Developing Assistive Technology

Special Topics in Digital Media -IDM
DM-GY 9130 A

Developing Assistive Technology – ITP
ITPG-GT 2446

Developing Assistive Technology – OT
OT-GE 2900

New York University
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Department of Occupational Therapy
82 Washington Square East (Pless Building) 6th Floor

Tisch School of the Arts
Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP)
721 Broadway, 4th Floor

Tandon School of Engineering
Department of Technology, Culture and Society (TCS)
2 Metrotech Center, MAGNET

Fall, 2016
Tuesday evenings
6:45 P.M.-– 9:00 P.M.

Class meets in Brooklyn at 2 Metrotech Center, MAGNET, Room 803 (unless otherwise noted).


Scott Fitzgerald-
NYU Tisch, Interactive Telecommunications Program

Anita Perr-
NYU Steinhardt, Department of Occupational Therapy

Claire Kearney-Volpe-
NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Dept. of Integrated Digital Media

Office hours:
Thursday 5:30-6:30 Book here:


This multidisciplinary course allows students from a variety of backgrounds to work together to learn about and develop assistive technology, as well as cultivate a better understanding of the people being served. Partnering with outside organizations, students will work in teams to identify a clinical need relevant to a certain clinical site or client population, and learn the process of developing an idea and following that through to the development of a prototype product.


  • Demonstrate an understanding of the process of developing assistive technology
  • Be able to assess the clinical site or client population to identify a need for an assistive device
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the roles of the professionals involved in developing and using assistive technology
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate with co-workers from various fields
  • Acquire awareness of life for people with disabilities
  • Demonstrate critical and creative thinking in researching solutions to clinical problem
  • Develop a prototype device for a clinical setting
  • Demonstrate understanding of various technologies used by people with disabilities
  • Develop extensive documentation for all projects


In addition to class preparation and participation, this class includes the following assignments:

Midterm Presentation – Each student group present their intended project including a literature review during week 7 of the course. The literature review should include research into the disability under investigation and a review of existing devices and software. It should include both popular and scientific literature.

Assistive Tech Presentation – Students will work in pairs to introduce specific assistive device to the class. Students may pick the technology they present, but must use the AT Presentation calendar to post their topic so that there is no overlap between pairs. Presentations are limited to 10 minutes. Students are responsible for learning about the technology, exploring how/why it was developed and how it is used. Students should prepare a presentation/handout for classmates. Presentations will be staggered throughout the semester. Sign up here.

Self-Assessment– Each student is asked to submit an appraisal of their own work and role(s) in their group(s) at various points in the semester.

Prototype Project – Student groups work with outside partners, including the intended user, to build a prototype. Groups are expected to document the process of development using a format that will be provided. Multiple iterations of the prototypes are expected as adjustments will be required following each trial experience.

Projects can be physical or computer-based depending on the identified need. Many projects are continuing from previous semesters. Following the midterm presentations, student groups will present their project status repeatedly throughout the semester in order to get feedback from classmates and professors.


Percentage distribution
35% Midterm presentation
30% Assistive Technology Presentation
35% Prototype Project


Arriving more than 5 minutes after class start, whether at the Ability Lab or at site visits, is “late.” Two “lates” equal one absence. Each absence from class will result in a deduction of 2 points from the final course grade.

Class participation:

Students are expected to engage in discussion with each other, invited speakers and at on-site visits. And of course, except for note taking, all laptops closed.

Class Schedule:

(Please know that this schedule is tentative.  Changes in the schedule may be necessary during the semester.)

Class 1 – Tuesday, September 6th

Topic: Intro to course; intro to disability; quality of life (disability simulations); task analysis; Intro to ongoing projects. If you have a project (including access to a mentor and to user population) you can pitch your idea tonight or during Class 3.

