research in focus

Nowhere to park your accessible van: Augmented signage may increase access to van-accessible parking spaces

Driving is a key to independence for many Americans, including Americans with disabilities. Whether they drive a standard vehicle or a modified one equipped with a ramp or lift, many drivers with disabilities can obtain permits to park in designated accessible parking spaces. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) indicates specific requirements for these parking spaces such as the number of accessible parking spaces to be set aside in a lot, signage and ground markings, and designated parking spaces for standard vehicles as well as for vans equipped with ramps or lifts.

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Evidence-Based Employment Programs Can Succeed Over Time with Support and Leadership

Individual placement and support (IPS) is an evidence-based supported employment program designed to help people with mental health disabilities find and keep jobs. In an IPS program, employment specialists work with clients in the community mental health setting to develop job goals, find job placements, and receive on-the-job supports. IPS programs may be run by state departments of mental health or vocational rehabilitation or they may be run within community mental health centers.

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Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities May Face Challenges to Staying Physically Active

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have conditions like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, or other genetic syndromes. People with IDD may have challenges with learning, communicating or decision-making, and sometimes, challenges with mobility. Previous studies have shown that adults with IDD are less likely to be physically active than adults without IDD.

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A Coordinated Rehabilitation Program May Help Workers with Burn Injuries Get Back to Work

About half a million Americans are treated for burn injuries each year, and many of these burn injuries occur in the workplace. A burn injury may result from a fire or contact with hot liquids, electricity, or chemicals. People may experience physical limitations after a burn injury that may make it difficult to return to work. Studies have shown that up to one in four burn survivors become unemployed and do not return to work after their injury.

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A Walking Program Can Reduce Fatigue for People with Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is lasting brain damage after a head trauma, such as from an accident. A TBI can cause symptoms that last for many years after the injury. Research has shown that fatigue is one of the most common long-term problems people may experience after a TBI. Fatigue may cause a person to feel too tired to keep up with work, family, or leisure activities. In past studies, regular exercise such as walking has been linked to lower levels of fatigue in people with many different types of disabilities, but this has not been well studied in people with TBI.

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People with Serious Mental Illness May Be at Risk for Obesity and Diabetes

Serious mental illnesses (SMI) are conditions like schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder. In past studies, people with SMI have reported more physical health problems than people without SMI. In particular, they may have a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese, as well as a higher risk of diabetes. According to some researchers, these problems may be caused by side effects of medications taken to treat SMI, but they could also be due to high-fat/low-fiber diets or a lack of exercise.

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People with SCI Who Are More Mobile May Experience Less Pain

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage anywhere along the spinal cord, usually from an accident or other trauma. An SCI can cause paralysis below the waist (paraplegia) or above the waist (tetraplegia). More than 80% of people with SCI experience chronic pain. This pain may be caused by nerves “misfiring” through the damaged part of the spinal cord and sending pain signals to the brain. Previous studies have shown that being physically mobile may help reduce chronic pain after an injury.

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Self-Employment May Be a Promising Avenue to Economic Independence for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities may encounter barriers to obtaining competitive employment, meaning full- or part-time work in an integrated setting that pays at least a minimum wage. These barriers may include inaccessible work sites, a lack of transportation, and health challenges that make it difficult to keep a traditional work schedule. Self-employment is an alternative that can reduce these challenges by giving people with disabilities more control over their work setting and schedule.

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What’s the Buzz: Using Vibratory Haptic Feedback to Improve Grip Strength in Hand Prostheses

According to the Amputee Coalition of America, more than 735,000 Americans have had an upper limb amputation, and up to half of these individuals use a prosthetic hand. A myoelectric prosthesis is a type of prosthetic hand controlled by muscles in the upper arm. The prosthesis is connected to electronic sensors used to detect minute muscle movements and electrical activity from the muscles and nerves. Those movements and electrical activity provide information to the motors that would then use that information to move the wrist, hand, and fingers of the prosthesis.

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Self-Directed Care May Help People with Serious Mental Illness Take an Active Role in Their Recovery

Serious mental illnesses (SMI) are conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. People with serious mental illness often receive traditional mental health services funded by Medicaid, such as medications or psychotherapy. These services may help reduce SMI symptoms, but they may not be effective enough to help people with SMI participate fully in their communities. Self-directed care (SDC) is a new and alternative approach to traditional care for people with SMI.

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