Georgia Tech's CATEA Improving Access

CATEA's new online network helps inform the disability community and aging population of the latest research, products and services available to them.

Georgia Tech's Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) is giving the disability community and aging population a new tool that helps identify new products, research and services available to them.

CATEA's Consumer Network (CCN) is an on-line community that shares information about new developments in disability and aging related-products and services. By joining CCN, members are among the first to preview new advances in disability and aging-related products and provide input to make them more usable and accessible.

"CNN is unique because it is the only consumer network of its kind to include all facets of disability and aging issues," said CATEA researcher Robert Todd. "No one will be left out because they don't fit a 'profile.'"

CATEA researchers also benefit greatly from the network since they are able to identify CCN members willing to test new prototypes, products and services in order to improve them through focus groups, field-testing, and surveys.

'CCN is a young initiative as it was launched in October of 2006," said Todd. "The network has already been responsible for the successful completion of numerous research projects, private and federally funded."

College of Architecture Ph. D student Young Mi Choi used CCN to find subjects for her research on portable wheelchair ramps. The network helped identify potential users from a pool of members and also allowed Choi to be more precise in sending out invitations targeting only those who would qualify to participate in the study.

"CCN allows users to learn more about research that would be helpful to their lives," said Choi. "Most importantly though, by showing interest in becoming a CCN member, it allows them an opportunity to actually take part in developing innovations that may be able to impact them directly."

Participation in CCN is growing rapidly among consumers, nearly doubling between March and June of 2007.

"Although CCN was developed at Georgia Tech's CATEA, the network is intended for use by all researchers who will abide by its rules and regulations," said Todd. "It is thus a more universal source for disability and aging research than any other in the nation."

According to Todd, CCN accomplishes this broad mission while still maintaining 100% privacy and anonymity for its members. Additionally, membership is free of charge, and members are often compensated for their participation in studies.

CATEA plans to open the network to researchers across the nation during the second half of 2007.