CATEA Receives $3.1M in Grants to Transform Built Environment for People with Disabilities

Universal Design practices and 3D simulation tools will be developed.

New grants totaling approximately $3.1 million will fund multiyear research projects at the College, focused on the design of housing and workplaces for people with disabilities.

The first grant, funded by NIDRR, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (U.S. Dept. of Education) will fund "Universal Design Practices to Enhance Work Outcomes." In conjunction with the IDEA Center at the State University of New York, Buffalo, researchers from Georgia Tech's CATEA, the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (College of Architecture), will develop new measurement tools to assess the effectiveness of applying Universal Design principles to the workplace in order to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. This work grows out of CATEA's many years of involvement in workplace transformation through its Accessible Workplace and Enabling Environments Labs. The award for this grant is $2.5 million, spread over five years. Principal investigator Jon Sanford (MArch '83) noted that "the significance of this research is that it will demonstrate that universal design practices geared toward enhancing the ability of employees with disabilities to perform work tasks and to participate fully in the work milieu will result in more positive work outcomes than existing practices based on the Americans with Disabilities Act that focus only on accommodating job tasks."

The second grant, also funded by NIDRR, was awarded to CATEA's Accessible Education and Information Lab. Using industry-standard 3D modeling tools in collaboration with the College of Architecture's IMAGINE Lab, researchers will develop an online virtual environment to provide professionals and consumers with tools to modify homes in ways that support people with disabilities, including older adults. A key part of the project is its use as a training tool to engage industrial design, building construction and architecture students in the principles of Universal Design and assistive technology. CATEA Research Scientist Robert Todd, who will direct the research, says that "this will be the first virtual education tool that allows all educators, students and stakeholders to build, share and adapt living spaces in tandem, providing more effective design instruction." The award is for $600,000 and the project will last three years.