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1/21/04 DLC assignment 1

"Human-Centered Public Transportation Systems for Persons with Cognitive Disabilities"

1.1 I found the demonstration in class incredibly interesting, and when I got a chance to read more about it I was very impressed. The idea of using everyday technology to help teach people with disabilities how to perform certain everyday tasks, such as riding the bus or going to the recreation center is cutting edge. To most people, these tasks are insignificant and we take for granted that we can perform them rather easily. However with our country’s current population of people with various cognitive disabilities and the elderly, we can begin to realize how hard some of these tasks may be. In our society, one of the golden rules is to treat others with respect, and with an innovative system like the one discussed in the article, we can begin to create new notions of people with disabilities and start to remove the stigma associated with them. Mainstreaming is one way to integrate people into “normal society” and with the help of hand-held electronic devices these once impossible acts can now be carried out using simple cognitive functions: “reflect, choose, and act.” This simplistic approach is a huge step towards creating a truly “human-centered system. “

1.2 There really wasn’t anything that I found particularly boring in the article; in fact the entire idea of design model is very exciting. I guess the only weak part of the paper was the lack of depth in the field study findings. I would like to have seen a bit more on the actual implementation. There is discussion of the findings and that is helpful, but it seems so general. Obviously the system is still in its infancy and takes time to be implemented, but more “real-life” research needs to be done.

2. I consider the main message of this article to be hope for people out there who suffer from varying kinds of cognitive disabilities. Whether they suffer from Down syndrome or Alzheimer’s, there is still the ability to function in “normal society.” All it takes is some dedicated researchers and innovative design models and a lot of hard work. But in time the hopes and dreams will become a reality, and people who once could never leave their homes alone can now go shopping and see a movie.

3. I would like to know more about how someone with a relative or loved one with cognitive disabilities can get involved with the development of this new system. Are volunteers and test subjects needed? How does one get involved?

4. Since CLever is a user friendly system, it is very easy to interact with. And since it is computer-based it is easy for groups of people to collectively work on. The idea of using GPS and 3D to create an interactive, virtual environment is also a great characteristic. Just the idea that different people use their “cognitive levers” in different ways shows how there is not just one answer to the problem. And that helping people with disabilities perform “regular” tasks is just around the corner.

5. Unfortunately I don’t know of any other papers or research projects that are related to the EDC/CLever system. But I am sure with a little looking I could find some.

6.1 Design is about realizing how things are and then trying to envision how they could be (Fischer and Sullivan 2002). Once you assess a situation, you can begin to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, and try to build on them. Once that happens and the floodgates open wide, all the ideas and thoughts and creativity come together and begin to form a collective design. There is never just one way to design a model or build a building. There are always many different options. Design is about finding the best parts of different designs and bringing them together to create the ultimate model which combines their best characteristics. Design is about innovation and creativity of thought. Without this our world would be a very boring and less-functioning place.

6.2 Learning takes time and effort. To learn, one must be taught by someone who is knowledgeable in the field and be able to connect sometimes abstract ideas and concepts. The ideas raised in the article are not beyond understanding, but the fact remains that “normal” people are trying to create a system to help people with cognitive disabilities function in society. These “normal” people don’t know what it is like to have trouble remembering where they live or what street they are on, so they must learn. Learning takes place at all levels of the design model. There is no step that doesn’t involve some degree of learning.

6.3 Teamwork. Collaboration is all about teamwork. No single person, with a single idea, will be able to come up with a meaningful solution to the problem. And when the project involves helping people that alone takes great care. The amount of knowledge that is pooled together to come up with a system such as this is so vast, that it could never have happened without collaboration. When it comes to great minds coming together for a project, sometimes there are issues involved with egos and arrogance. But this article just goes to show that people across all disciplines can come together and contribute what they know to help improve the overall design. This system needs not only the input of mathematicians, scientists and computer geniuses, but also the input of bus drivers, school teachers and the target audience as well. Without the collaboration of all these factors, this type of project would never have gotten to where it is today.

6.4 The article and the system call for the use of everyday electronic devices to help integrate people with disabilities into the environment. The use of PDAs and cell phones as the interactive safety line between the care-givers and the care-receivers is ingenious. For years these items had been available for use in everyday activities such as keeping a schedule of appointments and storing phone numbers and addresses. Initially they were very expensive and complicated to use, but now they are becoming more affordable and easier to operate. The growth of computer technology over the past ten years has been monstrous, and now we are finding some more meaningful uses for this technology.

7. I am so new to the idea, that I am not sure what I can offer. But I think that the system could be implemented to serve a greater range of people, including those who don’t have any kind of cognitive disability. If the system could be mainstreamed as much, let’s say, as the cell phone is now, then maybe everyone who uses a cell phone could benefit from the technology. So not only are we helping people with medical disabilities, but people all across the board.

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