duPont Hospital for Children and the University of Delaware
Vol. 2, No. 1 -- Fall 1996

Welcome to The Innovator!

Many of the failures of programs, services, or products for people with disabilities can be traced back to the fact that consumers were not appropriately involved in their development. As we strive to provide products and services, formulate research programs, and improve policies and procedures to improve the lives of people with disabilities, much debate centers on the appropriate role that the beneficiaries of those programs should play. There is no doubt that consumers now see themselves playing a greater role in directing how products and services are created. However, there is no clear methodology that shows the best way for this to take place, and forums for discussion and information dissemination are scarce.

The Innovator, originally a report for a small consumer group working for the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Rehabilitation Robotics, is expanding to become a national forum on consumer participatory design and research. The methodologies and practice of consumer involvement may be voiced and discussed within these pages.

The Innovatorís objective is to inform people who formulate programs in support of people with disabilities about good practice in inclusion. The Innovator will include regular features on projects involving consumer participation, best practices, research, consumer perspectives, as well as literature reviews, a calendar of events, and overviews of government programs related to the study and practice of consumer participation.

This first national issue of The Innovator includes an article by Dr. Allen Hoffman of Worcester Polytechnic Institute who identifies key causes for the abandonment of custom rehabilitation devices designed as part of student design projects. This information will be particularly useful to professors and students who would like to increase the acceptance and reliability of the devices they create. In addition, Jim Fee, an engineer who also has a disability, presents both the engineering and consumer perspective on a writing aid he developed and patented. From a commercial standpoint, Joseph and Jettie Lahoud talk about the role of consumers in the development of LC Technologies eyetracking computer access products.

We hope that you will find The Innovator an interesting and useful resource. Its usefulness, however, will ultimately depend on your willingness to share your knowledge and experiences. So feel free to send us your ideas, suggestions, or comments at any time.

-Rich Mahoney, Applied Science & Engineering Laboratories

Inside This Issue

Working Cooperatively -- Allen Hoffman of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute discusses his work with student design projects.

Two Perspectives -- The Innovator focuses on the interaction between people with disabilities and rehabilitation engineers. This section will give you insight into what makes a design work or not work from two different viewpoints.

Review: Technology Transfer -- Engineer Arthur Joyce reviews an article in the VA publications, Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. Joyce translates a highly technical article into easy-to-understand facts for consumers.

Eyegaze and the Consumer -- Read about the Eyegaze Communication System, a device allowing people with no use of their hands to communicate, and its commitment to involving consumers in the design process.

Updates on design teams:

Upcoming Events and Articles of Interest

* In the next issue of The Innovator -- We'll spotlight the NIDRR and the Consumer Innovation Lab (ConLab).

* * Web pages on consumer inclusive research and development -- The Consumer Innovation Lab at the Applied Science & Engineering Laboratories has its own web pages. You'll find them at:

* Are you interested in a listserver for consumer involvement ? -- The Consumer Innovation Lab would be willing to maintain the listserver, if there are enough interested participants. Contact ASEL to be on the list.