Advanced Rehabilitation Research and Training Program

The Advanced Rehabilitation Research and Training Program (ARRT) seeks to train leaders in rehabilitation research who can harness advances in physical computing and fabrication to enhance community living and participation among people with disabilities.

Training combines rehabilitation expertise, making, and community partnerships that promote individuals with disabilities as experts in their own lives to help define, create, and test novel assistive technology solutions. Trainees participate in a 24-month intensive program that provide integrated experiences in physical computing, fabrication, disability studies, and community engagement. 

Physical computing and accessibility 

Blending disciplines of engineering, computer science, rehabilitation technology, and the maker  movement, physical computing can be used to enhance community living and participation by  producing solutions for use in daily life. Physical computing technology, now widely available, includes 3D-modeling software and machines such as laser cutters, 3D-printers, knitting  machines, and programmable embroidery machines. 

Physical computing uses consumer-grade fabrication and computing technology to create physical objects that can revolutionize the range and customizability of assistive technology available to people with disabilities. The largest area where physical computing has intersected accessibility thus far is in the development of specialized tools for creating assistive technology. These tools can be iteratively designed and shared to produce custom grips, levers, guides, and  other devices for daily life. Examples of current advances in physical computing include: 

  • 3D-printed tactile maptiles that can convey complex spatial information to support travel and navigation outside the home 
  • A custom cello bow-holding prosthetic and other bespoke solutions that support participation in extracurricular and classroom activities 
  • A kayak control system that supports blind rowing and a 3D-printed prosthetic arm with gripper for ice hockey to increase participation in sports and other physical activities
  • Making inaccessible interfaces – such as touch screens on phones, appliances, and other devices – accessible using custom tactile interactions 

Critical shortage of trained personnel 

Improving assistive technology design and implementation is essential in facilitating access for people with disabilities to live and participate in their communities. Physical computing is already demonstrably improving community living and participation, but there is a shortage of people qualified to harness, deliver, and advance physical computing for rehabilitation research. Many organizations have found it incredibly difficult to find personnel with the required expertise in both rehabilitation and physical computing to bridge the gap from ideas to community. 

Community partnerships 

CREATE seeks to pair local organizations with an interest in using physical computing to enhance rehabilitation, community living, and participation for people with disabilities with our ARRT Fellows. Fellows embed with the community organization (e.g., 2+ days/week) for 6 months during their first year. This is an opportunity to:

  1. Learn the mission, history, and  future goals of the organization,
  2. Examine opportunities to leverage physical computing to  support community living and participation,
  3. Identify co-designers – partners with  disabilities who will engage with the Fellow throughout the research process. 

These relationships can be facilitated by CREATE’s strong Community Partners program.

CREATE's icon, a human with a prosthetic arm holding up a lightbulb   Learn about partner benefits and how to partner with CREATE

ARRT is funded by a five-year, $1M grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).