RESNA 26th International Annual Confence

Technology & Disability: Research, Design, Practice & Policy

June 19 to June 23, 2003
Atlanta, Georgia


Kathy Longenecker Rust and Roger O. Smith
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


This paper presents preliminary results of a two part study that examined 1) the current use of outcomes measures by Federally funded investigators of assistive technology (AT) and 2) the use and perception of outcomes measures by commercial developers of AT. For part one, Federal grant principal investigators received an open-ended request for their methodologies. For part two a random sample of commercial developers received a survey. This paper presents preliminary results from this second survey. The data show that product developers appear to be indicating substantial interest in types of outcomes data. The findings also suggest how the data might be used by commercial product developers if they were available.


These product development outcomes data studies reside as a component of the overall ATOMS Project (Assistive Technology Outcome Measurement System) and its needs assessment efforts. As one of the twelve ATOMS Project "field scans" this activity contributes to the review of the field in an attempt to identify gaps in the current state of outcomes measurement instruments and systems. Sources for this field scan include disability related product development from the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) R&D projects from several federal agencies, the NIDRR sponsored Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERC), technology related R&D projects funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and manufacturers of assistive technology need to measure the success of their products under development. Fuhrer (1) suggested that developers struggle to find appropriate outcomes instruments and methodologies for their projects. However, the severity of the problem or how outcomes measurement is perceived by product developers has not been investigated. Results of a survey sent to commercial product developers are presented in this paper.


  1. What importance do product developers place on outcome dimensions of AT?
  2. How do product developers perceive the appropriateness of different types of standardized instrumentation?
  3. How would product developers use valid outcome data?
  4. Currently, how frequently do product developers use specific measurement strategies and formal instrumentation to quantify outcome?


This portion of the study involved the development and distribution of an outcomes methodology-related survey to 500 product developers. Content for the survey evolved from ATOMS service provider focus group discussions and literature review. Random sampling of the ABLEDATA (2) international database of more than 1,100 active companies, after being limited to United States companies, provided a sample of 500 commercial product developers.


The following results are based on preliminary data. We suspect that the trends found in this initial set will hold as data collection is completed in early 2003. For the product developers, undeliverable mail comprised 116 of the 500 surveys. Five product developers declined. 31 responses have accumulated as of early December 2002.

Tables one and two provide the mean responses to the survey questions for the first two research questions.

Table 1: Mean responses to the question "How important is each one of the following outcome dimensions of AT for product development? (preliminary data)

Outcome Dimensions of AT


Clinical result/goal achievement


Improved quality of life


Increased life participation


Consumer satisfaction


Usage: Why or why not used




Change in performance or function


*Rated: 1=not at all 3=somewhat 5=extremely important


Table 2: Mean responses to the question "If standardized instrumentation were available, how appropriate would each of the following be for your product development?" (preliminary data)

Type of Instrumentation

Likelihood of Use

Telephone survey measure


Mail survey measure


Focus group protocol and group survey measure


Functional performance impact measure


Cost measure (device, acquisition, fitting, learning)


Product self-satisfaction measure


*Rated 1 = wouldn't 3=somewhat 5=very appropriate

Table three displays the preliminary data for research question #3: How would product developers use valid outcome data?

Table 3: Mean responses to the question "If you had valid outcome data about your products, how likely would you be to use it for the following business products? (preliminary data)

Potential Use of Outcome Data

Likelihood of Use

Strategies for further product development


Obtaining investors


Obtaining grant funding


Identification of need for new products


Product revision/improvement during development


Product brochures


General marketing information


*Rated 1 = wouldn't 3=frequently 5=always

The responses related to the 4th research question, "How frequently do product developers use specific measurement strategies and formal instrumentation to quantify outcome?," were as follows. When presented with a checklist of potential measurement/data collection strategies 24% of the respondents reported not using any at all, 51% reported using them some of the time, and 24% reported using them all of the time. Similarly, when presented with a list of potential types of formal instrumentation, 18% reported not using any at all, 56% reported using formal instrumentation some of the time, and 26% reported using it all of the time.


Overall, the results of this survey indicate that product developers have a significant interest in outcomes instrumentation. They readily see application of outcomes data and indicate support for varied use of the information. Current use of specific measurement strategies and formal instrumentation procedures by commercial product developers will be compared to that of funded investigators in a subsequent publication. It appears that for product developers, the development of formal outcomes measurement is highly desirable.


  1. Fuhrer, M. J. (2001). Assistive Technology outcomes research: Challenges met and yet unmet. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 80(7), 528-535.
  2. ABLEDATA, 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 930, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:


This project is supported in part by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, grant number H133A010403. The opinions contained in this paper are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIDRR and the U.S. Department of Education.

Kathy Longenecker Rust, MS. OTR
Center for Rehabilitation Sciences and Technology,
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
PO Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201-0413

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