Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Lenker, J. A., Harris, F., Taugher, M., & Smith, R. O. (2013). Consumer perspectives on assistive technology outcomes. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 84 (5), 373-380.
Title:  Consumer perspectives on assistive technology outcomes
Authors:  Lenker, J. A., Harris, F., Taugher, M., & Smith, R. O.
Year:  2013
Journal/Publication:  Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology
Publisher:  Informa Healthcare
Full text:   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Yes
Research design:  Qualitative research

Structured abstract:

Background:  Outcome studies must be meaningfully planned and carried out. Researchers need consumer or end user perspectives to develop tools or design studies about assistive technology outcomes. Assistive technology outcomes in this study are the changes produced by assistive technology devices in the lives of the end users and their environments. Very few studies have researched the impact of assistive technology devices on a person's participation in various life situations. This may be partially due to a lack of tools to measure the impact of assistive technology to support everyday function. A lack of research in this area has prevented the fields' ability to establish evidence-based assistive technology practices.
Purpose:  The aim of the study was to extend previous research about consumer perspectives on outcomes that are attributed to the use of assistive technology devices and services. The primary goal was to lay the groundwork for the developing measurement tools and design assistive technology research studies about the lived experience of individuals with disabilities by exploring domains of assistive technology device outcomes that are most valued by end users. And, identify elements related to the device acquisition process that may have positively or negatively impacted outcomes.
Setting:  Four focus groups were conducted at geographically different sites within the United States.
Study sample:  A total of 24 consumers, aged 24 to 55 years, participated in four focus groups. This included 10 females and 14 males. The majority were experienced assistive technology users. Individuals had various types of disabilities including: cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, low back injury and vision impairment.
Intervention:  There was no intervention.
Control or comparison condition:  There was no control or comparison condition.
Data collection and analysis:  Three pilot focus groups led to a revised set of focus group questions to explore consumer perspectives. Focus group moderators were two occupational therapists, a physical therapist and a vocational rehabilitation counselor. Each had over 12 years experience working with individuals who used assistive technology. A project advisory group met and developed five questions. The queries related to what assistive technology had done for the person, what the person would say to a funder to either continue or discontinue funding support, other than funding what were the individual's positive or negative experiences related to obtaining assistive technology, what would the consumer say to the inventor or manufacturer of the assistive technology about how a device works or does not work and lastly who had the person told about what work or does not work with their device. A protocol was followed across focus groups to promote consistency related to participant recruitment, room set up, focus group procedure, recording format and more. Each group was moderated by a facilitator and an assistant who employed a modified nominal group technique. Using this technique each question was introduced, summarized, discussed and the resulting ideas that most reflected participants experiences and opinions were prioritized. Each focus group lasted two hours. Afterwards, facilitator prepared summaries about the event and sent these to the project coordinator who developed reports for qualitative analysis. Data analysis procedures followed Morgan's progressive steps. Responses were also coded for "incidence density". For each question, coders reviewed comments and shared interpretations. The coders achieved consensus in their methodological decisions and thematic assignment of data.
Findings:  Thirteen data threads were aggregated from the five questions. Three threads were identified for question 1, What has assistive technology done for you? These included: independence, participation and subjective well-being. Three threads were also identified from participant responses to question two: Based on your experiences, what would you tell the funder of your AT device to convince them to continue or increase funding support? These were: cost-effectiveness, participation, and social well-being. Four threads were identified fro Question 3. Other than funding, what were the positive or negative experiences you had with the process of getting your assistive technology? These were: difficulties acquiring new assistive technology devices; funding agencies as a barrier, as well as facilitator, of asssistive technology acquisition; quality of service providers, and the need for service providers to ask for and value consumer input. Three threads were identified related to Question 4: what would you tell the inventor or manufacturer of your device(s) about what works or does not? These were: improved design for compatibility, durability, and customizability; the need for consumer input during market research, product design, and product testing and the costs of maintenance and technical support of assistive technology devices. Related to Question 5: Who have you told about what works and what does not with your device? Participants reported they had discussed the usability and impact of assistive technology devices with the following: rehabilitation professionals; peer users of devices; family and friends; manufacturers; and school and work advisors, which included disability service coordinators, teachers and employers. Factors associated with the acquisition process were also identified such as prolonged periods of frustration with the process and inconsistency in quality of service providers.
Conclusions:  Assistive technology outcomes research is needed. Future studies should focus on the impact of assistive technology on participation, costs, elements associated with the service delivery process and long term impact on consumers.

Disabilities served:  Cerebral palsy
Spinal cord injury (SCI)
Visual impairment
Populations served:  Gender: Female and Male