Assignment for Class 2:

  1. Complete Everyday Technology Use Chart
  2. Watch Switches Video-
  3. Read short chapter from Design Meets Disability, Graham Pulin (2009). Chapter 6 Feeling Meets Testing

Class 2 – Tuesday, September 13th

1) Client-centered design in AT
2) Intro to the Domains (augmentative communication, orthotics, prosthetics and robotics, seating and mobility, computer access,and intro to switches (Arduino exercise)

Class discussion: Everyday Technology Use (completed as homework)

Sign up for Assistive Tech Presentation date.

Assignment for Class 4: Review potential projects to prepare for selection during Class 4. If you have a project you want to work on (with access to a mentor and user population), prepare your ‘pitch’ (1-2 minutes) for Class 4.

Class 3 – Tuesday, September 20th

Topic: Immersion in Current Assistive Technology: augmentative communication, orthotics, prosthetics and robotics, wheelchairs, architecture and the built environment

****Class will meet in Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy. Pless Hall. 36 Washington Place, 6th floor. Take the REAR ELEVATOR (ask the guard).

Assignment for class 4:

Read the following article from the New York Times

Class 4 – Tuesday, September 27th

Topic: Disability Justice/History: Allan Goldstein; Picking projects (student pitches); Sign up for Prototype Projects. Prototype funds availability

Assignment for Class 5: Review website information for Adaptive Design Association ( Preview the videos in their learning library to become familiar with fabrication techniques.

Follow-up reading from Allan’s Talk and more info on Disability Studies

Class 5 – Tuesday, October 4th

Topic: Fabrication

Activity: Field trip (Adaptive Design Association). Class will begin at 7pm at the ADA (313 West 36th St.)

Students will receive their group assignment and contact information for mentor and/or client

Assignments for Class 6: Brainstorm ideas for technology to address your project. Begin research/lit review to support your project’s direction. Fill in group project website as able. You will use this for the foundation for your midterm presentation in class 7.

Class 6 – Tuesday October 11th

Topic: Media Access (museums, art, gaming, captioning, and audio description)

Activity: Brainstorming; Frankenstein building- Each group will be asked to build a few potential ways to address your project. Each group member should come to class with some ideas already thought through. During class, each group will prepare a 2-minute presentation of your ideas in order to get feedback from your classmates. Some of the best feedback may be a question that triggers you to think in a new direction or to consider something you did not address.

Class 7 – Tuesday, October 18th

Topic: Computer Access for people with limited vision: Gus Chalkias

Read: Milne, LR, Bennett, CL, & Ladner, RE. (2014) The accessibility of mobile health sensors for blind users. The Journal on Technology and Persons with Disabilities: Scientific/Research Proceedings, volume 2, pp166- 175. ISSN 2330-4219

Build time!


Class 8 – Tuesday, October 25th

Midterm Presentations

Due: Self Assessment #1 due before class 8. A link will be provided to the online survey.


Class 9 – Tuesday, November 1st

Topic: Technology for Learning: Dave Mahmarian; Round-robin project updates

Build time!

Class 10 – Tuesday, November 8th

Topic:  Project development: DIY Ability; Assistive Tech Presentations; Round-robin project updates;

Build time!

Class 11 – Tuesday, November 15th

Assistive Tech Presentation(s); User testing, Cross group evaluation and testing;

Build time!

Class 12 – Tuesday,  November 22th

Topic: Hx of AT from Industry Perspective: Alan Brightman; Assistive Tech Presentations

Group meetings to update faculty (reality check)

Build time!

Due: Self Assessment #2 due before class 13. A link will be provided to the online survey.

Class 13 – Tuesday, November 29th

Round-robin project updates

Build time!

Assistive Tech Presentation(s)


Class 14 – Tuesday, December 6th

Final Presentations

Due: 1) All project websites must be complete by this date.  2) Self Assessment #3 due before Dec 13th. A link will be provided to the online survey.


If you are student with a disability who is requesting accommodations, please contact New York University’s Moses Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) at 212-998-4980 or  You must be registered with CSD to receive accommodations.  Information about the Moses Center can be found at The Moses Center is located at 726 Broadway on the 3rd floor on the Washington Square Campus and Roger’s Hall, Student Health Center, ROG B042 on the Tandon Campus.



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