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A Rehabilitation Living Lab

Creating Inclusive Environments for Persons with Disabilities

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June 2011 to March 2016

Overall, 79 projects, including students' projects and summer interships, have been funded since the inception of the RehabMaLL. Those adressing the first objective of the living lab have investigated the physical and social environment of the mall and provided recommendations on how to improve the acoustic and visual environment or others have provided the groundwork for future intervention studies aiming to sensitize shopkeepers to the needs of persons with a disability.
(Click here for a list and description of all our projects)

Some key results are highlighted below:
  • Persons with reduced mobility often identified problems with navigation and recommended having an elevator readily accessible to them from the street to facilitate circulation;

  • Shopkeepers generally acknowledged their lack of knowledge with regard to serving persons with disabilities, but were open to being trained so as to better serve these individuals;

  • In terms of accessibility, the absence of a ramp (metro level) limits entrance to the MALL;

  • Providing payment assistance using a money counter developed for persons with aphasia would facilitate their shopping activities in the mall;

  • Persons having suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) mentioned having difficulty using credit cards and understanding personnel who speak quickly or use technical language;

  • Persons with visual disabilities reported several obstacles to using the mall such as elevator inconveniently located, illegible floor indicators above the elevator doors, or lack of Braille restaurant menus.

With regard to the second and third objectives, our partners have facilitated the development of rehabilitation technologies/interventions, as well as the pilot testing of such interventions in laboratory and in-vivo. For example, virtual reality environments and training programs, way-finding technologies (Remote Infrared Audible Signage or "Talking Signs" and ClickandGo maps), as well as an intelligent wheelchair have been developed and are currently being refined through pilot testing in the MALL. Examples of results are highlighted below:

  • The pilot-testing of the Talking Signs technology, along with the narrative ClickandGo maps accessible via a smartphone application, revealed that the information provided by these technologies was sufficient to keep participants with visual impairments oriented as they traveled, and helped them regain their orientation if they went off-route;

  • A realistic and functional virtual simulation of AN’s atrium section has been created which provide meaningful environments for training rehabilitation patients;

  • A team have developed the control and semi-autonomous navigation systems and the proof of concept of an intelligent Power Wheelchair being able to respond to vocal commands and avoid obstacles.

Development of a Common Evaluation Framework

One of the key strengths of the MALL project lies in its strong interdisciplinary and intersectorial nature, bringing together different research groups across disciplines and stakeholder groups. However, this strength is also a challenge, which is addressed via two parallel yet interconnected initiatives.

  1. The first is spearheaded by Dr. Sara Ahmed, who together with her team (Statistical and Evaluation Working Group), is populating the Precede-Proceed (PP) logic model1with the completed or on-going projects. This work provides a comprehensive picture of on-going research by linking existing projects to the MALL’s overarching vision and objectives and allows tracking of progress and identifying research gaps. This work allowed us to identify the research domains that have been sufficiently addressed, those still needing attention, and research priorities for years 2 and 3.

  2. Dr. Francesco Grasso (a partner from the University of Sienna, Italy) leads the second initiative. He is using (with his team) the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) model to establish a common nomenclature for all MALL projects. The ICF conceptualization is used to “code” the various activities, participation aspects, environmental factors and functional profiles of participants within the specific projects. Dr. Grasso’s team also conducted focus groups aimed at sharing project findings with the different MALL stakeholders (i.e. persons with disabilities or AN managers and shopkeepers) and soliciting their views on the different projects. A consensus conference will be held in the winter 2014, where researchers will be presented with the views of all stakeholders regarding the research in the MALL.

And a Community of Practice…

In April 2012 Drs. Dahlia Kairy and Barbara Mazer initiated a process to create and implement a community of practice (CoP) linked to the MALL project using additional funding CRIR received from the MSSS and with the broad theme of "Learning together to improve rehabilitation, participation and inclusion for people living with disabilities". The CoP’s mandate is to 1) allow the sharing of stakeholder experiences/perspectives on issues related to creating enabling and inclusive environments 2) Invite stakeholders and partners to participate in the shaping of the projects (e.g. project objectives/goals, interpretation and dissemination of findings), 3) Set research priorities for future projects in the MALL.

The CoP has and will hold in-person meetings and between them, a virtual CoP platform facilitates exchanges between CoP members relating to results, documents, questions or issues pertaining to the MALL project.

1The Precede-Proceed Logic model is a graphic representation of a program showing the intended relationships between investments and results. This model is typically used for the evaluation of public health programs.



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