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ATU518 – EASI RIDER with Dr. Bradley Duerstock

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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.

Special Guest:
Dr. Bradley Duerstock – Associate Professor of Practice Purdue University
Efficient, Accessible and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with Disabilities (EASI RIDER)
Inclusive Design Challenge Semifinalist Page: https://bit.ly/3nm4e5c
World Book Day Story: https://prn.to/3vdRNv4
MIT Student Story: https://bit.ly/2Qo8dm1

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————- Transcript Starts Here ————

 

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Hi, this is Brad Duerstock, and I’m a professor of practice at the college of engineering at Purdue University. 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 Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 518 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on April 30th, 2021.

Josh Anderson:
On today’s show, we’re very excited to have Dr. Bradley Duerstock on. He’s going to tell us all about the efficient, accessible, and safe interaction in a real integrated design environment for writers with disabilities or the easy rider project, which has Purdue University’s submission for the Department of Transportation Inclusive Design Challenge.

Josh Anderson:
We have a story about assistive technology helping individuals with disabilities participate in world book day. A new wearable technology called Armed that helps individuals remain independent longer, and a story about an MIT student using their artistic abilities to help create adaptive solutions. Don’t forget you can always call us on our listener line at 317-721-7124. Shoot us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or drop us a line on Twitter @INDATAproject. We thank you so much for listening today. Let’s go ahead and get on with it.

Josh Anderson:
After all these months of lockdown, maybe you’re looking for some new podcasts to listen to. Well, make sure to check out our sister podcast Accessibility Minute and ATFAQ, or Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions. If you’re super busy and don’t have time to listen to a full podcast, be sure to check out Accessibility Minute, our one-minute long podcast that gives you just a little taste of something assistive technology based so that you’re able to get your assistive technology fix without taking up the whole day. Hosted by Tracy Castillo, this show comes out weekly.

Josh Anderson:
Our other show is Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions or ATFAQ. On Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, Brian Norton leads our panel of experts, including myself, Belvin Smith, and our own Tracy Castillo, as we try to answer your assistive technology questions. The show does rely on you, so we’re always looking for new questions, comments, or even your answers on assistive technology questions. Remember, if you’re looking for more Assistive Technology Podcasts to check out, you can check out our sister shows Accessibility Minute and ATFAQ, wherever you get your podcasts, now including Spotify and Amazon music.

Josh Anderson:
Our first story today is titled Innovative Assistive Tech transforms World Book Day 2021 into time of reading inclusivity for all. It talks about OrCam. We’ve had some folks from OrCam on here before and talked about some of their different technologies. But this story is actually out of Jerusalem. It talks about the United Nations designated World Book and Copyright Day, which is commemorated by millions of people in over a hundred countries and promotes the powers of books and encourages reading as much as possible. For many folks, this could be just a task that we normally do. You pull out a book. You open it up. You read it. But for folks with print disabilities or visual impairments, it can be a major challenge and can be something that’s very hard for them to participate in. This talks about some of the things that OrCam technologies offers to promote reading inclusivity for all.

Josh Anderson:
It talks about two specific devices that they have. They have the OrCam Read, which is an AI-driven Assistive Technology device that is packed into an easy-to-use handheld device with a singular purpose: meaningfully empower the user who has language processing challenge. This could be dyslexia, aphasia, reading fatigue, folks who have to read large volumes of text. But basically what it does is it has the same AI technology that other OrCam devices have. But it’s a small device that can easily be held in a hand and basically clicked over a full page of text, a computer, a smartphone screen, really anything that has that text on it. What it does is then it just reads that text right back to the user, very simple to use. I think it has like one button on it pretty much. You hold it over, and it’s able to read all that information to you. It’s an all-in-one device. It doesn’t have to be connected to the internet or go over to the cloud to get this information. You just point, click, and read. That’s it.

Josh Anderson:
The other thing that it talks about is the OrCam MyEye, which, for folks in the assistive technology world, is something you’re probably a little more familiar with. This has been around for quite a while. MyEye attaches to a pair of glasses. It’s more for folks with visual impairments. It can be voice-activated, or you can actually touch it, and it can do the same thing. It can read texts to you. If you think that could be a computer screen, it could be a piece of paper. It could be a sign on the wall or something like that that you might need. It’s also able to recognize faces, identify barcodes, money, colors, and many other things. Both of these devices have been around for a little bit of time. What makes them different than some others is just their ease of use and the fact that they don’t have to always be online in order to function.

