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Project Abstract

The ATOMS Project (Assistive Technology Outcomes Measurement System) targets the definition and pre-development phases of a next generation assistive technology (AT) outcomes measurement system. A comprehensive needs assessment, prototype instrument development, and consensus building activities frame an integrated set of research and development (R&D) activities to address urgent needs to identify components of a future AT outcomes measurement system. In addition, these activities will generate information about the relationships of AT outcomes factors that will produce a better understanding of AT use and abandonment.

Three strategies are proposed to address needs assessment. The first needs assessment strategy is a field scan that includes: performing comprehensive literature reviews on topics including cost analysis methods relevant to AT and legal implications of AT outcomes measurement systems, surveying existing and developing instruments, and analyzing technological advances that allow for dynamic questioning and data collection in the natural environment. The second needs assessment strategy convenes initial stakeholder focus groups that continue after the needs assessment as participatory action research groups. The third needs assessment component will examine and work with clinical and national AT relevant databases to identify existing and future parameters that may contribute to a multi-site AT outcomes system.

Following the needs assessment activities, specific instrument prototyping and development activities are planned. The needs assessment activities will refine, redirect, and detail these tentative activities as they explore the use of promising outcomes methods from related fields, but are untested in AT. These include four (4) generic development activities: creating an AT Device & Services Inventory, prototyping a cost identification protocol, developing a subjective AT Approach Isolation Method, and developing an empirical AT approach isolation method. The outcome measurement parameters will be piloted in the school setting in collaboration with the State of Ohio Department of Education who recently received a 9 million dollar grant to infuse AT devices into the Ohio public school systems. Throughout the needs assessment and instrument development phases consensus building activities will be conducted to assure that the outcomes measurement systems meets the needs of stakeholders and is realistic to implement in the real-life context. Consensus building activities include participatory action research groups, AT outcome symposia, and consensus meetings.

To address the abandonment issue, information will be extracted from the needs assessment and instrument development activities in an attempt to determine factors related to AT use and abandonment. This allows for a larger scope examination of the potential causes of abandonment expanding the previous focus on personal and service-related determinants.

The work from this project will be widely disseminated throughout the five (5) years of the project using several publicly accessible media to both inform and elicit feedback from a larger group of stakeholders. A twofold evaluation plan addresses internal accountability and quality control. Collaborations across seven (7) sites create a highly interdisciplinary team that brings together diverse expertise from key personnel who work with AT and are stakeholders of AT outcomes. The ATOMS Consortium of agencies includes the Ohio Department of Education, University at Buffalo (SUNY), the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Warren and Associates, Steve Mendelsohn, Helen Hayes Hospital, and the University of Colorado.