AMAC and CATEA Research Centers Celebrate Milestones

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Decades of accessibility research culminates in major milestones this week for two research centers in the College of Design. And you’re invited to the celebration!

AMAC Accessibility Solutions and Research Center this year marks 10 years of providing products and services to those with disabilities.

Also this year, the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) moved from its location in a church on 10th Street to join AMAC in the same building on Means Street.

Being in the same building led the two Centers this year to create the Centers for Inclusive Design Innovation, which has already received funding for a project.

The Centers want to mark these milestones at an open house Thursday at their offices at 512 Means St., from 4-7 p.m.

Visitors will have the opportunity to tour their space, see demonstrations, such as AMAC’s braille machines used for tactile printing, and their student disability accommodation software.

CATEA will show various posters and demonstrations from current and past research projects. That includes the posters submitted to the TechSAge Design Competition for the GatePal app featured on the College of Design, and the TechSAge ALIGN app, which was mentioned in Atlanta Magazine and nominated for a Groundbreaker Award.

Transforming Accessibility in the College of Design

Although the approaches of the two Centers are different, they both use technology to assist people with disabilities and those aging with limitations.

Focused on helping students with disabilities, AMAC first offered services in 2006 at the University of Georgia. The Center moved to the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2010. Center Director Christopher Lee, along with Noel Gregg and other colleagues at UGA, were the inspiration behind AMAC. Gregg worked with AMAC for a few years and has since retired.

Today AMAC has more than 50 staff members who serve 800 member institutions and hundreds more who use their services on an as-needed basis. Not bad for a Center that started with 14 members serving 100 universities.

During the past 10 years, AMAC faced challenges, “including reducing the high cost of accommodations … and integrating a business model that would leverage existing business partners,” Lee said in a statement.

AMAC overcame these challenges and Lee transformed the Center into “an international research and development organization focused on inclusive design in corporate offices, government organizations and nonprofit environments,” he said.

One of AMAC’s biggest grants is the First in The World Grant from the U.S. Department of Education which funds the research of the Center for Accessible Materials Innovation (CAMI). The multi-million-dollar grant will help the center study the graduation gap between students with disabilities and their peers without.

CATEA started as the Center for Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) in 1980, and became the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access in 1999.

CATEA’s focus today is on resources to help employers make accommodations decisions, promote accessible STEM education, and resources to promote health and wellness among seniors while also serving their accessibility needs.

In the past dozen years, CATEA had three national Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers funded by the federal government’s National Institute on Independent Living, Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

These are the largest ($4.5-$4.75 million over 5 years) and most prestigious awards made by NIDILRR, and funded CATEA projects: “Workplace Accommodations” (2003-2013), “Wheeled Mobility” (2004-2016), and currently “TechSAge” (2013-2018). Current funding also includes a $2.5 million, 5-year study to demonstrate that universal design is a more effective strategy than ADA-required workplace accommodations to engage workers with disabilities.

According to CATEA Director Jon Sanford, by dollar amount, AMAC and CATEA account for about 70 percent of the outside funding in the College, with CATEA as the second largest research center in the College of Design.

Building Georgia Tech’s Accessibility Legacy

The move to create the Centers for Inclusive Design Innovation (CIDI), gives AMAC and CATEA, the two largest centers in the College, the opportunity to collaborate on a larger level, Sanford said.

“CATEA has expertise in research, particularly related to technology and the environment. AMAC has expertise in training and service provision, particularly related to information technology and assistive technology. These complementary programs can strengthen each other,” he noted.

“For example, the new Assistive Software Knowledgebase project was actually awarded to CIDI, and will use the expertise of both CATEA and AMAC.

“CIDI provides an umbrella to show one face to the outside world without losing the identities and name recognition of either center,” Sanford said.


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