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Table 2 A sampling of product and policy innovations resulting from the 19 currently active/recently ended RERCs surveyed in this study

From: How a diverse research ecosystem has generated new rehabilitation technologies: Review of NIDILRR’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers

1970s
Tactile Vision Substitution Systems for displaying tactile images on the skin [346,347,348], ultimately leading to devices such as the BrainPort [349, 350].
Sip and puff controls for electric wheelchairs [521]
KEI (Keyboard Emulating Interface) Standard and then commercial KEI’s that enabled assistive technology users to control Apple, IBM, and Linux computers [522]
A three-dimensional database on the anthropometry of wheeled mobility users [200, 523]
“Talking Signs” navigation system for blind pedestrians [358, 359] which spread to many locations around the world and inspired a legion of other related systems
“Sweep VEP” (Visual Evoked Potential) to enable assessment of vision impairments in infants and pre-verbal children [360]
1980s
Some of the first popular devices to help blind people with specific tasks such as liquid level indicators, auditory light probes, an Auditory Oscilloscope, techniques and training materials for electronic circuit design and soldering, Matlab, Computer Numerical Control machines [351,352,353, 368]
Microprocessor-based talking tactile-haptic educational games for blind children [351]
First set of hardware/software accessibility guidelines for computers were developed by an RERC for the White House Committee on Computer Access in 1985 [522]
Photorefraction methods were perfected for visual screening of young children by merely taking a photograph and having it analyzed [361]
First internal accessibility guidelines used by IBM (1986), the Information Technology Foundation of ADAPSO (ITF) and Microsoft Corporation (who distributed them to all of its developers; used as the starting point for creating their Windows-specific accessibility guidelines) [522]
Three of the first five access features in Apple’s operating system (StickyKeys, MouseKeys, and SlowKeys) were first developed at the Universal interface and information technology access RERC and represented the first access features built into any standard commercial computer operating system. Later, these 3 and 6 additional access features developed at the RERC were licensed (royalty free) by IBM and Microsoft for inclusion in their products. Nine of the first ten access features Microsoft built into Windows 95 (and every version of Windows since) were licensed from the RERC [522]
A robotic fingerspelling hand for deaf-blind communication [357]
1990s
GIDEI (General Input Device Emulating Interface) standard that covered both keyboards and mice [399] and implemented in a commercially adopted hardware device, the Trace Transparent Access Module (TTAM) [400] and a software version built into Microsoft Windows 95 and beyond [401].
The first braille Telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs) for deaf-blind users [355]
The first touch-tablet based computer access system for blind users [356]
RERC guidelines were used in creating the first Section 508 guidelines, which contain technical criteria and performance requirements for accessible information technology used by federal agencies [402, 403]
Squirt shape socket fabrication system [44,45,46,47,48,49,50]
The Multi-Focal Electroencephalogram system [366] was developed to provide objective assessment of vision function at hundreds of locations on the retina simultaneously. The underlying technology was applied to develop the first brain communication interface for severely disabled individuals with locked-in syndrome [367]
The first web access guidelines were developed by an RERC in 1995 [522]
Chart-based tests (the SKILL card [362], Colenbrander Low Vision Acuity Chart [363], SKRead Test [364], Colenbrander Mixed Contrast Test [365], etc) developed as fast and clinically practical ways of better measuring visual impairment and function
A RERC united 35 different guidelines, to create the Unified Web Accessibility Guidelines, Version 8.0 of which was used as the starting point of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [408]. The RERC co-chaired and supported both WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 and developed many of the quantification of measures, open-source test tools, and test database for WCAG. Used in US, Canada, Europe, Australia and most other countries
EZ Access keypad and software interface extensions provide access to people with limitations due to vision, hearing, reach, touchscreen use, reading, or cognition [406]. The EZ Access techniques are now implemented in over 50,000 cross-disability accessible kiosks in post offices, airports, museums, memorials etc.
