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News Archive 2001 - 2010

$2.2 Million Grant to Develop Communications Devices for Disabled

October 28, 2003

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has awarded $2.2 million to researchers in the Computer Science and Engineering Department to develop customized, smart devices and related services to help disabled people more fully use telecommunications services, live more independently and have greater remote access to health care services. The two-year grant is part of $7 million in grants awarded statewide recently to 16 universities, school districts and non-profit organizations.

Led by Dr. Farhad Kamangar, the research team will develop small wireless communication devices known as Personal Portable Devices (PPDs) that would be customized for ease of use based on a person’s disability and programmed to meet an individual’s specific needs and interests. Plans call for the PPDs to have multiple uses, not just two-way communication. For instance, health care workers, using the Internet, would be able to send real-time or scheduled messages to PPD users, and the devices potentially could be used for health care monitoring, telemedicine and other uses.

Initially, researchers plan to focus on developing PPDs to serve the vision and hearing impaired, and people with mild cognitive disabilities. PPDs would rely on existing telecommunication networks to operate over but have their own communications infrastructure of Web servers, databases and other supporting structure.

Under the UTA grant, researchers will conduct a pilot project that provides PPDs and related services to disabled people in a 12-county rural region in Northeast Texas. Rural areas often lack the telecommunications infrastructure found in urban areas, and researchers may augment the infrastructure with satellite and other communications services to fulfill the communications needs of disabled people who live there. The counties in the pilot project are Grayson, Fannin, Lamar, Red River, Bowie, Hunt, Cass, Gregg, Harrison, Panola, Shelby and Hopkins counties.

Collaborating with the Computer Science and Engineering Department team on the project are the Center for Computer Assistance to the Disabled, a nonprofit organization in Dallas, and SenorLogic Inc., a developer and provider of telemetry services in Addison.