Libby Kumin, Ph.D., a professor of speech-language pathology/audiology at Loyola University Maryland, recently received a $178,352 grant from the National Science Foundation to support a research project focused on improving computer interfaces for use by people with Down syndrome.
Most prior research on the topic has grouped individuals with Down syndrome under a large umbrella of "people with cognitive disabilities." Kumin, who has spent more than 30 years working with people with Down syndrome to help develop their speech, language, and communication skills, believes that the outcomes of this previous research are misleading. This study will look specifically at how people with Down syndrome use computers in the workplace, for socializing, and for daily activities.
"People with Down syndrome have unique strengths and challenges, and I believe that the existing research has failed to take these qualities into consideration," she said. "This work, which will uncover modifications to computer interfaces which could create gateways to employment for people with Down syndrome, has the potential to dramatically improve their quality of life."
Kumin's co-investigators on the project are Jonathan Lazar, Ph.D, and Jinjuan Heidi Feng, Ph.D., of Towson University. Lazar, a 1995 graduate of Loyola, is Kumin's son. A paper the team submitted on its earlier research won the "Best Paper Award" at the Association for Computing Machinery 2008 Conference on Computers and Accessibility, the nation's most competitive and respected conference for accessibility research.
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