Adaptive Technologies

CSCI 426 - Adaptive Technologies


Title: CSCI 426 - Adaptive Technologies

Credits: 4 s.h.

An overview of the principles and techniques used in adaptive technology for the disabled.  Topics in this course include the universal design principle; user-centered design; interfacing specialized hardware devices; interaction methods such as Morse code, voice recognition and generation, scanning techniques, word expansion, and word prediction; modes of communication, such as single or multi-switch, audio and voice; alternative languages; web accessibility; and usability testing as a means of user/device evaluation and product acceptance. 

Prerequisites: CSCI 362

Adaptive technology (AT) is increasingly available to either help compensate for a disability or to provide accessibility to information and services, and to in general improve the quality of life of the disabled.  Computer professionals, especially those involved in human-computer interaction (HCI), have an expertise in developing and evaluating devices from a usability perspective.  However, currently this expertise is too seldom directed at the AT field.  As a consequence, many AT devices are poorly designed from a usability perspective, resulting in extensive training needs, poor utilization by clients, and frequent abandonment of the AT by users.  The poor matching of devices to persons with disabilities exacerbate this, leading to nearly one third of AT being abandoned within three months.  Finally, the complexity of many AT devices is often an impediment to potential users, requiring extensive computing experience to fully take advantage of features.

Computing professionals are needed by adaptive technology (AT) developers to research and develop new AT devices and techniques.  They are also needed for providing numerous levels of support to those who use AT, including evaluations of users and products, installations, upgrades, backups, and configurations.

As employers strive to comply with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are disabled, computer personnel will be increasingly required to provide the technical support for AT devices and software.  This occurs both as companies hire more disabled employees, and as they are required to provide support for current employees who become disabled.  In addition, the responsibility for ensuring universal accessibility to company resources and products for customers and clients are most likely to fall on computer personnel to handle.

This new proposal is for a companion course to the existing CSCI 425 – Human-Computer Interaction, supplementing this area of concentration with the computer science major.  This new course does not significantly overlap with CSCI 425, nor does it replace any existing course.

This course is intended to develop both technical skills and analytic methods in the student, through extensive hands-on examples and assignments.  The course is intended for senior-level majors.  The stated prerequisite ensures that students will have sufficient programming skill for the assignments.

Projected enrollment is 24.

Objectives and Assessment:
Assessment of student learning will be conducted through conceptual diagnostic tests (CDT), performance assessments (PA), rubrics (R), and portfolios (P).  The assessment plan for the proposed course conforms to the departmental degree specification matrix.

The successful student will:

  1. Be able to identify the major types of disabilities (CDT)
  2. Be able to match disability types to specific adaptive technology (CDT, PA)
  3. Demonstrate skill at interfacing, installing, and configuring a variety of adaptive devices and software for direct user support (PA)
  4. Demonstrate skill at making websites accessible (CDT, PA)
  5. Demonstrate understanding of built-in accessibility controls for the Windows® environment (CDT, PA)
  6. Demonstrate understanding of augmentative-alternative communication devices (CDT, PA, P)
  7. Demonstrate ability to perform usability testing as an assessment tool (PA, P)
  8. Demonstrate understanding of various interaction methods (CDT, PA)
  9. Demonstrate understanding of fundamental adaptive technology concepts and methods (CDT, PA)
  10. Demonstrate skill at developing software related to adaptive technology applications (PA, P)
  11. Demonstrate written and oral communication skills appropriate for an upper-level computer science student (R)

Course Topics

I. The Disabled User

  • Visual Function
  • Auditory Function
  • Somatosensory Function
  • Cognitive Function
  • Motor Control

II. Disabilities Legislation

III. Universal & User-Centered Design

IV. Basic Human-Computer Interaction Practices

  • I/O devices
  • I/O methods
  • Models of interaction
  • Human Factors
  • Usability studies

V. Control Interfaces

  • General characteristics
  • Selecting control interfaces for the user
  • Direct selection
  • Indirect selection
  • Integrated control systems

VI. Augmentative/Alternative Communication

  • Communication systems
  • Multimodal communication
  • Conversational needs
  • Graphical output needs
  • Control interface
  • Selection method
  • Selection set
  • Selection technique
  • Accelerating/extending vocabulary
  • Vocabulary storage
  • Text editing
  • Output control
  • Speech output
  • General computer and Internet access

VII. Visual Impairment Aids

  • Screen magnification
  • Text to Braille
  • Text to speech
  • Electronic travel aids

VIII. Speech Synthesis

IX. Speech Recognition

X. Web Accessibility

XI. Wireless AT Devices

XII. AT for the Elderly

XIII. User evaluation and assessment

  • AT abandonment issues
  • Language Analysis Monitoring
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Usability study as evaluation tool

Evaluation of Student Performance

Students will be evaluated by a combination of exams, lab assignments or projects, papers,  presentations, and the development of a semester-long portfolio.  The following is a sample evaluation plan:

Midterm Exam:                  1/3
Final Exam:                               1/3
Assignments, etc.:                     1/3

Students will be required to write at least one paper and make one presentation.

Required Text and Bibliography

Assistive Technologies, 2nd Edition. A. Cook and S. Hussey.  Mosby Publishing.  2002.

Additional References:
Voice Interaction Design. R. Harris. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. 2005.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 2nd Edition. Beukelman, D. R., and Mirenda, P. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. 1998.

Information Access and Adaptive Technology. Cunningham, C. and N. Coombs. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press. 1997.

Evaluating, Selecting, and Using Appropriate Assistive Technology. Galvin, J. C., Scherer, M. J. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc. 1996.

Computer and Web Resources for People with Disabilities. The Alliance for Technology Access. Hunter House Publishers. 2000.

Adaptive Technologies for Learning and Work Environments, 2nd Edition.  J. Lazzaro. American Library Association. 2001.

General Education Credit



Staff: Current staff possesses the necessary expertise to teach this course.

Library: Current library resources are sufficient to support this course.

Equipment: The Adaptive Computing Lab within the Department of Computer Science has sufficient hardware and software to support this course.  This equipment was purchased through the National Science Foundation CCLI-EMD grant “Integrating Assistive Technology into an Undergraduate Computer Science Curriculum from an HCI Approach” (DUE 0230969).