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ATU588 – DOT Inclusive Design Challenge Winners – 1st Place – EASI RIDER Project 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.

DOT Inclusive Design Challenge Winners: https://bit.ly/3OTkNll

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)
https://engineering.purdue.edu/DuerstockIAS/research/EASIRIDER

Originally Aired on Episode 518 – 4/30/2021

Stories:

Hearing Bracelet Story: https://bit.ly/3P5wbuB

Accessible Home Stories:
Nottinghamshire Story: https://bit.ly/3p8vbeq

Cleveland Story: https://bit.ly/3BRQYP4

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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. 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 Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 588 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 2nd, 2022.

Josh Anderson:
Today we finish up our look back at the Department of Transportation Inclusive Design Challenge and celebrate the winners in their interviews here on the show. In today’s show you’ll hear from Dr. Bradley Duerstock from Purdue University about the school’s EASI RIDER project and all that it entailed. The show originally aired on episode 518 back on April 30th, 2021.

Josh Anderson:
We’ve also got a story about a bracelet that can help the hearing-impaired and a couple of stories about accessible homes and how they can help individuals with different needs. Don’t forget, if you ever have a question or comment or something else to tell us, there’s lots of different ways to reach out. You can give us a call on our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org or drop us a line on Twitter at @INDATAProject. We’ll be back next week with all new interviews, but for now, let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
Listeners, if you have hearing loss, there’s a couple of different solutions that you can use. Of course, the one is hearing aids. For some folks, surgeries such as cochlear implants and things like that. For severe hearing loss, there are different communication methods. There’s ASL, there’s captions, there’s cart. There’s other things like that. But have you ever thought about hearing through your wrist? Well, I got to admit it’s not something I really thought of either until I found this story over at bakersfield.com. It’s titled Neosensory Launches New Hearing Loss Solution, Outperforming Hearing Aids. Story’s about a company called Neosensory, which is a technology company designing breakthrough solutions for hearing health, and they’re announcing their latest solution, a wristband for people with hearing loss to experience speech without hearing aids or invasive surgery. Says that Clarify, which is the name of the wristband, is the first alternative to hearing aids and sound amplifiers on the market in a generation. Says that this Clarify wristband listens for high frequency parts of speech and vibrates in different ways to indicate different sounds.

Josh Anderson:
Those vibrations are then interpreted by the user, who with practice can build an understanding of how to combine the signals from the ear to the wrist. It says here that process begins immediately within the user’s brain, and in a matter of weeks, a new sense is born. Has a quote in the story from John Hecker, who is a Clarify user and says that he suffered some hearing loss during his military service. He described the results as like the difference between seeing in black and white and seeing in color. Says the wristband will soon be the focus of two upcoming large, independent studies taking place in the fall. Says that the Clarify can be used on its own or in conjunction with hearing aids and other hearing assistive technology, and currently costs $999. Says that their creators have also made it a point to offer financing options as well.

Josh Anderson:
There going down, the story says that there’s actually no special training needed, although I would really and truthfully have to think that it would take a little while to really train your brain on, as it describes it, a new sense. I mean, you’re feeling sound and really to try to interpret those, very interesting thing. Something I’d really love to learn more about. I know there’s different things in the vision community that are wearables that maybe alert you to things being around you, some sonar, some different stuff, but I must admit this is the first one I’ve really seen or, for lack of better terms, heard about for the hearing-impaired community. So definitely any kind of information, I suppose, that you can get can always help with understanding.

Josh Anderson:
I assume you’d probably maybe use this with still a little bit of hearing just to interpret. Maybe it goes along with some lip reading or other things, but something I’d definitely like to dig a little bit deeper into and find out a little bit more about. But again, listeners, it does look like there is a new device out there that allows you to hear using your wrist. I’ll put a link to this over in the show notes so that you can go learn all about it yourself.

Josh Anderson:
I think it’s fitting since the last few weeks, and today included, we’ve talked about accessible transportation. So I thought it fitting that maybe we talk about accessible living, accessible homes. And I found two stories that probably couldn’t be any closer in subject matter, but pretty far away in geographical space. So both these stories include information about assistive technology apartments, about smart homes and how they’re a little bit more accessible, but they’re two very different places and for individuals with a little bit of different needs or maybe different goals or things like that. So anyway, we’ll put links to both these stories down in the show notes as always, but let me go ahead and start with the first ones.

