In October 2003, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education, awarded a five-year, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) grant to the Trace Research & Development Center, University of Wisconsin - Madison.
The overall focus of the Universal Interface and Information Technology Access RERC is on accessibility and usability of current and emerging information technologies. This includes access to information content in its various forms, as well as access to interfaces used within content and by electronic technologies in general. The desired outcome of this work is a seamless integration of the various technologies used by individuals with disabilities in the home, the community, and the workplace. The RERC includes a broad research and development program, as well as training, technical assistance, and dissemination activities.
Research and Development
The research and development program is designed as an interwoven set of projects, where the research results are used in the development projects, and what is learned from prototyping and tool-building in the development activities is fed back into the continuing research. The overall goal of this program is to make possible the continuous improvement of the design of mainstream information technology products so that they can be used by individuals with disabilities and elders, and in addition to improve assistive technology and the interoperability of AT and standard information technology. Project outcomes have the potential to rewrite some basic precepts and approaches for accessibility and usability of information and interface technologies by people with disabilities, with impact on other research in this field.
Research projects include:
- Disability and Interface Characterization Study. Focusing on tremor and related physical limitations as a pilot study, this project will create and test a new model and method for understanding how specific product interface requirements (current and emerging) relate to user abilities (cross-disability);
- Research on Abstract User Interface Sockets. Related to our Universal Remote Console standards work, this project will investigate the potential of bypassing the standard interface on products so that a person with a disability can use whatever interface works for them (including emerging intelligent agent technologies, which will provide access for people with cognitive limitations).
- Technology Watch. Focusing on emerging technologies and trends, this project will provide ongoing analysis of accessibility and usability issues and opportunities, and suggesting questions for further investigation.
In addition, the RERC includes the following development activities:
- Development of Tools to Facilitate Built-In Cross-Disability Access;
- Development of Tools for Incorporation of Interoperability Features in Mainstream Products;
- Investigation of Server Assisted and Virtual AT, including a transcoding server;
- Support of National and International Standards and Guidelines Efforts, including Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, INCITS/V2, HFES, and IEEE voting accessibility standards, and others.
Training and Technical Assistance
In addition to research and development, the RERC provides training for researchers and product designers, and technical assistance to government, industry, and consumer groups.
The Training Program includes:
- Undergraduate and graduate education within the Industrial Engineering (Human Factors) and Biomedical Engineering Departments,
- Industry training course and technical workshops,
- Development of new training techniques, media, and materials.
Funding for this work has been provided by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education, under grant H133E030012.