In the United States, 4.64 million persons have cognitive disabilities, and of these a significant fraction is potentially able to live more independently save for a deficiency of mnemonic and executive capability. In many cases, these persons are supported by concerned caregivers who want them to live in a less dependent fashion. Persons with cognitive disabilities as well as caregivers could all benefit from a socio-technical environment designed to support their legitimate and reasonable aspirations.

My research platform, MAPS (Memory Aiding Prompting System), aims to provide a simple effective prompting system for individuals with cognitive disabilities with an interface for designing prompting scripts by caregivers. MAPS provides a socio-technical environment that acknowledges the needs and abilities of members of the communities of caregivers and persons with cognitive disabilities.

By using and extending human-computer interaction (HCI) frameworks and theory—such as distributed cognition, metadesign, and symmetry of ignorance—in a principled design environment, this research demonstrates, analyzes, and documents how to create systems that potentially could avoid the all-too-common fate of assistive technology, that of abandonment.

MAPS comprises two technical components: the MAPS script-design-environment, a personal computer (PC)-based system that allows a caregiver to edit, store, and reuse scripts of multimedia prompts for task support; and the MAPS-prompter, a PDA-based mobile prompting environment for persons with cognitive disabilities. The process of adopting MAPS was observed and analyzed by using ethnographic methods to study dyads of persons with cognitive disabilities and caregivers doing real tasks in home, shopping, and employment environments. Based on these observations and analyses, this research delineated new ways to use traditional HCI perspectives and produced a set of heuristics to aid in the design and use of prompting systems and the more general design of assistive technology.

Full Thesis:
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Thesis Advisor:
Gerhard Fischer

Award Date:
October 1, 2006

University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado, USA

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