|Bodil Jönsson, Ph D, Ass firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Peter Anderberg, PhDemail@example.com|
|Håkan Eftring, research firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jonas Falkvall, research email@example.com|
|Center of Rehabilitation Engineering Research at Lund University,
Box 118, S 221 00 Lund, Sweden
This paper deals with the new possibilities and the changed paradigm for disabled
students using IT in their learning process and the influence of IT on the rehabilitation
research process. The perspectives alter between overviews of what is suddenly possible,
what CERTEC has actually done in this field so far and what user experiences that have
resulted. All previous changes in everyday education have had one thing in common - they
have influenced some particular aspect, perhaps a certain perspective or a minor part of a
course or a lecture or a book. Today, however, the breakthrough of Internet influence most
parts of learning, especially for disabled persons. CERTEC has developed the concept
"A university for everyone" as a three stage rocket. The first one was to enable
and empower one disabled student, Peter Anderberg, to fulfill his master studies
(electrical engineering at Lund University) abroad (Santa Clara University, U.S.). The
second one was to make a complete course, an introductory course on rehabilitation
engineering, accessible over the net. The third one to follow will be to make a complete
master's education accessible.
The legal aspects of the Internet accessibility may be crucial for the future handicap
technology. In the USA, the Americans with Disabilities Act applies, making physical
accessibility mandatory. The new telecom law from 1996 is a law in the same spirit. We
strongly believe that, because of the international trade and telecom market, §255 will
have a deep influence also in Europe on the telecommunications and thus on IT and leaming.
The CERTEC research on how the Phantom could enable blind children to get a complementary
virtual sensory computer interface (also presented at this conference in a paper by
Jönsson and Sjöström) might be one of the projects with precedential influence.
The following are some of the possibilities of technology in general and, in
CERTEC has developed the concept "A university for everyone" as a three stage
rocket. The first one was to enable and empower one disabled student, Peter Anderberg, to
fulfill his master studies (electrical engineering) at Lund University and abroad (Santa
Clara University, U.S.) (). Peter began studying at the Lund Institute of Technology at
about the same time as the precursor of CERTEC was being created (1986). He failed and
interrupted his studies. After this, he stayed away from Lund and his studies for many
years. In 1995, he resumed his studies with great success; used information technology;
began cooperating very closely with CERTEC. He has done his final year abroad (in the
United States) and has now his degree in engineering and is a doctoral student at CERTEC
(and a co-author of this paper).
The second one was to make a complete course, an introductory course on rehabilitation
engineering, accessible over the net. One of the lectures, a 90 minutes' introductory
lecture, is available in English ().
The third step to follow will be to make a complete master's education accessible to
students with disabilities.
CERTEC aims at providing disabled people not only with assistive technology but also
with knowledge. Of course, this it not to be taken literally: it is not possible to
"give away knowledge". But it is possible to be consciously striving to make it
easier to acquire knowledge, and we are doing just that by focusing on giving learning for
and about people with disabilities an honest chance.
All previous changes in everyday education have had one thing in common - they have
influenced some particular aspect, perhaps a certain perspective or a minor part of a
course or a lecture or a book. Similar to the way one move in a chess game will usually
(at least temporarily) affect only the immediate vicinity of the chess piece. We are now
experiencing something which looks more like the Othello game: adding one single piece may
have global consequences. "The only piece" is the Intemet. The use of the
Internet can actually, although it sounds odd, from certain points of view provide greater
proximity than an ordinary lecture (see ).
And suddenly it is possible, for example, to let the students be the ones who are
asking the questions. Whether disabled or not. Students are able to get to the very
source. It is not only "dare to know", catchwords of the Age of Enlightenment,
which are echoing. The "to the source" (ad fontes!) of the Renaissance has
suddenly become reality.
