The Future of Assistive Technologies: A Time of Promise and Apprehension

Albert M. Cook

Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and Faculty of Extension

University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Future developments in assistive technologies and the successful application of these technologies to meet the needs of people who have disabilities will be driven by several factors. Technological advances are occurring rapidly, and the capability of technologies to meet the needs of persons with disabilities is growing daily. The demographics of the world population are also changing with a significant shift to an older population. This new group of older individuals is generally more experienced with computers and other technologies than their earlier generations and they will insist on greater performance and adaptability from both assistive technologies and mainstream technologies such as cell phones, PDAs. In order to lead full and productive lives, persons with disabilities need to have the same access to computer and information technologies as the rest of the population. If technological advances are not adaptable enough to be accessible to persons with disabilities it will further increase the disparity between those individuals and the rest of the population leading to further isolation and economic disadvantage. On the other hand, availability of these technologies in a transparent way will contribute to full inclusion of individuals who have disabilities in the mainstream of society.

Photo of Dr. Albert Cook

Biosketch for Dr. Albert Cook

Dr. Albert Cook is Professor of Speech Pathology and Audiology in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and Special Advisor to the Provost at the University of Alberta. He has worked with interdisciplinary teams to develop assistive devices and to assess the effectiveness of technology being used by persons with disabilities.

Dr. Cook's research interests include augmentative and alternative communication, biomedical instrumentation and assistive technology design, development and evaluation. His most recent research has focussed on the use of robotics with young children who have severe disabilities to develop and assess cognitive and linguistic skills. He has US and foreign patents and numerous publications and conference presentations in these areas. He has been principal investigator on research and training grants in augmentative communication, assistive technologies and biomedical engineering.

Dr. Cook is currently a member of the Senior Advisory Council of Alberta. Past-President and Fellow of RESNA, a major professional society for assistive technology practitioners in North America. He has also served in national united States positions in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, the American Society for Engineering Education, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. Dr. Cook is a registered professional engineer (electrical) in California.