Josh Anderson:
So the first story comes from AT Today. And it’s written by Sarah Sarsby, and it’s titled Nottinghamshire College Launches Smart Homes on Campus for People with Complex Needs. The story comes to us from Portland College, which is based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which I believe is in the UK. And they have collaborated with a ADS Independent Living Solutions to launch independent living homes that come pre-fitted with AT for people with learning and physical disabilities.

Josh Anderson:
These are called smile homes and they’ve been installed on college campus, and they deliver intelligent and completely personalized house for individuals with some pretty complex needs. They’re made to support the health and wellbeing of individuals that live in them but be flexible enough that people’s different needs can be addressed by the home. It says the first one has been installed in Portland College and co-funded by Innovate UK. And this will be used as a living lab and to demonstrate the flexible technology infrastructure. Says that different learners at Portland University will be able to test out all the different independent living things, and then provide feedback on their experience to make sure that these smile homes are made more readily, that all of these things are addressed.

Josh Anderson:
So these homes can be built and programmed to function as the user needs, kind of a person-centered system to support routines, different sensory needs, lots of different sensors to constantly access the environment, physical and behavior aspects, while also keeping that data in the home for privacy and security. And along with these, they also make sure that all smile homes are highly insulated and are also target operation at net zero. They have solar panels, a green roof, and use no concrete. So they’re actually trying to make these not just accessible for individuals, but also making them environmentally sustainable. The story itself doesn’t get a whole lot into what kind of sensors, what kind of things are in there. But this is a very cool idea, especially on a college campus to have such a smart home that an individual can live in that can address some of their needs while they go to college and continue their independence and their learning.

Josh Anderson:
So our next story is from the FreshWater Cleveland. This is out of Cleveland, Ohio. So pretty far from our last story. And this is titled High-tech Living: Assistive Technology Apartments are a Boon for Clevelanders with Disabilities. It’s written by Douglas J. Guth, and it talks about some TryTech smart apartments. These are refurbished apartments made to meet the daily requirements of individuals with developmental disabilities. It says Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, in partnership with North Coast Community Homes, is offering short-term apartment rentals for residents in the county with developmental disabilities seeking independent living options. It says they’ve refurbished and retrofitted four of these TryTech smart apartments. They’re designed to be safe and comfortable as well as equipped with some different high-tech and low-tech things to be able to help individuals. So it says they’re all wheelchair-accessible. They feature doorbell cameras, lights activated by verbal command, and specialized bedroom and bathroom lifts.

Josh Anderson:
Now these are only available for short-term leases right now, but it helps individuals be able to see what kind of things are available. So things that they may not have in their home, or maybe they’ve not lived independently and need a way to show that they can, to be able to see the different things that are available so they can try this out. It says here the renter’s going to live in the apartments for several weeks where they can be assisted by live, on-call support staff with a click of a button. It also says they could have a family member join them on site over what is typically a three-week stay. The Cuyahoga Developmental Disabilities Agency actually pays most of the rent with residents only chipping in about 50 bucks a week.

Josh Anderson:
So it says this month-long trial gives individuals time to determine next steps for the individuals that are staying there, whether integrating technology into a currently family situation or maybe help finding a permanent independent housing is the best way to go. The Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities superintendent and CEO Kelly Petty is quoted here saying, “We had a demonstration room with assistive technology at our building in the central neighborhood, but we thought about housing beyond the demonstration.” So really like us here at INDATA. We have a loan library with some different rooms set up and things, but they really took it to the next level, really setting this up that people can actually live in to really try out and see the different things that the technology can do.

Josh Anderson:
So two stories, one from across the pond, one from over here in Cleveland, Ohio, not far from where I am, just talking about the different smart home technologies that are available and these really cool ones that are made specifically for individuals with developmental disabilities and with other special needs and just there so that folks can try them out and see, is living independently possible? And what kind of things can we implement to ensure that individuals can live independently to, A, just be independent, maybe work, enter the community, do those kind of things, go to college, all the stuff that their able-bodied counterparts do on a regular basis. So I would put links to both these stories down in the show notes. I just found it very interesting that two stories that I’ve found, two very different areas doing kind of the same thing. Also, as we’ve been spending all this time the last few weeks talking about accessible transportation, I always think it’s important to think about accessible housing as well.

Josh Anderson:
So listeners, lately, we’ve had a few guests on who were involved in the US Department of Transportation Inclusive Design Challenge, and 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. And 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’s Efficient, Accessible and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders 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 us all about it. Dr. Duerstock, welcome to the show.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Thank you.

