ATU430 – TechSAge with Liz Persaud and Carolyn Phillips

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Show Notes:

Website: www.techsage.gatech.edu

Contact Liz: liz.persaud@gatfl.gatech.edu

Contact Carolyn: carolyn.phillips@gatfl.gatech.edu

Way to go Thunder: http://bit.ly/2P4Mv52


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Carolyn Phillips:
Hello. This is Carolyn Phillips and I am the director of Tools For Life here in Georgia, and I am happy to be with…

Liz Persuad:
Liz Persuad. I’m the program and outreach manager with Tools for Life.

Carolyn Phillips:
And this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Liz Persuad:
And this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 430 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on August 23rd, 2019.

Josh Anderson:
On today’s show, we’re very excited to have Liz Persaud and Carolyn Phillips on from Tools for Life at Georgia Tech. They’re on to talk about the TechSAge research and education project, and very exciting stuff. Actually, you’re going to get a little used to Liz and Carolyn because this will not be their last time on the show. We’re going to have them on a few more times here in the coming months and a little bit later on to talk about some things with this project and some technologies that are related to the project, but also just related to individuals aging with disabilities and some different universal design, assistive technology, IoT and those things and how those can help.

Josh Anderson:
We’re very excited to talk to Liz and Carolyn today. Then, as I said, make sure you look out in the future for when we have them on again. We also have a quick shout out to the Indy Thunder, which is the Indiana Beep Baseball team for winning their fourth straight championship. But listeners, before we go ahead and get into today’s show, please join me in the DeLorean. Let’s fire up that flux capacitor, punch in some numbers and take a little trip back in time. Today, I have a guest who needs no introduction.

Josh Anderson:
Wade Wingler has been hosting the AT Update podcast since its inception. He’s also celebrating 25 years with Easter Seals Crossroads this month. Today, Wade’s stepping out of the driver’s seat to sit in the interview chair and talk about his experiences in assistive technology in this podcast, look back at some of the joys and challenges and talk about what he’s excited for in the future. Wade, welcome to your show?

Wade Wingler:
Well, hi, Josh. No. Actually, welcome to your show.

Josh Anderson:
That was approximately one year ago today that that episode was recorded as Wade Wingler stepped away from the studio in the recording booth and handed the reigns over to me and let’s hope it has actually been a pretty good year for all of our listeners. I know that I have had a whole lot of fun being able to spend these days with you and shared you some information about assistive technology. I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned a whole heck of a lot and got to talk to some amazing guests from all over the world, all with amazing passion to talk about the different technologies that they’ve helped create, the ways that they use it and really just this drive to help others.

Josh Anderson:
It’s amazing how many folks out there have used these unique and amazing talents that they were blessed with and to take those and use them just for the betterment of others, of either individuals they do know, but usually for individuals that they’ve never ever met. It really just… I don’t know. You see a lot of negativity maybe sometimes and in the news and in the world around us. It’s really nice to be able to sit down and talk to people who again, use their time, their talents, and their intelligence to really just make the world a little bit better place for really everyone.

Josh Anderson:
It’s been a very humbling experience. It’s been an amazing year and I cannot wait to go ahead and be doing this again next year, when we celebrate two years together,. I promise we won’t do that every single year, but I just happen to look at the calendar and realize that, “Oh, my goodness. I do not know how in the world a whole year has went by already of me being here in the studio and behind the microphone.”

Josh Anderson:
Again, I have to take a few minutes out to thank all of our amazing guests that we’ve had in this past year. Again, I have learned so much as even someone who works in assistive technology and as part of the job has to learn about it and learn how to use it, learn how it can help others. Every single day, I still… Every time I step into the studio and talk to people, I learn new things. If you could actually see me sitting in this studio, my eyes light up when I get to talk to folks about assistive technology and all the things that they do. It’s an extreme pleasure also to have all of you tune in and listen to take time out of your busy lives and busy days to listen to us. Hopefully, you also have been able to learn something and been able to maybe find something that could help you or someone that you know.

