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Technologies to Evaluate and Advance Manipulation and Mobility

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center

The Center for Bionic Medicine within the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, together with collaborators at University of New Brunswick, Northwestern University, and the University of Notre Dame, will develop a new center of excellence focused on the NIDRR priorities of enhancing manipulation and mobility.

Mobility and movement-limiting disabilities affect people of all ages, severely impacting independence, employment, leisure activities, and social interactions, and preventing full participation in society. There is a compelling need to provide the right tools and technologies that will enable these individuals to effectively negotiate the world around them.
The use of advanced technology to restore or replace the ability to move is a promising treatment concept, and new possibilities are rapidly emerging. However, while technologies continue to advance, their successful clinical implementation remains a challenge.

Building technology that is useful and effective requires clinical knowledge and first-hand understanding of issues faced by individuals with disabilities, in addition to research and technological expertise. Robustness, practical manufacturing strategies, methods for clinical deployment, and user-friendly clinical training systems must be addressed before successful prototypes can be commercialized. Rehabilitation strategies that demonstrably improve outcomes are needed, together with sensitive, accurate outcome measures to evaluate the effectiveness of those strategies in real-world situations. In short, successful rehabilitation engineering requires a well-integrated team of clinicians and researchers working closely with end-users.

The goal of our center, Technologies to Evaluate and Advance Manipulation and Mobility (TEAMM), is to advance rehabilitation technology through novel, clinically deployable systems development. TEAMM is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Program (RERC).

We propose six studies—based on user need and gaps in available technology—that target a diverse array of disabilities. Projects R1 and R2 are research studies that use clinical trials to quantify the performance and usefulness of novel devices. Project D4 involves development of a novel device. Three projects (D1,R3; D2,R4; and D3,R5) begin with development of new technologies that will then be evaluated in clinical trials.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, grant number H133E130020.