Josh Anderson:
Well, I am really excited to hear all about the technology. But for 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. Yeah. I’m a professor of practice at… Well, I’m in both the 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. So we always like the things that you do. And I tell you what. Your students seem to ask the best darn questions of any presentation I have to give. So 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 in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities or the EASI RIDER program. So what is it?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
So like you mentioned, this is a design competition. And so 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 emerging technology that would really have a big impact on the disability community. And so 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. So 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, and we have various industry partners to try to talk about how this dream of autonomous vehicles would be a reality. So what are the design requirements that would really make this something that I, who is a wheelchair user, or someone who’s 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. And with this EASI RIDER program, I know you mentioned individuals and wheelchairs, individuals who are blind. Who is it really made to assist? Is it focused with all different disabilities or is your part of the program focused on a different or just one area?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Ours is really a universal design, inclusive design scope. But that was not our requirement of the competition, and 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 Wanamaker, Indiana. And as you know, they’re one of the premier developers of wheelchair lifts and ramps and wheelchair-accessible vehicles. So 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 treating in and out of the car, especially for individuals who are a little bit differently able to use wheelchairs, walkers, anything like that to ambulate. What are some of the other issues that your project is looking at?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
So it 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 into final disembarkment of the vehicle. So we’re looking really at this from a systems approach. So for a wheelchair user, that’s obviously going to be a ramp. That’s going to be some type of a automatic tie down. And 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 you’re located? And then once you arrive at your destination, what are some of the concerns that might arise? Maybe it should be parked in a little different area because there’s an obstruction. So all of these things need to be able to be communicated in a way that is useful for that individual.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
So someone who is blind, using a touch screen or some type of visual display is 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, being able to hit buttons, especially if something is mounted on the dash that they can’t reach is not going to be very usable. And then someone who has hearing loss, obviously, verbal or auditory type of information is not going to be very helpful. So it really has to be multimodal, have a lot of different types of feedback and just a lot of redundancy in how one [inaudible 00:18:10] interact with the vehicle.

Josh Anderson:
Definitely. I really like the idea that you took all those different kind of approaches, I guess, take all those disabilities into account. And I know some of the other folks involved in this challenge that we’ve had on the 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 kind of 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. And I think we all have the shared goal of we want this to be 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 in their…” They have the foresight. And we are in agreement to all the participants that this is something really needed. So we definitely share the same goal. And I don’t think we’re or any team’s going to have the perfect solution. It is going to be a collaboration and see what are the best methods. And so 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. But no, and you brought up a great point there, and I really like the way that the Department of Transportation’s 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, well, what good does it even do you?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Exactly. And of the things I think makes our team pretty strong as well, 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. And so really they don’t have even the infrastructure, but AVs might really fill that gap. And 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 complete independence, and that’s definitely one of our design criteria. But we also want it to be safe, of course, and we want it to be efficient. 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 and so time-consuming. It’s so cognitively taxing. It’s just I don’t want to do it because just I have to think about or have anxiety about if my wheelchair breaks down or gets lost.”

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
And so 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. And Dr. Duerstock, what’s next? Where’s the EASI RIDER program at now and where is it going from here?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Well, I just actually got off from one of our meetings with all the team members, and we’re trying to develop a real life demonstration platform or testbed, if you will. And so that’s what we’re doing. We’re working with Local Motors, BraunAbility, Scheffler Technology, and a small startup called Prehensile Technologies. And so 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’ll 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. And again, as I said, I’m a huge, huge fan of the challenge. And just so far, I’ve 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:
So I mean, I can give them a link over to that and send everybody that way. And then yeah, if you guys do happen to have that up, I can always 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 their show notes. That work?

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Okay.

Josh Anderson:
Okay. Perfect.

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

Josh Anderson:
Oh. Definitely. And I mean, I think… And maybe somebody else I talked to. I can’t remember if this probably wasn’t 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 kinds of things? So much easier than having to even use a ride share or anything like that. Just how many doors this can really open up.

Dr. Bradley Duerstock:
Definitely.

Josh Anderson:
And you brought up a very good point about the rural versus the urban area. Indian 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. So 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. And 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 an Assistive Technology Update? If so, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org or shoot us a note on twitter at @INDATAProject. Our captions and transcripts for the show are sponsored by the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation or InTRAC. You can find out more about InTRAC at relayindiana.com.

Josh Anderson:
A special thanks to Nicole Prieto for scheduling our amazing guests and making a mess of my schedule. Today’s show was produced, edited, hosted, and fraught over by yours truly. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easterseals Crossroads, our supporting partners, or this host. This was your Assistive Technology Update and I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time. Bye-bye.

 

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