI found that two of the three participants were able to successfully generalize the skills they had rehearsed while on a public bus. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology used together with pictures of landmarks and audio cues has also been shown to be effective -- 24 out of 26 participants successfully traveled to a new destination unaccompanied using the system. A case study of a 19-year-old man with Down syndrome documented his use of a similar smartphone application to complete routes to four new destinations. Both he and his parents were extremely positive about the technology. In addition to enhancing self-determination and community integration, enabling people with cognitive disabilities to use public transit offers cost-savings. For example, a mid-size city would save more than $4,500 annually for each individual with cognitive disabilities who took a standard bus rather than specialized para-transit services.

--IACC 2011 Summary of Advances in ASD Research