Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access

Our Story

Decades of Working for Those with Disabilities

The Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) grew out of a series of design projects in the late 1970s that were undertaken by Georgia Tech Industrial Design students in cooperation with local disability groups. Those initial efforts led to larger grants, and in 1980 the Board of Regents established the Center for Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) under Georgia Tech's College of Architecture (now College of Design).

For more than 20 years, CRT, which was renamed the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) in the late 1990s, undertook an array of service provision projects for Georgia’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, including design of custom assistive technology and workplace accommodation and home modification services.

It also established the statewide TechKnowledge information clearinghouse on assistive technology; hosted various national resource centers on assistive technology for the workplace; provided accessibility audits for public facilities and information technology to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and produced computer skill and adult education programs.

These efforts led to national research centers on workplace accommodations and wheeled mobility, which led to CATEA’s transformation from a service-oriented center to a full-fledged research center in the early 2000s. Throughout, CATEA’s central mission has been on improving the quality of life for people with disabilities through technology.

Timeline

1978

  • Professor Richard Martin in the industrial design program begins working with students to design various products for people with disabilities.

1980

  • The Center for Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) is formally established by Gov. George Busby. Professor Richard Martin is named first director of CRT.

Early 1980s

  • CRT begins designing and building assistive technology projects, working with the Georgia Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • TechKnowledge, a statewide telephone-based inquiry and referral system is established for people seeking solutions to practical assistive technology issues.
  • CRT, Inc., is created as a nonprofit advocacy group, working in parallel with the Center.

1985

  • James Toler replaces Richard Martin as director of CRT.

Late 1980s

  • CRT staff establish a Computer Access Laboratory to develop and demonstrate ways to use computer technology to assist people with disabilities, under the direction of John Goldthwaite.
  • Working with the firm Advanced Technology Solutions, CRT designed and manufactured a suite of Able Office devices that allowed people with disabilities to do office work such as filing, keyboarding, and accessing printed books and catalogs.
  • In partnership with Literacy Action, Inc., CRT begins to use satellite technology to distribute a range of adult literacy and later professional education programs, under the direction of Beth Bryant.

1990

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), civil rights legislation that mandates equal opportunities for people with disabilities, is passed.

Early 1990s

  • CRT’s work with the Georgia Division of Rehabilitation Services is expanded to provide assistive technology services to five Georgia districts, under the direction of Hunter Ramseur.
  • The Fabrication Laboratory, under the direction of Riley Hawkins, creates a range of custom assistive technology products.
  • The ADA and other civil rights legislation drives the formation of the Accessibility Group, and the unit later develops ADA transition plans for all 34 of Georgia’s state-assisted institutions of higher education.

1993

  • Carol Whitescarver is named interim director of CRT.

1995

  • Joseph A. Koncelik is named director. Carol Whitescarver is named associate director.

Late 1990s

  • CRT develops accessible information kiosks and platforms for throwing events for the 1996 Paralympic games in Atlanta.
  • The American New Reading Disc, an adult literacy curriculum, is developed in cooperation with CRT, Inc.
  • CRT receives its first federal grant, worth $99,000, to create the Developing Accessible Science Experiments program, using computer and assistive technology to make science laboratories more accessible.
  • CRT collaborates with United Cerebral Palsy on Tech Connections, a five-year project that developed print, video, satellite-broadcast, teleconference and web-based training materials and information to teach vocational rehabilitation professionals about assistive technology.
  • CRT participates in the “Unlimited by Design” Exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, showcasing accessible architecture and products. Highlighted designs from CATEA included a supine computer workstation and the Autumn Chair, a chair designed for the elderly.
  • CRT partners with the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education and Literacy Action, Inc., to develop the Road Scholar, a mobile, accessible adult education classroom.

1999

  • CRT is renamed the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA).

2000-2001

  • CATEA is awarded a 5-year grant to create the national Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC), with a mission to help companies and individuals implement the provisions of “Section 508” of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • CATEA launches Assistivetech.net, a national web directory of commercially available assistive technologies, with funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).
  • The Southeast Region Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (now part of the ADA National Network) joins CATEA.

2002

  • Stephen Sprigle is named director of CATEA.

2002-2008

  • The Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center on Workplace Accommodations (Work RERC) is funded by NIDRR with the first of two 5-year grants, under the direction of Jon Sanford and Karen Milchus.
  • The Georgia Tech Research on Accessible Distance Education (GRADE) website is launched to provide teachers with information on making distance education accessible.
  • The Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center on Wheeled Mobility (Mobility RERC) is funded by NIDRR with the first of two 5-year grants, under the direction of Stephen Sprigle.
  • The SciTrain and SciTrainU websites are created, under the direction of Robert Todd, to provide classroom accessibility information to K-12 teachers and university level instructors.

2008

  • Jon Sanford is named director of CATEA.

2009-2015

  • The Design and Technology for Healthy Aging (DATHA) initiative is created to promote collaboration across campus and with Atlanta agencies.
  • The first Ph.D.s are awarded to students conducting research at CATEA.
  • CATEA, in partnership with the University of Georgia, receives an NSF grant for the Georgia STEM Accessibility Alliance and for BreakThru, a learning community that connects students with disabilities and mentors in a 3-D virtual work and with social media to promote universal learning and accessibility to STEM instruction and degrees.
  • The Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center on Technologies to Support Successful Aging with Disability (RERC TechSAge), under the direction of Jon Sanford, is funded by NIDRR.

2016

  • CATEA moves to 512 Means St. where it is co-located with its College of Design sister center, AMAC Accessibility Solutions.
  • In April, CATEA and its sister center AMAC joined to create the Centers for Inclusive Design Innovation (CIDI). Individually, each of the centers is focused on research in accessible design and technology, however CATEA brings expertise in community, housing, and work environments whereas AMAC brings expertise in online education, web design, and communication information technologies.
  • CATEA received grants for two NIDILRR Field Initiated Projects:
    Assistive Software Knowledgebase, an online tool to help employers and employees select and use assistive technology in the form of software and apps.
    ALIGN version 2.0 will add real-time factors and crowd-sourced information to the mobile route planning Application for Locational Intelligence and Geospatial Navigation.

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