Welcome to AT R&D News, a free new monthly newsletter from FAST with the latest on Research and Development in the AT field. Our aim is to help researchers stay up to date with significant national developments, local initiatives and research projects relevant to the AT community. There are also regular updates on sources of funding, AT jobs, conferences and opportunities to share knowledge about the AT sector.
This month's bulletin is sponsored by ATcare.
To subscribe (or unsubscribe) to the newsletter, or to suggest items for inclusion, email: email@example.com.
Three new centres which will develop digital technology to transform the lives of older and disabled people, and those who live in rural communities, have been announced. Funding for the Digital Britain research 'hubs' is coming from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). The hubs will be based at Nottingham, Newcastle and Aberdeen universities and their mission is to explore ways to use digital technology inclusively to improve people's quality of life.
Aberdeen will focus on rural issues and Nottingham on transport concerns, while Newcastle University will be looking at new technology for social inclusion. This will build on existing work being undertaken at the university, such as the Ambient Kitchen project (here) and KITE, a project which is using Global Positioning Software (GPS) technology to bring independent mobility to people with dementia (details here). The new hubs represent the biggest investment ever made by the research councils in creating a Digital Britain. To find out more, follow this link.
The NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme has launched a new initiative designed to increase links and develop relationships with the research community, and to increase awareness and understanding of the funding opportunities on offer. A small team has been established within the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC) at the University of Southampton to provide this service, and is planning events and activities to publicise the programme. For more details, contact Liz Tremain (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The NIHR HTA programme is currently seeking research proposals on a number of topics, including:
The submission deadline is 23rd June and there is more information here.
The Department of Health’s Policy Research Programme is looking to commission Policy Research Units in a number of high priority areas including quality and outcomes of person-centred care and policy innovation research. The aim is to meet the longer-term policy research needs of the Department, as well as to secure the capacity for work to be undertaken at short notice and for rapid synthesis of evidence. The deadline for the first stage of the application process to create a Policy Research Unit is 8th June 2009, and there is more information here.
The East of England Strategic Health Authority has launched three new Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competitions. The three priority areas are:
Deadline for submissions is 30th June and more information is available here.
Most people with depression receive help from their GP, but many could benefit from a short course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) from a specialist therapist. Researchers at York University investigating whether CBT delivered via a computer is as effective in treating mental health problems in REEACT - the Randomised Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Acceptability of Computerised Therapy trial. To find out more, follow this link.
Venous leg ulcers are common chronic wounds that are painful and reduce quality of life and the treatment of these wounds costs the NHS millions of pounds per year. The VenUS IV (Venous leg Ulcer Study IV) project, funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme, is evaluating the relative merits of compression bandaging versus compression hosiery. Work has just started and the project is due to finish in 2013. More details via this link.
Brunel University is leading a European consortium with partners in Germany, Denmark, Spain and Italy looking at the opportunities and challenges presented by the switch to digital TV. The DTV4All: Digital Television for All project aims to create a core set of access services, including subtitling and signing, to be offered in all EU member countries in the near future. Find out more here.
3. Communications developments
BECTA, the government education technology agency, has announced up to £1.5 million of funding for the alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) sector in response to some of the issues raised by the Bercow review. There are two funding streams -- one for developing AAC services, and the other for innovative projects. The deadline for the first round of submissions is 29th May. Find out more here.
The current issue of ACNR (Advances in Clinical Neuroscience & Rehabilitation) has an article looking at the principles and practicalities of 'voice banking' for people with degenerative conditions who want to use recordings of their own voice as output from communication aids. It draws on research work being undertaken at the University of Sheffield. For more information, follow this link.
The BBC's children's channel, CBBC, has launched Accessible Newsreader, a service designed to make more of the BBC's content such as Newsround available to children who may have a need for a simpler more accessible interface, including those who use switches. Key features are a highly simplified scanning interface, fully voiced text, and being fully configurable, including fonts and colour-schemes. Although designed primarily for switch users, the the simplified interface, simultaneous text & speech, and connection with real-world events mean the reader can also be used as a teaching aid for people who may have learning or cognitive difficulties, and people on the autistic spectrum. More details are here.
4. AT in the news
The European Commission has published the final report of the study, “Analysis of the Assistive Technologies Information and Communication Technologies (AT ICT) industry in Europe”. The study aimed to gather information about the state of the EU AT ICT industry and develop conclusions and recommendations as to what steps can be taken to improve the competitiveness of the companies which form this industry. Research showed that one area common to the vast majority of firms is the marketing challenge: how to get the right product, via the right person, and with the right instructions and training to the disabled end-user who needs it. To some extent, this is a distribution and marketing challenge common to any industry, but in the AT ICT industry in Europe, the complexity of the different service provider systems is an extremely potent force in the marketplace. The study concludes that a European-wide industry organisation should be formed with a focus in three key areas: networking; professional development / knowledge building; and public policy. The full report is available here.
The Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Programme is launching a new Digital Inclusion Forum. Led by Dr. Jane Seale from the University of Southampton, the main aim of the forum is to engage with both the TEL and wider research communities, in order to identify the key inclusion-related research questions and issues for TEL research. The initial focus for activity will be the development of an online space for sharing resources, discussing inclusion-related issues and scoping priorities for digital inclusion research. In the longer term, the forum will be a platform for the collaborative writing of a contribution from TEL on the theme of inclusion. For more details, follow this link.
The Royal Institute of British Architects has a film available to watch online called "Inclusive Design:creating a user's world". The film features three projects:
The role and relationship of the architects, the client, the user advisors, access consultants, and other members of the design team are examined in the film which provides viewers with differing practical examples of inclusive design. The film can be viewed here.
5. Call for Papers
The Lancet is publishing a special issue later this year on the topic of disability to coincide with World Disability Day on December 3, 2009. The deadline for submission of primary research papers is July 31, 2009, and there is more information here.
There is a special issue of the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction on evaluating new interactions in healthcare. New mobile, wireless and sensor-based technologies are being used at the patient's bedside in hospital and in people's homes, raising important issues about how the impact of this technology can be evaluated. Deadline for submissions is 19th June 2009 - contact email@example.com.
The Journal of Assistive Technologies is planning a special issue on on the use of technologies for children, young people and adults on the autism spectrum for March 2010. The deadline is 1st September 2009 and more details from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Second International Association of Science and Technology for Development (TAT 2009) conference on telehealth and assistive technology takes place in Cambridge, USA, from 4th - 6th November 2009. The call for papers is now open with a deadline of 1st July. Details are here.
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The Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) is looking for a new director as Roger Orpwood is retiring. More details here.
The Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds, is offering a White Rose Research Studentship investigating the role of material and texture in creating products that are both easy-to-use and desirable for older consumers, using the packaging and utensils encountered in the kitchen as a case study. The work involves studying users preparing a meal at the University of York’s Responsive Home Lab, and using the observational material as the basis for work in the University of Leed's Affective Engineering lab. For more information, go here.
7. Events and resources
The Medical Innovation Forum, 10 June 2009, London is the premier UK networking event for all those with an interest in health technologies to discuss innovations, fast-track technology transfer, find partners and seek funding/licensing agreements. For more details, follow this link.
The 1st International Workshop on Intelligent Environments Supporting Healthcare and Wellbeing (WISHWell'09) is being held in Barcelona on 19th July to bring together researchers from both academia and industry to discuss intelligent pervasive healthcare solutions. More information here.
There will be a Workshop on Reminiscence Systems on 5th September in Cambridge. Systems that support reminiscing, particularly as a therapeutic intervention for people with dementia, are starting to emerge, and often involve a range of academic disciplines. This workshop aims to provide a platform for researchers to come together and discuss the impact of existing and disruptive technologies in this field. Details here.
The Engineers' Seating and Mobility Interest Group (SMIG) in conjunction with the Irish Posture and Mobility Network (IPMN) held a recent seminar in Dublin, and a webcast of proceedings is available to view here.
The Information Technologists’ Company, the 100th Livery Company of the City of London, is organising an Accessibility Debate. “Does technology make it easier or harder for disabled entrepreneurs?" takes place in London on 7th October. More information via this link.
8. ATcare news
ATcare's recent assistive technology survey suggests making a product easy to use is the key priority for users, therapists and manufacturers, although costs also need to be kept down. Respondents were drawn from visitors to the Naidex exhibition last month and were evenly divided between healthcare professionals, suppliers and product consumers. The overall results identify ease of use, effectiveness and reliability and durability as the top three factors when it comes to choosing assistive technology, with disabled people indicating that reliability is crucial.
When it comes to accessing assistive technology, the two main challenges emerge as the cost of any equipment or product, and the difficulty in finding information and independent advice. While people with disabilities view cost as the number one barrier, suppliers are more concerned about the lack of suitable products, suggesting a need for better communication between manufacturers and potential users. This is reflected in the responses to a question about the main challenges in developing new assistive technology -- all three categories of respondent highlight problems in finding funding, but the next biggest hurdle is seen as access to end users.
ATcare is an organisation, established with the support of the London development Agency, which aims to improve the range, quality and functionality of assistive technology products.