Josh Anderson:
Listeners, I promise that we will continue to find stories about assistive technology and continue to talk to folks about assistive technology, about disability and about the just amazing things that are out there to help everyone around. Again, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening. It has been an incredibly amazing year and we’re looking forward to the next one.

Josh Anderson:
In today’s show, we want to make sure to take time out to congratulate the Indy Thunder Beep Baseball team for winning their fourth straight world series of beep baseball. That’s right. You heard me right. Fourth straights over the last four years, the Indy Thunder has dominated the entire country in the sport of beep baseball. Now, have you ever heard of beep baseball? Well, you might not have. Beep baseball is usually played by individuals who are blind or visually impaired, uses a 16-inch ball. That ball actually makes a distinct sound, so the players will know where it is and where to swing.

Josh Anderson:
Along those same lines, the bases make a little bit of a buzzing sound to help guide the runners around. If you’ve ever actually been to a beep baseball game or if you have not, I definitely recommend going. I’ve been to a couple of myself and definitely just very, very competitive. They play a great game and it’s really, really fun to watch. Just a really great sport, but really just have to take time out because you win one championship, that’s pretty awesome. You win two, that’s great. Three is amazing. Four? Not just four, but four in a row? Well, way to go, guys. That’s really awesome. We’re super proud of the Indy Thunder Beep Baseball team for again, winning their fourth straight world series of beep baseball. Way to go.

Josh Anderson:
As many of you probably know, INDATA is the AT-ACT provider here in Indiana. Well, if you go on down south, Tools for Life is their local AT-ACT partner. Right now, they’re involved in an exciting new project that I can’t wait to hear all about. Liz Persuad and Carolyn Phillips from Tools for Life were kind enough to come on the show and tell us all about their TechSAge research and education project. Carolyn, Liz, welcome to Assistive Technology Update.

Carolyn Phillips:
Thank you so much. We’re thrilled to be with you today.

Liz Persuad:
Still happy to be on today.

Carolyn Phillips:
Yes. We appreciate being on and being able to share with your listeners from throughout the US and around the world, all the good work that we are doing here at Georgia Tech. This is one of the projects that Liz and I get to work on that I think is one of our favorites.

Liz Persuad:
It is. It’s very unique from the typical things that we’ve done throughout the years.

Carolyn Phillips:
Yeah. TechSAge actually, we worked on it for five years. We had a funding cycle for five years. Then, we actually started working on the next one. It was just funded again. We’re excited that the work gets to continue. It’s funded through NIDILRR. The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, which is within the administration for community living, and a lot of people call that ACL and in the Department of Health and Human Services, we’re thrilled that HHS is actually funding this initiative because our whole body of work and the whole focus of TechSAge is around aging with a disability, which is very unusual. There’s a lot of information out there about aging and a lot when it comes to disability, but that experience of aging with a disability is such a rich and very important area for research and development.

Liz Persuad:
I often share my personal story as somebody who isn’t just a technology [inaudible 00:08:55] somebody living with a disability. Again, we often hear… The work that we do every day is supporting folks with disabilities, folks from the aging community. We’re often meeting with older adults and saying, “Here are [inaudible 00:09:08] technology devices and strategies. How can we help you?” Then, the conversation changes. We also have folks that have existing disabilities, diagnosed when they were infants, when they’re babies, it’s teenagers, they’re older adults, but they have secondary issues popping up.

Liz Persuad:
Maybe they were a wheelchair user, but all of a sudden, hearing loss is in effect or other issues. This is a very unique opportunity and something that hasn’t really been done before as somebody living the life and getting older every day. Here you go. To jump in at some point, right? Yeah.

Carolyn Phillips:
Yeah. I’m with you. A lot of folks know this, but some folks don’t know that I have learning disabilities, yet Liz and I often use the same type of assistive technology solutions when it comes to navigating our life. Aging with that is a unique experience. I’m thrilled that we’re working on this TechSAge project and that we actually get to move the conversation forward, and also the research and development with amazing colleagues from across the US. Some of our colleagues are here at Georgia Tech and they are within the center that we work in, which is the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation.

