The T2RERC partner responsible for coordinating consumer testing of potential products, the Western New York Independent Living Project, Inc. (d/b/a the Independent Living Center or ILC), in Buffalo, has nineteen years of experience serving an array of citizens with disabilities. Moreover, the Center has spent the last five years gathering the input of consumers (and care providers and professionals who prescribe assistive devices) on ideal products and specific prototypes with surveys and focus groups like those described elsewhere in this publication.
To collect additional data, some manufacturers may wish to proceed to short-term in-home trials and/or more extensive field-testing. In its prior work, the ILC established a network of cooperating testing centers, eight across New York State, and others in Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. All necessary equipment from dual camcorders to microphones, mixers and a two-drive, continuously recording audio cassette deck has been, and can be, transported to any venue desired.
It is particularly gratifying to announce that the Buffalo Center's on-site capability to carry out these focus groups has recently increased by an order of magnitude with the completion of its New Building Addition. The ILC can now offer the use of a 600-square-foot teleconferencing-capable state-of-the-art Conference Room, designed to be unsurpassed for this purpose as civilization enters the twenty-first century. Four cameras mounted near each corner, one with voice-controlled automatic panning capability, and a three-element pressure-zone microphone suspended from the ceiling on a Plexiglas sound board provide the ability to record every nuance of the participants' reactions to products for further study. Guests can observe the discussions live from the comfort of a recording control room through the six-foot-wide two-way mirror. The 36-inch television is equipped with a quadruplex splitter to permit viewing of just one or all four sources simultaneously, or it can show the image of others who are teleconferencing over our high-quality ISDN data line.
A fully accessible facility
As an organization principally controlled and staffed by professionals with disabilities, the ILC has the tools needed to accommodate participants with a range of needs. The building itself meets and exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act standards for access to all consumers, from wheelchair ramps and lifts to compliant rest rooms to room signage with raised letters and Braille. The Center can offer clients on-staff Sign Language Interpreters for the deaf and computerized print-to-Braille transcription capability; and can also bring in contract personal care aides when needed. For the ease of participation by hard-of-hearing individuals with telephone-compatible hearing aids, an audio inductance loop assistive listening system is concealed in the Conference Room walls.
As participation in T2RERC also advances its broader goals of enhancing the ability of citizens with disabilities to live more self-sufficiently in the community, the Independent Living Center is pleased to be able to make a key contribution to assistive technology transfer and commercialization.
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