Senior Design Projects to Aid Individuals with Disabilities: A Promising Practice in Teaching about Assistive Technology

There are over 35 million people in the United States who have disabilities, all of whom have different needs. A lot of the assistive technology they need is either unavailable, very expensive, or requires custom modification. Many people with disabilities cannot afford custom modifications. For the past twenty years the University of Toledo has been introducing students to assistive technology through senior design projects.

How did the GARDE program support class projects that designed technology for people with disabilities?

The National Science Foundation's General & Age Related Disabilities Engineering (GARDE) program supported undergraduate engineering design projects that developed technology to support people with disabilities. Projects funded through this program had multiple benefits, including:

An Assistive Technology Course: A Promising Practice in Including Disability-Related Topics in the Engineering Curriculum

6.811: Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology (PPAT) is a semester-long, project-based course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) focused on the design and engineering of customized assistive devices for people with disabilities. In PPAT, small teams of students work closely with a person with a disability in the Cambridge, MA area to develop a product or solution that helps them live more independently.

Collaboration Struggles in an Engineering Lab: A Case Study About a Student with Autism


My name is Daniel. As an undergraduate mechanical engineering student, I am required to take a design and manufacturing laboratory course. In this course, students work in teams to build devices using mills, lathes, and other manufacturing equipment. I have high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. At the beginning of the term, I spoke with the instructor about my disability and accommodations.