Carolyn Phillips:
It’s also known as CIDI, but we have an amazing team that’s working with us that is at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. That team is headed up by Dr. Wendy Rogers. That collaboration creates a much deeper and richer experience. When we’re talking about what we accomplished last session, if you will in TechSAge I, we’ve accomplished a lot. You see that that actually is definitely grown exponentially because we’re on two campuses now and really growing that with TechSAge II.

Carolyn Phillips:
Some of my favorite projects that we worked on, and that actually some of our colleagues developed include really cool accessible gaming tools. You can find those on the website, which is techsage.gatech.edu, and you can get a lot more information about those tools that were developed. There’s also some really cool tools and some research that has really been funded into a whole other project called ALIGN.

Carolyn Phillips:
That whole project is focused on location and intelligence and geospatial navigation for people with disabilities and as they age. Rather than just saying, “Go this way,” it actually will say, “Hey, don’t go that way because there’s a pothole. If you’re using a wheelchair, then you’re going to have a tough time navigating, or there’s not a curb cut at the end of this sidewalk.” Incredibly helpful information.

Liz Persuad:
I liked some of the projects that we’ve been working on, that we have worked on that focus on smart home technology. I know that in this series that we’re sharing all this information with you, you’ll be hearing later on about some more in depth information on smart home technologies, internet of things, and how that can really benefit not just people living with disabilities, but again, our aging population or as people with longterm disabilities age in place, if you will.

Liz Persuad:
Just really cool opportunities about how mainstream technologies like Amazon, Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomePod. These smart home speakers, once tied with other technologies can really change the way individuals are living their lives. Not only from just checking on the weather and different kind of personal aspects, but communication, medication reminders, all of those things that really help people to sustain and just be healthy.

Carolyn Phillips:
Right. When you’re talking about the smart home, do you remember the first time we heard about the smart bathroom and…

Liz Persuad:
Yes.

Carolyn Phillips:
Yes. It’s incredible seeing how much that’s evolved. A bathroom that can tell the difference and adjust whether it’s you or whether it’s me. It’s really incredible because there’s been a lot of thought in the newest and latest technology and research really implemented in this bathroom. It’s exciting too because we have folks who are partners that are within the private industry that are developing public restrooms and also private restrooms. Being able to see some of that technology implemented is very exciting.

Liz Persuad:
It is very exciting. To me, again, just as somebody living the life, all of a sudden that grant independence, right? If that bathroom has “memory settings,” then all of a sudden, somebody doesn’t necessarily need a caregiver to go with them. That’s something that they can do on their own, and that’s beneficial for the whole person. They’re going to be able to have life, all the amazing things that everybody deserves.

Carolyn Phillips:
I agree. I’m so glad that you brought up the internet of things because one of the development projects is all about that connected home technologies. One of the things that we continue to hear is that people don’t know how to connect their home or what to connect, or even if it’s possible. With this development project, you learn a lot about what’s possible, what does work, what communicates with what, and all the things that are within reach if you’re trying to be independent.

Liz Persuad:
Definitely.

Carolyn Phillips:
One of the things that Dr. Wendy Rogers and her team… One of the many things that they’re working on include digital assistance and voice activated digital home assistance and just trying to push that whole field of technology forward where it’s not dependent upon somebody being able to read something or hold something. This voice activated piece is a game changer. Using tools just like Liz said, Amazon Alexa or other type of voice activated assistance really can help so many folks. Doing tests to figure out what really can help and if you’re developing, what do you need to think about when it comes to all of that? There’s a research project that also goes with that, and we were just figuring out what makes sense? What are some commands? If you have dementia, how do you remember those commands?