Josh Anderson:
But while this is not new technology, it’s been around for a little bit of time. I thought it was important to highlight how this can really help individuals with print disabilities, with visual impairments, and with other disabilities be able to participate in things like World Book Day, where everyone is encouraged to try to read as much as possible. Again, that’s a really great thing for all of us. But for those folks who aren’t able to access text as easily as an able-bodied individual, devices like this can help them participate in these events. We’ll put a link to this over in our show notes so that you can go and check it out for yourself.

Josh Anderson:
The next story comes to us from over in Britain. It talks about a new technology to help individuals stay independent and safe a little bit longer. It’s titled HAS technology, wins award for assistive tech solution that improves social care outcomes, which talks about HAS technologies, ARMED prevention technology. ARMED is A-R-M-E-D, and it stands for Advanced Risk Modeling for Early Detection. It was recognized for this award for its innovative approach to assisting people to live more independently and to reduce falls and associated hospital admissions. The device is worn on a wrist, much like any smartwatch or thing like that. But it measures data associated with frailty and risk of falling. This enables those managing care to intervene at early stages, preventing more significant health risks. If you think about it, prevent the fall before the fall, and then, you don’t have to go to the hospital for the fall.

Josh Anderson:
It can do other things like measure other health risks and other risk factors for folks just to ensure that they are staying healthy. It supports their wellbeing and their independence. We see more and more of these devices coming out, especially with the pandemic and more and more folks becoming socially isolated and staying home. This allows for the monitoring of individuals from afar, so you don’t actually have to have someone in the house taking all these vitals, looking at all this stuff, but they can actually be monitored from somewhere else as well as managed some of these things, so a pretty cool device. Definitely have to check it out a little bit more, but we’ll put a link to this over in the show notes so that you can check out some of it for yourself.

Josh Anderson:
Our final story today is titled MIT Student Turns her Artistic Eye to Medical Device Design. This story talks about a mechanical engineering student at MIT, Jessica Su, and how she draws inspiration from everyday spaces for engineering work, particularly when it comes to medical device design. It talks about specifically a device that she’s helped redesign called TILT, T-I-L-T. This is a wheelchair attachment that allows users to navigate areas that aren’t wheelchair accessible. The story’s really good. It talks about thinking outside the box and maybe using some artistic design to really come up with different solutions.

Josh Anderson:
I’m sure many folks in the AT world have done this before, whether you’re doing it or not. How many times have you walked around to a Menards, a Home Depot, or Lowe’s, or any big box hardware store, and looked around and found things and thought, “If I attach that to a wheelchair, if I do use that to raise something, how would that help the folks that I work with?” This talks about her using her artistic side for it. Again, it talks about some different things in here that she’s tried to do in the medical device world, as well as the assistive technology world. But it really focuses on a device called TILT, T-I-L-T. This device was really made to help individuals, especially in developing nations where things aren’t as accessible.

Josh Anderson:
I think we talked about before, here, in America, we get a little bit spoiled. We have the ADA to help protect us and make our spaces accessible. Not that they all are. We definitely know that that’s not the case. But in some developing nations, it’s either further behind. For one thing, some buildings, some spaces may be older. It may have been built long ago. They just weren’t made accessible, and the way that they’re made makes it very hard to retrofit them to make them accessible for individuals in wheelchairs. TILT offers a solution for lack of wheelchair accessibility. It has almost ski-like objects attached to the wheelchair. This can make it to where someone can easily help a wheelchair user glide up or downstairs. It’s a very simple design, not very expensive to manufacture, to make, and to hook up. That way, it can really help regions with limited resources, as opposed to, if you think about robotic stair-climbing wheelchairs, which can be very, very expensive.

Josh Anderson:
This is really made to not only be accessible in the fact that it makes these spaces accessible, but also be inexpensive so that it can actually be accessed by the individuals who could use it, and even talks about how the inspiration came. They made a critical redesign of TILT’s attachment mechanism, inspired by how traffic lights are hung. Again, this is looking around at the world around you, taking what you see, and then bringing that back into the design phase to make sure that you make these things as usable and as accessible as possible.

Josh Anderson:
There’s a lot more information in this story, of course, that I’m not really telling you so that you can go and read it. But really, it’s a really great story, just about a young person at MIT using their artistic skills and the things they see in the world around them to help create solutions that can help individuals be a lot more independent. We’ll put a link to this over in the show notes so that you can go and check the story out for yourself.

Josh Anderson:
Lately, we’ve had a few guests on who were involved in the US Department of Transportation Inclusive Design Challenge. We’re very excited about this challenge. But then I was even more excited to find out that Purdue University, here in Indiana, is one of the semi-finalists in the challenge. Then, I was pretty much elated to find out that a friend of a show in the program, Dr. Bradley Duerstock, was the project coordinator on Purdue Efficient, Accessible, and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Rider with disabilities or the EASI RIDER program. Well, he was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule to come on the show and tell him all about it. Dr. Duerstock, welcome to show.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Thank you.

Josh Anderson:
Well, I am really excited to hear all about the technology. But for our listeners who maybe haven’t heard you on here before, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Okay. I’m a professor of practice at… Well, I’m in both Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Purdue School of Industrial Engineering.

Josh Anderson:
Very good. I know we’ve worked together. I’ve been in one of your classes. I know Brian Norton, here, has been in some of your classes. We always like the things that you do. I tell you what. Your students seem to ask the best darn questions of any presentation I have to give. I always appreciate that. But the real reason we had you on the show today was to tell us about the Efficient, Accessible, and Safe Interaction and a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities, or the EASI RIDER program. So what is it?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Like you mentioned, this is a design competition. Looking at all aspects of inclusive design of what the future would be for autonomous vehicles. Fortunately, the Department of Transportation has realized that this is an immersion technology that would really have a big impact on the disability community. We’re very thankful that they realize this and, of course, to participate in this challenge with a lot of other really respected groups all across the country. Our proposal, as you said, which is a mouthful, for sure, the EASI RIDER Project, I’m a co-lead with Professor Brandon Pitts, who’s also at the Purdue School of Industrial Engineering. We have various industry partners to try to talk about how this dream of autonomous vehicles would be a reality. The design requirements that would really make this something that I, who is a wheelchair user, or someone who is blind or someone with hearing loss, or someone with cognitive impairments, can use very independently and really have the freedom of transportation.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice. With this EASI RIDER program… But I know you mentioned individuals in wheelchairs, individuals who are blind. Who is it really you made to assist? Is it folks with all different disabilities? Is your part of the program focused on a different or just one area?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Ours is really a universal design. It’s an inclusive design scope, but that was not our requirement of the competition. Some groups have looked, specifically, at one type of disability than the others. But I’d say we really excel at looking at those issues with wheelchair users and the blind community, just from our background. One of our team members is BraunAbility here in Winnipeg, Indiana, as you know. They’re the premiere developers of wheelchair lifts, and ramps, and wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Obviously, having them on board is going to be a big help with looking at the issues faced by wheelchair users.

Josh Anderson:
Definitely, you brought up a good point there because we all know that’s an issue is [inaudible 00:15:52] in and out of the car, especially for individuals who are a little bit different. They’re able to use wheelchairs, walkers, anything like that to emulate. What are some of the other issues that your project is looking at?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
We’re really… is a very integrated design: everything from boarding the vehicle to interacting with the vehicle independently and safely, and looking at different safety scenarios or concerns, which could happen during a travel experience, and to final disembark movement of the vehicle. We’re looking really at this from a systems approach. For a wheelchair user, that’s obviously going to be a ramp. That’s going to be some type of automatic tie-down. Then, really facing everyone is how do you interact with this vehicle? How do you tell them where you want to go? How do you get updates on traffic, and where are you located? Then, once you arrive at your destination, what are some of the concerns that might arise? Maybe it should be parked at a little different area because there’s an obstruction. All of these things need to be able to be communicated in a way that is useful for that individual.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Someone who is blind using the touch screen or some type of visual display, it’s not going to be ideal for them. They’ll want to do maybe more auditory or some type of tactile display. For someone with a mobility impairment, be able to hit buttons, especially if something was mounted on the dash that they can’t reach, is not going to be very usable. Then, if someone who has hearing loss, obviously, verbal or auditory type of information is not going to be very helpful. It really has to be multimodal, have a lot of different types of feedback, and just a lot of redundancy in how one wants to interact with the vehicle.

Josh Anderson:
Definitely. I really liked the idea that you took all of those different approaches, I guess, take all those disabilities into account. I know some of the other folks involved in this challenge that we’ve had on this show have really said it’s a great… Oh, and I can’t remember the word off the top of my head. What did they call it? A “collaboratition”? That’s not quite right, but basically a collaboration competition thing. Have you found that in this kind of competition as well?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Well, we haven’t, at this point, interacted much except with the DOT organizers, but that was definitely one of their desires. I think we all have the shared goal of “we want this technology to be a reality and that building this from the ground up with people with disabilities in mind is very important.” A lot of the technologies has to be retrofitted to say, “Oh yeah. What if someone has a disability? How are they going to use the smartphone or other technologies?” They have the foresight. We all are in agreement, all the participants, that this is something really needed. We definitely share the same goal. I don’t think we’re or any teams going to have the perfect solution. It is going to be a collaboration. See what are the best methods. I’m all, definitely, in favor of this “collaboratition” or competition. I don’t know.

