For several years, KUCDD faculty have been engaged in activities to improve access to and utilization of assistive, information, and electronic technologies by children, youth, and adults with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities.
Among the most visible of these projects is the Assistive Technology for Kansans project, directed by Sara Sack at the KUCDD Parsons site. The ATK is an interagency collaboration funded through the federal Assistive Technology Act. ATK operates five regional Assistive Technology Access sites across the state. The purpose of Assistive Technology for Kansans is to increase statewide access of assistive technology devices and services to people with disabilities of all ages and abilities. Kansans of all ages with any type of disability or health condition can request information/referral, evaluation, technical assistance or training supports by calling a toll-free number (1-800-KAN-DO-IT).
There are five regional AT access sites with AT specialists and funding specialists and access to an equipment loan program. The loan program has more than 12,000 items that can be borrowed on a trial basis through Parsons or one of the regional centers, including technology related to computer access devices and software; technology to promote activities of daily living; assisted listening and communication devices; education and learning technology; environmental control technology; leisure and community inclusion devices; and mobility devices.
ATK operates numerous initiatives to facilitate and enhance the primary grant's capacity to achieve its mission. Among these are the AT Services for Employment project, which focuses on the use of technology to achieve vocational and employment-related activities; the Kansas Telework Program, which coordinates activities leading to promoting distance work options for people with disabilities; and the AT for Infants and Toddlers project.
An important component of the ATK activities involves the Kansas Alternative Finance Program, operated through the KUCDD Parsons ATK program and its non-profit partner, Kansas Assistive Technology Cooperative (KATCO) project. The Kansas Alternative Finance Program involves a financial loan program for the purchase of devices and services necessary for independence, inclusion, learning, and employment. Program activities include reviewing and implementing funding options that allow consumer access to low-interest loans.
A final initiative spearheaded by ATK is the Kansas AT Reuse Program, which is a statewide program to recover, refurbish, and reassign durable medical equipment. An innovative component of the Reuse project implemented during this past year was the expansion of program activities to include handheld digital and converged mobile organizational and navigational technologies, including technologies such as palmtop computers.
Two other projects operated by the KUCDD Lawrence site, under the direction of Michael Wehmeyer, are conducting research and model development activities to improve access to and utilization of assistive, information, and electronic technologies by children, youth, and adults with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities.
The first is a Disability Rehabilitation Research Project funded by NIDRR on Technology Use and People with Intellectual Disability. This DRRP has conducted numerous activities to examine technology use by people with intellectual disability and to promote this outcome. Included in these activities has been the development and evaluation of a cognitively accessible wireless telephone running on a handheld computer. Further, we have completed a meta-analysis of technology use by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, examining both the efficacy of such technology devices for multiple uses and examining the degree to which universal design features were present.
A second project is funded via a subcontract from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Advancing Cognitive Disability. Our research within the context of RERC-ACT is examining the use of cognitively accessibility by adolescents with cognitive disabilities on self-determination and transition-related outcomes. We have more than 200 students with cognitive disabilities in more than 25 high schools in seven states who are involved in a longitudinal study of the impact of the use of cognitively accessible technology that supports their involvement in transition planning. That study will follow students upon graduation to evaluate the impact of this technology on adult outcomes, including employment and independent living.