Carolyn Phillips:
What are some strategies around that? Also, what is possible once again, thinking just like you said, the internet of things and how we can make all of it connected and all of it interconnected so that people can be independent? John Sanford, who is one of the principal investigators and Liz and I get to work with him right here at Georgia Tech. He came up with an excellent idea and Liz and I are going to be taking this and moving it forward. Ben Jacobs, who you’re going to hear in this series is one of the folks that also helped us when it came to laying the foundation and coming up with exactly how to implement this, but it’s got to be called the Silver Skill It, skill It has IT in it. It’s going to be a collaboration of developing apps and skills for Alexa.

Carolyn Phillips:
We’re going to be collaborating with the app factory to make that happen. I would encourage you to stay tuned because we’re going to be hosting competitions. We’ll be doing some of that here in Georgia and across the country. I’m excited about looking at what it is there, where the gaps are and how do we fill those gaps with solutions that really haven’t even been thought of yet?

Liz Persuad:
I think that’s one of my biggest loves about the work that we get to do is we get to work on all of these things behind the scenes. We get to talk to people about the research, the development. We get to be out there and educate and train. Then, we have this awesome competition. We invite folks like all of you, like Carolyn said, join us, bring us your ideas. Then, we can see how that can be translated. It really turned into real-time solutions. I can just help people be independent, safe, healthy and remain at home, which is what everybody wants to do.

Carolyn Phillips:
That’s right. That’s right. I’m looking forward to what we’re going to be able to develop with this.

Josh Anderson:
Carolyn, you mentioned those events, you guys have other upcoming events. Is that correct? Can you tell our listeners about what some of those are?

Carolyn Phillips:
Yeah. One of the things that I love about the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers and the new models that have been implemented from [inaudible 00:17:49] ACL is that they are focused on dissemination and knowledge translation, knowledge transfer, training, things like that. It’s great to be able to get out there. Liz and I are often on the road and online, educating folks about the great work that’s going on with TechSAge, but also being able to train the next group of developers.

Carolyn Phillips:
One of the things that Liz and I’ve worked on, it’s a series of webinars, helping researchers, especially folks who have not worked with individuals with disabilities and helping them understand the importance of disability awareness when it comes to conducting those studies. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Liz Persuad:
Absolutely. I love when we do our sessions on disability awareness on people first language, communication and etiquette because communication is so important no matter who we’re talking to you and relationships are complex and all the dynamics or all things that we need to pay attention to. These webinars that we’ve done have really helped our internal partners. Really and truly working with researchers, talking to them about disability awareness, sharing with them differences between the medical model, the social model? What does it truly mean when you are saying certain words? When you’re saying wheelchair bound, this participant is wheelchair bound, or if you’re talking to somebody.

Liz Persuad:
Really, what does that mean? How can you maybe shape some of the language that you use every day, not changing the work that you’re doing, but so that you are able to speak in a manner that shows people that we are all really on the same page and that we’re all trying to get to where we are. I think also that changes the way people think about development from the beginning because if they know the language, if they know the lingo, they’re in this world in that way, they deepen that way, it changes. All of a sudden, they’re just like, “Gosh. I would feel a certain way if somebody used those words talking to me, or now that I’ve been able to spend time with this person, I can maybe get a glimpse of what it’s like to roll in their wheels or walk in their shoes or anything like that.” It’s such a game changer from the beginning. Yeah.

Carolyn Phillips:
You say that so eloquently. I love it. I agree. Having the opportunity to raise awareness and train folks across the spectrum of whether they are going to be doing development or designing built environments or virtual environments or perhaps they’re a practitioner, they might be somebody who’s actually caring for somebody like I have for years and you have too.

Liz Persuad:
Yeah.

Carolyn Phillips:
That’s aging with a disability. A lot of what we do too is focus on inclusive design and changing the mindset of researchers and trying to reach out to them and also developers, and thinking about that significant difference of designing with somebody with a disability who’s aging, as opposed to designing for. With versus for, if you will. It really has been eyeopening for a lot of people who participated in those trainings.

