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Project Number: p02-05c

Human Factors and Employment Issues Related to the Use of Assistive Technologies

Principal Investigator: Brad Hedrick

Project Type: Core Research

Project Year: 02

Thematic Category: Return to Work

Project Summary:

The effective utilization of assistive technology (AT) has been reported to improve the functional independence of persons with disabilities, and to afford them a greater opportunity for societal participation and integration (Pape, Kim & Weiner, 2001; Heinemann & Pape, 2001). Such improvements should also serve to enhance the employability of persons with disabilities. However, little is known about the extent of AT use in the workplace and its effectiveness in reducing employment-related barriers or in enhancing employment outcomes. To date, AT research has focused primarily on elderly persons with disabilities. Elderly persons are likely candidates for research regarding AT because a large proportion of elderly persons own AT, but the outcomes investigated are limited to those relevant to the elderly population and not a younger, gainfully employed population. As a result, we don't know whether AT use and ownership actually improves employment and/or productivity success.

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine the impact of AT utilization upon the employment outcomes of individuals with spinal cord injuries, across a range of professional and non-professional employment settings. The study subjects will include a population of 170 University of Illinois alumni with disabilities attributable to spinal cord injury/disease, who graduated between 1978 and 2001, and a cohort sample of high school educated veterans with spinal cord injuries. This study will involve the development and pilot testing of a survey instrument which could, subsequently, be used to systematically investigate the impact of AT utilization upon employment outcomes in national studies of working age adults with physical disabilities.

In addition to providing a survey instrument and methodology for future investigations, the results of the present investigation will advance the body of knowledge on AT use and employment outcomes beyond the currently available sparse, anecdotal findings of case histories. In addition, the findings will serve as the basis for AT recommendations to optimize employment success. This will include the identification of unmet needs, which, if addressed, could enhance the employment success of persons with spinal cord injury/disease (SCID).

Project Deliverables:

Final Technical Report: Human Factors and Employment Issues Related to the Use of Assistive Technologies (Word file Word file -346k)