Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Assistive Technologies, Volume 9, Issue 1
We begin 2015 with a varied and interesting general issue. The authors are themselves an indication of the growing international reach of the Journal of Assistive Technologies, and are variously based in England, Scotland, Italy and Australia.
Our first paper comes from lead author Ruth Mayagoitia writing with Els Van Boxstael, also from the Division of Health and Social Care Research at King's College, Fay Wright and Anthea Tinker from the KCL Institute of Gerontology, and Hedieh Wojgani and Julienne Hanson from the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies at University College London. The team look at extra care housing (ECH) – a concept involving supported housing to maintain independence – and consider whether the adoption of this practice leads to improvements or deficits in the amount and quality of care provided to the individuals involved. The research covered ten ECH schemes in England, and found that most of the assistive technology provided was at the low-tech end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, they also found that some of the technology put in place led to greater care needs rather than reducing these. The lack of lifts, accessible kitchens and bathrooms, and internal communication in some of the schemes caused considerable care needs as well as restricting social interaction. Importantly, the team go on to put forward an inclusive model of ECH which they suggest needs to be adopted by designers if such unplanned outcomes are to be avoided in future.
Kenneth Turner is from the Computing, Science and Mathematics department at the University of Stirling, where he is leader of the Care Technology research group and technical director of the MATCH project on technologies for home care. In his sole-authored paper, he considers aspects of the automated management of home care systems (computer-based systems that support the delivery of care), using rules based on the goals of users and on policies in place. He carried out an initial evaluation of the home care system with carers and found that they were able to use it effectively. The paper goes on to suggest that the process described has improved the system, making it more fit for purpose in the future.
We move to Australia for our next paper, which is authored by Annette Altendorf from the Academic Department for Old Age Psychiatry in the University of New South Wales and Jason Schreiber from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Monash University. Focussing particularly on dementia care and recent studies of safer walking technologies and monitoring devices, the authors consider the methodological approaches taken and the ethical and statistical issues that may have arisen. After considering the various types of dementia, they discuss a range of key studies in the area defined. The final section of the paper considers why it seems to be so difficult to achieve properly randomised control trials in this area, and the way in which this tends to lead to the use of opinion surveys of carers, for example, rather than measures of reduced falls. The authors recognise, however, that for this issue to be addressed, more time, effort and resources will be needed.
Our final peer-reviewed paper in this issue is written by Marco Porta from the University of Pavia in Italy. His focus is on the use of eye gesture to enter text, the two methods by which this can be accomplished, and how they compare to the traditional virtual keyboard approach. The author makes the point that there are advantages to writing methods based on eye gesture, such as the reduced requirement for screen space and the reduction in the level of tracking precision needed. However, such methods require greater initial effort and a level of training regarding eye interaction itself and the gesture alphabet. The emphasis throughout the paper is on the early stages of use of one of the text entry methods. In the summary it is argued that designers should devise gestures that are more intuitive, so that users can become more successful in the earlier stages of the training process.
We complete this issue with a review of a new book on Aided Communication in Everyday Interaction. JAT Reviews Editor Cheryl Dobbs reviews the book and would welcome other books for review and suggestions of web sites we should consider in future issues; however, we do not review assistive technology itself.