Carolyn Phillips:
We are going to have some really cool opportunities for people to see us live and hear more about some of the research that we’re doing. I’m going to be speaking with several of our awesome team members and leading researchers at The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Conference, which is going to be in October in 2019. That’s going to be in Seattle. Then, we have a whole other team of folks who are going to be presenting at the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine in 2019. That’s going to be in November. We’ll also be presenting at other important conferences. A lot of them are focused on assistive technology.

Carolyn Phillips:
We’ll be at the International Assistive Technology Industries Association Conference in January in 2020. Then, we’ll also be doing some webinars. All kinds of opportunities for people to interact and let us know what they need. One of the things that Liz and I have been actively trying to do is find out what you need when it comes to training and what would help in closing that gap? We do want you to reach out and let us know what kind of training needs you have, ideas you might have? We have a Tech & Aging Summit that’s coming up next Tuesday. It’s going to be here at Georgia Tech right in our lab. I’m excited about that. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Liz Persuad:
Yeah. Absolutely. Gosh, this is the sixth year that we’re doing the Tech & Aging Summit, and it has evolved tremendously. Really and truly, we’re bringing together key stakeholders in the assisted technology accessibility and definitely the aging communities. This is a partnership with LeadingAge Georgia here in the state of Georgia and it is an informational session. It’s all about assistive technology. There’s going to be some great talks about music therapy, these telepresence robots, tele-wellness technologies.

Liz Persuad:
Then, we’ll be hearing from our partners here at Georgia Tech on the research side of things. Talking about some of the projects that have been going on, but where are we now and how does that translate to the market? What does that really mean? The other nice piece that [inaudible 00:23:37] bring to the table is because of the work that we’re doing every day in the community, on the ground, we can really help folks translate that piece to what it is that people are looking for right now? What are the needs right now? Let’s start developing for that right now.

Carolyn Phillips:
Yeah. Right on. I agree.

Josh Anderson:
You brought this up a little bit, but if our listeners do want to find out more, help out, get you that information, what’s the best way for them to do that.?

Liz Persuad:
Yeah. We would love for all of you that reach out to us. If you want to know more information or if you want to be part of our participant registry or again, just learning more about what we’re doing at TechSAge. We encourage you to go to the website just to get an overview of information about the project, training, events. You can do that by visiting techsage.gatech.edu. So techsage.gatech.edu. Then, if anybody wants to reach out to us personally, please feel free to reach out to me. Again, I’m Liz Persuad. My email address is liz.persuad@gatfl.gatech.edu, and I can absolutely get you connected with any parts of any project on a TechSAge team or any team member on the teams.

Carolyn Phillips:
Yeah. You can also reach out to me. This is Carolyn. So carolyn.phillips@gatech.edu. That’s @georgiatech.edu. You can connect with us also. You can follow us on Twitter and also connect with us in LinkedIn. We’re happy to share the information. Liz made a great point a moment ago. We are always looking for research participants. If you go to our website, you can actually go down and see where it says, “Join a research study.” We have a whole bunch of information here of how to get involved with the smart bathroom research and also the fall research that we’re doing and along with that digital home assistance research, all kinds of opportunities to connect and also all kinds of opportunities to change the future.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. We’ll put links to all that stuff as well as your email addresses and everything into the show notes. Liz, Carolyn, thank you so much for coming on the show today. As you both mentioned, this is just the first part of a series. We will have you back on and some members of your team on to talk about the project, to talk about IoT, smart homes, to talk about a universal design and aging and all those things. We’ll look very forward to catching up with you and hearing more about the project in the future.

Carolyn Phillips:
Excellent. Thank you so much.

Liz Persuad:
Thank you.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do, call our listener line at 317-721-7124. Shoot us a note on Twitter, @indataproject or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.eastersealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this plus so much more over, head over to AccessibilityChannel.com. The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that of this host or the INDATA Project. This has been your Assistive Technology Update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.