29th Annual RESNA Conference Proceedings

Software for PDA Supporting People with Higher Brain Dysfunction in Vocational Training

Tsuyoshi NAKAYAMA*, Sigeru TOYAMA*, Seishi KATO*, Kazunori OKAYA**,
Noriyuki UEDA**, Takayuki NOMURA and Hiroshi UEMATSU***
*Research Institute, National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities,
**National Vocational Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities,
Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan
***Meiden Software Corporation, Numazu, Shizuoka, Japan


This paper shows a personal digital assistant (PDA), supporting people with higher brain dysfunction (HBD), including cognitive disorder, memory disorder, attention-deficit disorder, and so on. The software equipped in the PDA has functions such as schedule management, alarm, and instructing work sequences. The handling of the PDA is easy for the user and the design of the display is simple. Through evaluation experiments, this PDA was shown to be useful for people with HBD especially in performing vocational training subjects such as a picking work.


Cognitive disorder, memory disorder, traumatic brain injury, personal digital assistant


Recent investigation performed by the National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities (NCRD) showed that a considerable amount of Japanese people suffer from higher brain dysfunction (HBD) including a cognitive disorder, a memory disorder, and an attention-deficit disorder that were caused by traumatic brain injuries, encephalitis, and so forth. It is very difficult for them to get jobs or to come back to work because of their disabilities. Some of them find difficulties even in daily lives. Although persons with disabilities can receive social security benefits in Japan, people with HBD had been left behind. There were little social systems or legal grounds for them. In order to support people with HBD from multiple aspects, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan launched a project in NRCD in 2001(1).

There are some devices or special software helping people with cognitive disorders in Europe and the United States (2, 3), but Japanese people can not use them because of the different languages. In order to give them more chances in vocational rehabilitation, we have developed software for PDA assisting persons with HBD since 2002.


Figure 1 shows an example of a screenshot of the PDA software.  It instructs a work process, the way to use a copier.  In the center of the screen there is a sentence written in Japanese.  It instructs the user to make sure the remaining amount of copy paper.
Fig. 1: An example of a screenshot of the PDA software instructing a work process

The developed software is limited only for PDA whose OS is Microsoft Windows, Pocket PC. This software has functions such as schedule management, alarming, and instructing work sequences. The way to use the PDA should be simple, because persons with HBD sometimes become bewildered when they meet complex procedures. The only thing that the user should do is pushing the screen of the PDA. Since all data are edited by specialized software on a personal computer, they are transmitted from a PC into PDA via a USB connection cable. An example of a screenshot of the software on PDA instructing a work process is shown in Figure 1. The work process that the user should head for is displayed step by step. The software can also provide photos, memos, and speeches. When the user touches the PDA screen, it scrolls up a little and the next step will appear in the center of the display. In this way, the user can finish the work process by following the step displayed sequentially. The schedule management or alarming is also easy to use. Each function can be linked together. For instance, it can make an alarm action while instructing a work process if it is edited in advance by the specialized software on PC.

A picking work subject was selected as to evaluate the effect of the software, because it is a popular vocational training subject in Japan. A tray filled with many kinds of screws is located in front of a trainee. The trainee has to pick a proper set of screws from the tray according to an order form. After picking screws, the trainee has to calculate the total price by referring to the price list of screws. A series of picking work tests were conducted with six trainees with HBD. Three trainees took a series of picking work test by using PDA. The other three took the test without PDA but with memo instructing the procedure. All experiments were conducted with enough informed consent to the trainees. All experiments were approved by the ethical review board of the NRCD.


Fig. 2: d Change of the time required for each trainee to finish the picking work test (Click image for larger view)

The results of the evaluation experiment are shown in Figure 2. The x-axis and y-axis represent the number of the trials and the time required for each trainee to finish the picking work test, respectively. The trainees 1 to 3 took the test without PDA but with memos, and the trainees 4 to 6 did by using the PDA. The normalized and averaged data are shown in Figure 3. The y-axis represents the normalized and averaged time required for trainees to finish the picking work test. The AVE1 in Figure 3 shows the normalized and averaged data of trainees without PDA and the AVE2 shows those of trainees with PDA.


Fig. 3: d Change of the normalized and averaged time required for trainees to finish the picking work test (Click image for larger view)

Five trainees could reduce the required times shown in Figure 2. The times required for trainee 5 and 6 decreased gradually as the trial number increased. Especially trainee 6 could reduce the time to nearly half. These results indicate that some people with HBD can get used to work sequences with PDA. On the other hand, the rest trainees could not reduce the times smoothly as the trial number increased. In the case of trainee 3, the required time increased even after the sixth trial. These results mean that it is nearly impossible for a certain type of persons with HBD to get used to typical work sequences even if using memos. All three trainees using PDA could reduce the required time compared with the first trial. After six trials the required time for them was shortened to about 64 % on an average shown in Figure 3. It means that this PDA software is able to become a useful tool for some people with HBD in vocational rehabilitative training.

This PDA software for people with HBD has already been on market since 2004 (4). On market version cannot provide the full functions developed so far, but main three functions such as schedule management, alarm, and instructing work sequences. Some rehabilitation hospitals and local vocational centers for persons with disabilities purchased this software. A vocational rehabilitative training by using the PDA software has started in these facilities. In the next step, we have tried to develop navigation software for people with topographical disorientation. It can provide directions to prevent them from missing their ways especially indoors.


  1. The National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities of Japan, available from < http://www.rehab.go.jp/ri/brain/index.shtml> (accessed 2006-01-05, in Japanese).
  2. Aldrich F. K. (1997). Neuropage: a case study. Interfaces, the British HCI Group, Number 35, 22-23.
  3. LoPresti E.F., et al. (2005). Distributed Cognitive Aid with Scheduling and Interactive Task Guidance. Proceedings of the 28th Annual RESNA Conference.
  4. Meiden Software Corporation, the MemoryAssist, available from < http://talkassist.meidensoftware.co.jp/ma/index.html> (accessed 2006-01-05, in Japanese).


This study was funded by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan and by the Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.

Author Contact Information:

Tsuyoshi Nakayama, MS,
The National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities of Japan
1, Namiki 4-chome
Tokorozawa City, Saitama Pref., 359-8555, Japan
Phone +81-42-995-3100
E-mail: nakayama@rehab.go.jp

This should be in the right column.