2000-2010
Shape&Roll prosthetic foot [51,52,53,54,55,56,57,58,59,60,61,62,63,64]
Orthotic and Prosthetic Users Survey [88,89,90,91,92,93,94]
The training video Keys to Success in SCI Training: Balance and Stability in a Wheelchair [524]
Patient-cooperative training regimes for the Lokomat gait training robot [525]
TMAP, a system to allow blind users to obtain custom tactile maps of any desired area in the US, and a crowd-sourced solution for providing video description [373]
Adaptable prosthetic foot-ankle mechanism [69,70,71,72,73, 141, 172, 526,527,528]
Development and validation of Impact Damping, Hysteresis, and Loaded Contour Depth test methods for inclusion in the ISO standard of Wheelchair Seating (ISO 16840) [529]
National (RESNA) and International (ISO) standards for design, performance, and labeling of wheelchair transportation safety (WTS) technologies, including WC19 crash-tested wheelchairs for use as seats in motor vehicles [280,281,282,283,284,285,286]
Contributed to KineAssist MX, commercialized by HDT Robotics, which uses a force-sensing, pelvic support mechanism to sense the user’s intended walking speed and direction to drive a moving surface, thus allowing a person to move at their own intended speed and pace [454].
Web-based training course, Evidence-Based Manual Wheelchair Prescription and Practice, is launched and offered for 6 years [530]
Augmentative and Alternative Communication design features (visual scenes; navigation/ organization/color features) suitable for children and adults, including downloadable web templates [531,532,533,534,535]
A post occupancy building evaluation method for evaluating the achievement of universal design goals [212, 213]
A wireless system which interfaced with public captioning systems to provide captions for recorded and live events on a user’s mobile device. The system was piloted in Redskins stadium in 2009 and used in the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in 2010. The captioning system was licensed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, University of West Georgia, and Dallas Cowboys [418]
An external alerting interface device enabled people with sensory disabilities to be aware of incoming wireless emergency alert messages. The disability community and Federal government agencies such as DHS, FEMA, FCC, and state emergency management entities [536]endorsements have led to the development of a portable, traveler’sversion.
An arm exoskeleton for upper extremity rehabilitation training after stroke, the ArmeoSpring, sold by Hocoma, now in use in over 700 hospitals and clinics, with subsequent application for rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and should injury [450]
Changes to the ICC/ANSI A117 standard, referenced by building codes and used as a source of technical criteria by the ADA Standards, including visitable home design standards and updated standards for wheeled mobility clearances [537]
2010-present
Tiramisu Transit app, a crowd-powered transit information system for smartphones [7, 8]
Created the concept of the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) [416]. Over 50 companies and organizations, and over 100,000 individuals have now joined in the effort. The focus is now on secure necessary funding and moving the GPII from research to real-world implementation and international availability [417].
The App “Factory” concept of rapid development of discrete technology applications that work on contemporary smart devices. Apps for blind/low vision users included Braille readers, currency identifier, and apps for those with cognitive or communication issues including talking photo diaries. Since 2011, eleven mobile apps have been released and have accumulated over 500,000 installations [419]
An open-source middleware framework (called FAAST) to allow interface between markerless tracking technology and freely available games and Internet applications [490]
AIMFREE teleassessment tool (i.e., phone, iPAD, laptop) measures the accessibility of health clubs and fitness facilities (AIMFREE) in real time and is available free of charge to professionals or consumers with disabilities anywhere in the US [538]
The RAPUUD Scale - a product usability evaluation method for assessing universal access [210]
Universal design homes constructed and open to the public in three cities including the LIFEHouse™, two as part of the Wounded Warrior Project, and two in the Horizons Home Show in Buffalo, NY [216]
DOR (Drive-in Occupant Restraint) that improves independent and safe positioning of motor vehicle safety belts [277]
Quantum Securement System, the first fully automatic rear-facing wheelchair securement station [276]
Computer vision technology for solving problems faced by blind people such as reading displays and signs or orienting to a crosswalk [369,370,371,372]
ASTM Approved Standards for Universal Design of Fitness Equipment [539]
SCI HARD mobile game to enhance self-management skills, health behaviors, and participation among adolescents and young adults with spinal cord injury [384]
Multisensory interactive touch models and maps provide information and orientation assistance to all building users – four installations in educational and rehabilitation settings and 20 in the offices of a major technology company [215].
A wheelchair cushion with adjustable fluid volume is patented and licensed to Ki Mobility [540]
A wheelchair seating system designed for persons who propel with one or both feet is patented and licensed to The Posture Works [541]
Universal Criteria for Reporting the Cognitive Accessibility of Products and Technologies ANSI/RESNA CA-1 [542]
innovative solutions for Universal Design (isUD™) provides an interactive platform for browsing innovate solutions for UD, reference designs for designers and design resources that summarize the state of knowledge on a variety of topics related to UD [543]
  1. Note that while some of these RERCs have been funded through multiple cycles stemming back to the 1970s, this table provides only a sampling of the overall RERC output, since 129 RERCs have been funded since 1984