NSF accelerates use-inspired solutions for persons with disabilities
The U.S. National Science Foundation is building upon basic research to accelerate solutions that enhance opportunities for persons with disabilities. With an investment of $11.8 million, NSF’s Convergence Accelerator selected 16 multidisciplinary Phase 1 teams for the 2022 Cohort, Track H: Enhancing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
An estimated 1.3 billion or 1 in 6 people globally experience significant disability, according to the World Health Organization. Persons with disabilities are hindered in their abilities to achieve better economic opportunities, quality of life, health and wellness.
"Transdisciplinary, use-inspired research offers tremendous potential to accelerate novel solutions to the everyday challenges faced by persons with disabilities," said Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. "Through the Convergence Accelerator's Track H, we are bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise spanning academia, industry, nonprofits and other communities to enable solutions and open opportunities for people who need it most."
Phase 1 teams will develop new technologies and tools to enhance the quality of life and employment access and opportunities for persons with disabilities. At the end of Phase 1, teams submit a formal Phase 2 proposal and pitch for up to $5 million of additional support over 24 months to further develop their solutions and sustainability development plans.
"We are excited to welcome Track H teams into the Convergence Accelerator's portfolio," said Douglas Maughan, head of the NSF's Convergence Accelerator. "Over the next nine months, the teams will develop their initial idea into a proof of concept, identify new team members and partners, and participate in the program's innovation curriculum, which provides fundamentals in human-centered design; team science; use-inspired research; early-stage prototyping; and communications, storytelling and pitching.”
The awardees include:
- Advancement of Driving Technology for Vocational Enablement, led by Mississippi State University.
- AI-based Tools to Enhance Access and Opportunities for the Deaf, led by Rutgers University.
- Appropriate Rehabilitation Technology via Passive Tactile Stimulation, led by Stanford University.
- Automating Transportation Affordances for People Living with Disabilities Using a Machine Learning Approach, led by Utah State University.
- Bridging the Fragmentation of Information Access — An Integrated, Multimodal System for Inclusive Content Creation, Conversion, and Delivery, led by Saint Louis University.
- Convergent, Human-Centered Design for Making Voice-Activated AI Accessible and Fair to People Who Stutter, led by Michigan State University.
- Determining Community Needs for Accessibility Tools that Facilitate Programming Education and Workforce Readiness for Persons with Disabilities, led by the University of Southern California.
- Developing Experiential Accessible Framework for Partnerships and Opportunities in Data Science for the Deaf Community, led by Purdue University.
- Leveraging Human-Centered AI Microtransit to Ameliorate Spatiotemporal Mismatch Between Housing and Employment for Persons with Disabilities, led by Wayne State University.
- Making Virtual Reality Meetings Accessible to Knowledge Workers with Visual Impairments, led by Cornell University.
- Mobility Independence Through Accelerated Wheelchair Intelligence, led by Northwestern University.
- Next Generation Augmentative and Alternative Communication Technology Powered by Artificial Intelligence, led by the University of Arkansas.
- Rapid Fabrication of Custom-Fit Reshapable Prosthetic Devices with Electronic Skin Sensors, led by Rocky Tech, Ltd.
- Restoring Arm Function After Stroke, led by Harvard University.
- Smart Wearables for Expanding Workplace Access for People with Blindness and Low Vision, led by New York University Medical Center.
- Towards a Community-Driven Framework for the Creation and Impact Analysis of Digital Accessibility Maps with Persons with Disabilities, led by Wichita State University,
Convergence Accelerator research tracks begin in the program's ideation process, gathering input from the community. Identified topics that meet the program's criteria are further developed through NSF-funded community workshops. The workshop findings are then used to assist NSF in selecting convergence research topics.
Launched in 2019, the Convergence Accelerator — a Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, or TIP, program — builds upon NSF's investment in basic research and discovery to accelerate solutions toward societal and economic impact. Convergence Accelerator multidisciplinary teams use convergence research fundamentals and innovation processes to stimulate innovative idea sharing and development of sustainable solutions.