Gallaudet University Receives $4.6 Million Grant for a Research Center to Improve Technology Accessibility and Usability for People Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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Gallaudet University's Technology Access Program has received a $4.6 million grant for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology for People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing to support its ongoing efforts to improve the accessibility, usability and performance of 21st century technologies for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Gallaudet University announced today that its Technology Access Program has received a $4.6 million grant for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology for People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH-RERC) to support its ongoing efforts to improve the accessibility, usability and performance of 21st century technologies for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The new five-year grant was awarded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, under the Administration for Community Living at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The DHH-RERC, one of 23 nationwide RERCs, is led by Gallaudet University’s Technology Access Program (TAP) and includes partnerships with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota.

“On behalf of the entire DHH-RERC team, I want to express how excited we are to have been awarded this substantial grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research,” said Dr. Christian Vogler, principal investigator for the DHH-RERC and Director of the Technology Access Program at Gallaudet University. “We are in the middle of a communication and computing revolution. There are so many amazing opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing consumers to completely change the way they communicate, use technology, and access services. This new funding will be absolutely critical to making these changes happen, under deaf and hard of hearing leadership.”

“Our partners bring exceptional talent and creativity to the planned research and development program the DHH-RERC will undertake,” added Linda Kozma-Spytek, co-principal investigator for the DHH-RERC and Senior Research Audiologist in TAP. “This coupled with our long-standing cooperation with deaf and hard of hearing consumer organizations ideally positions us to address new challenges with technology access and tap the potential made possible through advances in computing, while remaining firmly user-centered.”

The $4.6 million grant will support six research and development projects focused on the intersection of technology and disability that can have immediate positive impact on people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Collectively, the six projects will cover pressing needs relevant to the vast spectrum of the deaf and hard of hearing communities, including:

  • user experience research to make voice assistants accessible to people who use sign language, gesture or whose speech is not well understood by computers;
  • auditory brain training to improve speech recognition and cognitive outcomes for older adults with cochlear implants;
  • developing technology and proof-of-concept applications to integrate hearing aids with the internet of things and cloud-based applications;
  • a platform to let consumers and clinicians evaluate hearing devices in realistic listening scenarios;
  • data-driven approaches to assessing and predicting intervention outcomes for children with hearing devices;
  • a consumer-industry alliance to make technology products accessible and usable from the ground up

About DHH-RERC

The DHH-RERC mission is to support consumers in adopting 21st century technologies: changing how they use technology and services, helping them to take control of their communication, and ultimately achieving greater access in all aspects of their lives through research, development and knowledge translation activities. The center is led by the Technology Access Program at Gallaudet University and has been funded since 2019. The current center succeeded the previous RERC on Improving the Accessibility, Usability, and Performance of Technology for Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, which also was led by Gallaudet University’s Technology Access Program from 2014-2019.

This project is supported in part by grant number 90REGE0013, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. The dollar amount of federal funds awarded is $925,000 for the period of September 30, 2019 through September 30, 2020. The percentage of total cost of the project financed with federal funding is 91%. The percentage and dollar amount of the total costs funded by non-governmental sources is 9% at $90,973.

About Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English.

Media contacts:

Robert Weinstock
Gallaudet University
robert.weinstock@gallaudet.edu

Karen Durkin
The Durkin Agency
karen.durkin@thedurkinagency.com

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