Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Assistive Technology @ MIT - Universal Access

IDEAS Competition

Assistive Technology @ MIT - Universal Access

Competition Year: 2011

Enable people with severe physical disabilities to use mobile computing devices

Health and Medical Mobile Devices and Communications

  • Team Members
  • W. Li
  • A. Perez
  • A. Basu
  • C. Souchet
  • A. Jacquillat
  • R. Pande



Technology is a cure
Assistive Technology

Quick Links

Our Pitch

Today's smartphones, tablet computers, e-readers, and netbooks have locked out a population of people who could arguably benefit from them most: people with severe physical disabilities who cannot use small touchscreens, flip keyboards, or other conventional input modalities. This project focuses on creating a universally accessible mobile device for this population and demonstrating its usefulness in a real-world long-term care setting. Our objective is to develop a toolkit including common hardware and software platforms that will make it possible for any individual to fully access a mobile device with any input interface (i.e. a pushbutton switch, sip an puff switch, Webcam-based head tracker, or other device) in order to make telephone calls, browse the Web, communicate with others, and control their environment. We plan to build and showcase specific solutions at the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a residence for individuals with advanced Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS). The near-term goal is to create a solution that works effectively for residences at the Florence Center to allow them to call elevators, send text messages to caregivers, open doors, and control other devices; our long-term vision is to catalyze the development of mobile technologies that are universally accessible.


Enable residents with disabilities at the Leonard Florence Center control their environment, regardless of their physical ability

Who We Are

William Li (Team Leader) William is a second-year graduate student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and the Technology and Policy Program with an undergraduate background in biomedical engineering. His experience includes the development of a virtual reality therapy system at a children's rehabilitation hospital as an undergraduate, research on speech recognition for a robotic wheelchair for people with limited fine motor skills, and work with volunteer assistive technology student groups at the University of Toronto and MIT. William helped found the MIT Assistive Technology Club, which has now grown into a vibrant community of students, staff, and researchers that receives requests from people with disabilities in the Greater Cambridge/Boston area for low-cost, customized assistive devices.

Rachna Pande (Team Leader) Rachna is a second year graduate student in the Technology and Policy Program. She is a biochemical engineering graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology. She has 3 years of consulting experience in sales and marketing for pharmaceutical firms and volunteers in ICT for health in India. In this project, Rachna is leveraging her on-the-ground expertise with mobile solutions and her rich background in scalable and sustainable healthcare models to improve the economics of assistive technology for people with disabilities.

Aditi Basu A senior in Mechanical Engineering at Boston University, Aditi is interested in determining and documenting ways to physically interface computing devices, switches, and other peripherals onto power wheelchairs. Her project experiences include building a LEGO Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), which is to be built out of LEGO pieces and fully programmed and controlled by a computer to simulate a real AFM. In this project, Aditi aims to work closely with residents at the Leonard Florence Center to evaluate scalable mounting solutions that are robust to changing physical needs, movement patterns, and environments.

Alejandro Perez Alejandro is a visiting student at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), currently working with the Agile Robotics group. He is a computer engineering graduate from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. His experience includes working on computer vision and real-time path planning algorithms for proof of concept lunar rovers at NASA and the development of optimal real-time motion planning algorithms for autonomous vehicles at MIT. Alejandro is applying his background in computer vision and signal processing to develop low-cost, open-source access devices that will interface easily with off-the-shelf mobile devices.

Alexandre Jacquillat Alexandre is a first-year graduate student in the Technology and Policy Program. He graduated from the French Ecole Polytechnique in Applied Mathematics and Economics. He interned for six months in a non-profit organization dedicated to locked-in syndrome; his work included both adapting high-tech devices to patients and helping patients to communicate efficiently and control their environment without speech nor motion.

Claire Souchet Claire is a graduate student in Boston University. Her interests include entrepreneurship, marketing and communication. She graduated in France in International Business Law. She worked for a non-profit organization which provides help and support to senior citizens in retirement homes. She is particularly interested in the use of information technology and social networks in sharing ideas, expressing commitment and seeking involvement.

Our Community Partner

Partner Name

Leonard Florence Center


165,Captains Row, Chelsea, MA


Imagine a nursing home where residents live in houses that reflect their respective interests, values and needs. A place where elders can receive individualized skilled nursing care and support with daily activities, but without this assistance becoming the focus of their existence.


  • Service Location
    201 Captains Row, Chelsea, Massachusetts
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Comments and Support

  • Access to information should be a right for all, but even when it comes to Tablets y Smartphones as a support tool for people who like you say, require some form of social assistance. You must find the way that this technology is not only used for surfing the web, but to provide a real benefit to people who need it most,

    Posted by Andesken on Fri, May 17th 2013, 20:31 Report Abuse

  • Jednakże, skoro egzystuje tak wiele zbieżności, dlaczego papierosy elektroniczne uznaje się wszak wewnątrz lepsze od owych zwykłych? Tudzież w istocie dlatego, że ich stosowanie nie wiąże się z niebezpiecznym procesem palenia tytoniu (tudzież generowanym symultanicznie smogiem), że można spożywa zapalić wszędzie w tym miejscu, e-papierosy gdzie tradycyjny papieros stanowi otoczony zakazem, że elektroniczne papierosy umożliwiają systematyczne obniżanie miar nikotyny (co wprost skutkuje w uproszczenie bitwy z nałogiem), że w pojmowaniu całorocznym stanowią one tańsze o 80%, i że nie generują one przykrego odoru, którym miałoby przemoknąć zaś pomieszczenie, w jakim jaramy, natomiast nasze ciuchy, natomiast polski dech.