Josh Anderson:
I don’t know either. I just remember the word struck me, and then, like many things, it just disappears right after that.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Yeah. Yeah.

Josh Anderson:
But, no. You brought up a great point there. I really liked the way that the Department of Transportation is really thinking, “Hey, let’s get out in front of this and have this as an idea at the very beginning.” Just because, as someone that works in assistive technology and has worked with individuals with disabilities for a lot of years, transportation has been such a barrier for so long that having these autonomous vehicles could be just an amazing accommodation. But like many things, like you said, if you can’t access it, what good does it even do you.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Exactly. One of the things I think makes our team pretty strong, as well, is we, in Indiana, have a combination of urban and rural transportation needs so that we understand that a lot of communities don’t have access to commercial transportation, a bus system. Really, they don’t have even the infrastructure. But AVs might really fill that gap. Well, we hope so.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
I think another issue or thing that we’re keeping in mind is that, when we’re talking about inclusive design, that connotates independence, complete independence. That’s definitely one of our design criteria. But we also want it to be safe, of course. We want it to be efficient.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
A lot of times transportation is, “Yeah, I can get on a plane, and I can go travel, but, boy, that’s such a pain.” It’s so time-consuming. It’s so cognitively taxing. I don’t want to do it because I have to think about… or have anxiety about if my wheelchair… If it breaks down or gets lost… We really want this to be enjoyable experience, be able to just get in and go and take advantage of what a lot of people take for granted.

Josh Anderson:
Definitely. Dr. Duerstock, what’s next? Where’s the EASI RIDERS program at now, and where is it going from here?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Well, I had this actually [inaudible 00:22:42] on one of our meetings with all the team members. We’re trying to develop a real-life demonstration platform or testbed, if you will. That’s what we’re doing. We’re working with local motors, BraunAbility, Schaeffler Technology, and a small startup called Prehensile Technologies. We’re trying to get something that people can really interact with. Now, it will not be something that they can drive around town with autonomously, but just to illustrate what our design looks like, instead of looking at just maybe pictures or concepts, but something that people can walk into.

Josh Anderson:
That’d be great. I can’t wait to walk in and actually see it because I know I’ve seen some of the plans and everything, and it all looks great. Again, as I said, I’m a huge, huge fan of the challenge. Just so far really enjoyed talking to folks that are involved in it. Dr. Duerstock, if our listeners would want to find out more about the EASI RIDER program, what’s the best way for them to do that.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
We are developing a website. I don’t have a URL yet. But I don’t know if I can provide you that.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. You sure can, or what I can do is just where I got the information was at the transportation.gov, and then I’m sure if you guys end up putting a link on there because that’s where I found all the semi-finalists and things.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Okay.

Josh Anderson:
I mean, I can give them-

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Yeah.

Josh Anderson:
I can give them a link over to that and send everybody that way. Then, if you guys do happen to have that up, I can always just put an update in the show notes at some point and just let people know, “Hey, they’ve got the website up for the EASI RIDER project,” and we’ll put the link down in the show notes. Would that work?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Okay.

Josh Anderson:
Okay. Perfect. Perfect.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Yeah. Our testbed will probably… I’m not sure when we’ll be able to start showing it to people, but it will likely be in Carmel, Indiana, where there’s the BraunAbility headquarters. Getting people in this area, particularly as testers, is something we’ll be very interested in.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, definitely. Maybe somebody else I talked to… I can’t remember if this probably wasn’t an original thought. I don’t get too many of those, but had even talked about not just individuals with disabilities but also aging populations and things that may not be able to drive anymore. But maybe have some disabilities that come on later in life, but how great would it be if you could just call and get a ride to go to the grocery store to do all these different things, so much, so much easier than having to even use a ride share or anything like that. Just how many doors this can really open.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Definitely.

Josh Anderson:
You brought up a very good point about the rural versus the urban area. Indiana is pretty good for that because I know I don’t even live 20 miles outside of Indianapolis, and you can’t even get an Uber where I live. Definitely, having some other options would be a great thing. Well, Dr. Duerstock, thank you so much for coming on the show today, telling us all about the EASI RIDER program. As things just continue to develop, we may have to have you back on and learn a little bit more as the challenge continues to go on and as new and great things come out of it.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
I’d be happy to. Thank you very much.

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.

Josh Anderson:
Assistive technology update is a proud member of the accessibility channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, 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 Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next time.

 

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