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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Assistive Technologies, Volume 9, Issue 2.
It is pleasing to note that this issue contains papers contributed by researchers from two countries not previously represented in our pages: Dubai and the Netherlands. The Journal of Assistive Technologies (JAT) is now in its ninth year of publication and has widespread international readership and recognition. This is pleasing not just for the Journal but for the field of assistive technologies, previously characterised too often by innovative but little-researched developments but now increasingly founded on reputable and reliable research.
This issue includes three peer-reviewed papers, a shorter paper containing some important reflections and a review of a new book on the important and fast-moving field of mobile technologies. We begin with a paper from Catherine Todd at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Science of the University of Wollongong in Dubai, writing with her colleagues Swati Mallya, Sara Majeed, Jude Rojas and Katy Naylor. Their paper deals with the use of a haptic-audio simulator to enable those with visual impairments to explore a 3D computer model of an indoor environment. The purpose of this explanation is to enable the user to understand the environment and to develop some spatial awareness of it before experiencing it in real life. After the system has been used, the developer can extract data about how the user interacted with the application. In this way, the application is as much a research tool as a practical use of assistive technology for a visually impaired person. The developers hope that the system, and the understanding gained by researchers from its use, will lead to greater confidence in real-world experiences for people with visual impairments.
Our next peer-reviewed paper is from Femke D. Vennik and Kim Putters from the Institute of Health Policy & Management at Erasmus University, Rotterdam and Samantha A. Adams at Tilburg University’s Institute for Law, Technology and Society. All three authors have interests in the ways in which patients interact with those responsible for their healthcare, and in particular, the ways in which this interaction might be enhanced or changed through online lived experiences. The paper focuses on the designation of the active patient, involved in their own health and healthcare, with ICT in various forms acting as the agent of change from a passive to an active involvement. The researchers sought to understand more about the concept of the active patient by studying how designers of a patient-oriented web site made assumptions and expressed expectations about the behaviour of such people. They characterise their findings as indicating two co-design roles that were expected of active patients and more than eight competencies needed to become successful in these roles. The paper presents a persuasive case for developers to consider ever more carefully the role of the active patient.
Our third peer-reviewed paper is by Esmé Wood, a PhD student and Occupational Therapist at Coventry University’s Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies, writing with Gillian Ward and John Woolham, members of her supervisory team. JAT particularly welcomes such papers from emerging researchers. The paper reviews the development of safer walking technology for people with dementia by means of a systematic search of the relevant literature. As found by the authors, this is a small but growing field in the literature base, and there is only limited evidence as yet as to the benefits of such technologies, with the adoption of risk management strategies tending to inhibit the potential of such approaches. The paper makes clear the need not just for more research in this area, but for the greater involvement of people with dementia in that research, in order to contribute their views and experiences. The resulting understanding would much enhance the decision-making process for health and social care professionals as well as the general public.
Our final paper in this issue is a critical reflection on technologies for people with autism, contributed by Sarah Parsons from the School of Education at the University of Southampton, writing with Mark Brosnan from the University of Bath, and Nicola Yuill and Judith Good from the University of Sussex. Linked to a seminar series funded by the UK ESRC, this paper considers the extent to which technologies may create what the authors call a social bubble for people with autism, with users unable to re-enter the real world: a concern not limited to people with this range of disabilities. Noting a fourfold increase in papers on technology and autism since 2001, the authors also consider the development of the neurodiversity movement, characterised by self-advocacy, online, of an autistic identity.
We end this issue with a review of a new book considering the use of mobile technologies for learning, a very important current topic within educational technology in general but with particular implications for the assistive technologies sector. Reviews Editor Cheryl Dobbs welcomes books for review in future issues.