One reason why learning is one of CERTEC's priorities, that is, why we are focusing on
the process of how information can turn into knowledge and on how education can contribute
to this process, is that if people with disabilities themselves acquire knowledge about
rehabilitation engineering they can in themselves unite their insights both into the
effects of the disability and into how the technology can be made to meet their needs,
wishes and dreams. Thereby, the iterative process can sometimes take place inside the
individual person, which certainly reduces the risk of mistakes being made. Peter
Anderberg is an excellent example of such a person and of the importance of such a person.
The university's famous bridge between research and education could be sturdier and
stronger if it was built between research and learning instead. The latter processes are
the ones that are most closely related. Research generates knowledge which is new to the
researcher and to humanity, while learning generates knowledge which is new only to the
student. However, on an individual level, both research and learning are about human
learning and therefore there are many similarities between them.
When focusing on learning, CERTEC also wanted to look for support in research, but
unfortunately there is not very much there. Pedagogical research has been focusing on
education, teaching, syllabuses, curriculums, organization, etc. For instance, the process
of learning has been the subject of fewer than 5% of all doctoral theses in
education in Sweden during the 20th century. There is insufficient knowledge about the
mentalizing process itself, that is, about what happens when a person learns something.
Nothing influences development as much as a well-developed thought infrastructure. This
is why it is always necessary to work on thought patterns, to question their relevance and
make them visible and shared. In other words, one has to acquire a functional and
revealing language, a shared way of looking at reality. Here, IT is a powerful tool to
make new results visible and to challenge and provoke existing knowledge in the direction
of increasing brilliancy.
Much handicap research is done as interdisciplinary studies. There are advantages to
this in the short term, but in the long term it is difficult to take further. The most
important objection to interdisciplinary studies and projects is supposed to be financing
difficulties and irregular, short term project organization. However, CERTEC believes that
there is a far more serious problem: the interdisciplinary approach has fallen altogether
short when it comes to language development. With the participation of capable individuals
from various disciplines it is possible to achieve a good result, with new and relevant
knowledge. If, however, the new knowledge is abandoned out in the interdisciplinary desert
when the project is finished, it is almost certainly lost. It is not suited to being
transferred to old disciplines. The project results cannot be kept alive and be developed
further without constant, continuous work being done on theories, methods, language, and
structuring. This is not detrimental if the field in question is, and is supposed to be,
ephemeral (for example a project with the aim of solving a specific problem using a
specific type of technology for a specific period of six months). A finished project is
supposed to be just that, finished. However, if the field is more eternal (such as
rehabilitation engineering, where lifespan of the insights gained from research is far
longer than that of a specific generation of technology), it is a waste of human effort to
allow interdisciplinary structures to be the only possible ones for a project. It is an
open but challenging question how far IT can help, being a platform for a fast formation
of concepts and theories in a recently unstructured and premature interdisciplinary field.
In the USA, the Americans with Disabilities Act applies, making physical accessibility
mandatory. The new telecom law from 1996 is a law in the same spirit. It has a special
(255 stating that telecommunication equipment and telecom services are to be accessible to
and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. It is the
manufacturers that have to prove if something is not "readily achievable", and
any prototype that shows an achievability is precedential. Whenever accessibility is not
achieved, the manufacturers or providers shall "ensure that the equipment or service
is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment
commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if readily
achievable". We strongly believe that, because of the international trade and telecom
market, $255 will have a deep influence also in Europe on the telecommunications and thus
on IT and learning. The CERTEC research on how the Phantom could enable blind children to
get a complementary virtual sensory computer interface (also pr.esented at this conference
in a paper by Jönsson and Sjöström) might be one of the projects with precedential
The complete law is made available at .
For the first time in history of (dis)abilities, not only thresholds of wood or stone
but also cognitive thresholds and distances as thresholds can be overcome through pure
technological breakthroughs. To get further, however, there is a need for a closer
combination between the research on rehabilitation Internet-ing and the pedagogic of
special needs education. Both partners have to dare learn and dare research. Together.