Recreational activities for people with disabilities require professionals such as engineers to adapt the environment and equipment to facilitate participation (e.g., wheelchair basketball). Recreational activity is important to improve overall quality of life, particularly for people who have a disability. Adaptive sports allow each individual to experience recreational activities in a way that meets her/is functional needs and fits someone’s lifestyle best. Previous studies have shown several benefits of recreational activities and adaptive sports, including (a) improved functionality; (b) reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, medical complications and hospitalizations; (c) increased life expectancy; and (d) higher quality of life. In order to engage in recreational activities and adaptive sports, people with disabilities often use assistive technology (AT), e.g., lightweight wheelchairs for basketball, sleds for ice hockey, etc., thus sometimes modify/customize these devices specifically for their chosen sport. In some cases, a small modification (for example, changing the size of a wheel or a belt for wheelchair sports) may significantly impact the individual’s performance in adaptive sports, allowing them more opportunities to participate and compete. Identifying and designing potential modifications to improve athletes’ performances in adaptive sports could benefit greatly from an engineering perspective.
The value of AT for people with disabilities cannot be underestimated. Technology offers opportunities for increased self-sufficiency as it promotes greater independence in the realms of daily living, social functioning and employment opportunities. Importantly, considerable evidence supports that recreational activities and adaptive sports help people with disabilities engage in community activities, thereby increasing life satisfaction and employment outcomes.
Objective. The goals of this IPRO project are to: (1) increase student awareness and understanding of assistive technology and universal design for people with disabilities, (2) develop student understanding to best work with technology users and other professionals in order to develop an engineering solution that will maximize user performance in recreational activities and adaptive sports, (3) demonstrate how improved function can improve quality of life of individuals with disabilities; estimated to be roughly 20% of the US population, and (4) provide a valuable service to the Chicago community by working with community partners such as Access Living to identify a target group of individuals with disabilities.
The objectives of this course offer students the experience to:
Approach. This IPRO experience will focus on innovation and human-centered engineering solutions as the main goal. This IPRO project will apply a community-based framework, which is a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves the community members alongside professionals in all aspects of the development process. The partners contribute unique strengths through shared responsibilities to enhance the understanding of the phenomenon in the context of the social and cultural dynamics of the community. The knowledge gained from this process informs actions to improve the well-being of community members. One major advantage of our approach is its ability to bridge the gap between academic researchers and the real-life issues facing communities. This IPRO project benefits from participation by multiple fields of engineering (electrical, computer, biomedical, mechanical, materials, etc), psychology, business, architecture, and design at Illinois Tech, but also from health service providers in the Chicago area and more importantly from people with disabilities who are on an adaptive sports team.
This IPRO team will explore four main aspects regarding rehabilitation engineering in recreational activities and adaptive sports: