Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access

TechSAge Researchers Take Aging Expertise to Italy

Jon Sanford speaks at a conference in Italy.

By Malrey Head Atlanta, GA

TechSAge researcher Jon Sanford was invited to chair a special session on Universal Design and Technology for Successful Aging with Disability at the 3rd International Conference on Universal Accessibility in the Internet of Things and Smart Environments (SMART ACCESSIBILITY 2018) in Rome.

Sanford is an expert in aging and is internationally recognized for his expertise in universal design, design for aging, workplace accommodations, and accessibility. He also is a professor in the School of Industrial Design and director of the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at Georgia Tech.

TechSAge researchers joining Sanford were Elena Remillard, Sarah Melgen, and Claudia Rebola.

TechSAge is a multidisciplinary team of researchers based at Georgia Tech. It is a national Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center designed to understand the needs of, and develop supportive technologies for, people with long-term impairments who are at risk of disability or increased disability as they age.

The Smart Accessibility conference featured attendees in research and academia from around the world with backgrounds in healthcare, human-computer interaction, rehabilitation engineering, transportation, architecture, and design.

The session focused on the millions of people worldwide, who are aging with long-term mobility, sensory, cognitive, and communication impairments.


Elena Remillard, a research scientist at CATEA, presented initial insights from a large-scale interview study investigating the needs of individuals aging with long-term vision, hearing, or mobility impairment.

“We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the data captured in this study. For this conference, our team analyzed challenges that emerged from just 3 older adult participants in each impairment group (Blind/Low Vision, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Mobility Impaired). It was both fascinating and disheartening to learn about the real-life, complex difficulties these individuals experience with everyday activities, from managing medications to shopping for groceries.

“As we near our goal of enrolling a diverse sample of 180 participants, I am eager to see the potential depth and breadth of insights about user needs that can be realized—we’re already identifying opportunities for technology innovation,” she said.

The session featured presentations from four TechSAge projects. Some of these projects included research from others in the College of Design and Georgia Tech.

Here are the four presentations:

Utility of a Mobile Route Planning App for People Aging with Disability

Researchers are Sanford and Sarah Melgen of CATEA, and Subhrajit Guhathakurta and Ge Zhang of the Center for Spatial Planning Analytics and Visualization (CSPAV) at Georgia Tech.

ALIGN (App for Locational Intelligence and Geospatial Navigation) provides information about characteristics of the route, including the presence of sidewalks and their condition, nearby public transit, the presence of traffic signals and acoustic signals, landscape overgrowth, and the steepness of the path.

The presentation provided an overview of the project. The first version of the application has been developed and field-tested. The current version of the application is under review at Apple’s app store and is due to be released to the public shortly.

The ALIGN team also received a Field Initiated Program award from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). The award is supporting the team in a three-year effort to produce a prototype of ALIGN 2.0 that will enhance the effectiveness and extend the utility of the existing database and routing algorithm through the inclusion and application of real-time barriers to community mobility.

Aging Concerns, Challenges, and Everyday Solution Strategies (ACCESS)
A Qualitative Approach to Understanding User Needs for Aging with Disability

Researchers are Remillard and Tracy L. Mitzner of CATEA, Jenny L. Singleton of the Georgia Tech School of Psychology, and Wendy A. Rogers, TechSAge Co-Director now based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This presentation highlighted the large-scale interview study, known as ACCESS, investigating user needs of individuals aging with impairment.

As part of the larger TechSAge User Needs the ACCESS study aims to understand the nature and distribution of task performance problems with everyday activities for older adults with long-term vision, hearing, or mobility impairment. In addition to activity challenges, the study explores the various strategies individuals in these three distinct populations employ to manage them.

TechSAge Design Competition
Design Criteria to Advance Technologies for the Aging Population

Rebola, a former Georgia Tech professor and now on the design faculty at the University of Cincinnati, is director of the international competition.

This presentation highlighted the development and execution of the TechSAge Design Competition, which is open to talented college students from around the world to develop innovative technology-enabled design solutions for the aging population.

The 2018 competition is underway; a jury panel selected 10 concepts as finalists to move to Phase II of the competition. Finalists are currently working to revise their concepts for the final submission and judging. (Deadline to submit is May 18.)

MS Assistant
Universally Designed mHealth App for Individuals Aging with Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers are Ljilja Ruzic, Harshal Mahajan, and Sanford, all of CATEA.

This presentation highlighted the development of the MS Assistant App and refinements after user testing. It is a health and wellness self-management app that assists individuals aging with multiple sclerosis (MS). This evidence-based app helps users track their symptoms and share health data with providers.

MS Assistant is the dissertation project of Ljilja Ruzic, a Ph.D. student in industrial design. The project received seed grant funding for mobile app development from the TechSAge Aging & Disability Innovation Garden project.

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