    Posted by stary on Tue, May 14th 2013, 16:28 Report Abuse

  • Sex Cams A webcam is a video camera that feeds its images in real time to a computer or computer network, often via USB, ethernet, or Wi-Fi. Their most popular use is the establishment of video links, permitting computers to act as videophones or videoconference stations. The common use as a video camera for the World Wide Web gave the webcam its name. Other popular uses include security surveillance, computer vision, video broadcasting, and for recording social videos . Webcams are known for their low manufacturing cost and flexibility,] making them the lowest cost form of videotelephony. They have also become a source of security and privacy issues, as some built-in webcams can be remotely activated via spyware. Adult WebCam Adult Video Chat Adult Cams Live Chat Adult WebCam

    Posted by peasextTade on Tue, Oct 23rd 2012, 08:37 Report Abuse

  • Hello, My name is Aaron Shute, I work for a company involved with AAC. MAny of our devices are consumer tablets (Samsung Galaxy's) we have built in a lot of access solutions using bluetooth enabled switches. I would love to come and show you at some point. Aaron

    Posted by Aaron Shute on Thu, Aug 23rd 2012, 13:30 Report Abuse

  • Hi, Good initiative. You may try our ADITI product that is an input device to a computer developed to enable the child suffering from cerebral palsy to access the computer. The ADITI is working on a capacitive interface called Theremin principle; if human body comes closer to the antenna plate of the ADITI it will create a left-click of a mouse on the computer. This will help people with severe muscular skeletal disorders – Cerebral Palsy, Arthritis etc to interact with computers more easily – to enter data, to write emails, to create documents and to play games - thereby opening up a whole new world for them This product is already in the pilot production stage in the quantities of 100s and distributed to NGOs for their usage and feedback. Continuous improvement on the design is ongoing to reduce the cost, increase the reliability and significantly revamp the aesthetics. This was originally developed by IIT Madras, India and MindTree is adding Engineering Values to it to take it to the mass production. If you are interested, please let me know. Thanks, Manix.

    Posted by Manix on Sun, Nov 6th 2011, 19:36 Report Abuse

  • The aim of the project is very noble.I am a second year undergrad. student in computer sciences at IIT Delhi and can work out with the softwares needed for this project. I am looking forward for its progress.

    Posted by Rahul Nagar on Thu, Sep 29th 2011, 12:31 Report Abuse

  • Hello, All! We are contacting you because our research team the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at Georgia Tech in collaboration with Fordham University is trying to learn more about how adults with disabilities adapt to the workplace environment. Our goal is to find out about difficulties experienced in the workplace by adults with disabilities and accommodations that individuals use to cope with these difficulties. To accomplish our goal, we need volunteers to fill out a survey asking questions related to your workplace (whether you work from home or in an office), difficulties experienced at work because of a disability, and your overall well-being. If you choose to participate in the study, you will be asked to fill out an electronic survey. The survey should take approximately 30 minutes to complete and you have the option of saving your work and returning to the survey at a later time. Please note that your identity will be kept completely confidential. The information you provide will be important in helping us learn about the strategies people with disabilities use to accomplish work tasks. Please click the following link to begin filling out the survey: Please contact Michelle Paggi at if you have any questions. We greatly appreciate your time. Sincerely, Michelle Paggi

    Posted by Michelle Paggi on Wed, Jul 27th 2011, 15:07 Report Abuse

  • I am sure this great team will bring better quality of life for disabled people

    Posted by v. blandin on Sun, Jun 19th 2011, 03:34 Report Abuse

  • You might rephrase the pitch: "Today's smartphones, tablet computers, e-readers, and netbooks have locked out a population of people FROM whoM THEY could arguably benefit THE most: people with severe physical disabilities who cannot use small touchscreens, flip keyboards, or other conventional input modalities. "

    Posted by p. timony on Thu, Apr 28th 2011, 09:31 Report Abuse

  • We're familiar with Emotiv - there's great potential for it as an access device. Two practical challenges are how someone would put on/take off such a device on a daily basis, and whether they would want to wear such a device on their head for the entire day. The people we're working with currently can use devices like head trackers, single switches, or sip and puff switches reliably, so we are focusing on those solutions for now. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Posted by W. Li on Mon, Mar 28th 2011, 01:25 Report Abuse

  • Have you guys thought about using "Emotiv - Brain Computer Interface Technology." Have a look here

    Posted by V. Maheshwari on Sun, Mar 27th 2011, 20:20 Report Abuse

  • wonderful Project. I look forward to following your progress. I am tetraplegic myself and can relate very well to the problems your device names to address. Claude Gerstle M.D.

    Posted by C. Gerstle on Tue, Jan 11th 2011, 12:18 Report Abuse

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