Scientist in Residence Activities

Clayton Lewis, PhD, Professor of Computer Science, University of Colorado Boulder, has served from 2005 as the Institute's Scientist in Residence, helping to ignite the Institute’s Cloud Computing initiative, among other things. He is currently on leave from the Institute and is helping to develop an initiative in cloud computing for people with disabilities at the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

The role of the scientist in residence is to identify and support the most promising efforts in shaping mainstream technology to serve the interests of people with cognitive disabilities. Current efforts are centered on the following areas:

  1. Workshops on cognitive technology
  2. Encouraging student projects in cognitive technology development
  3. Cognitive accessibility on the World Wide Web
  4. Personal mobile platforms
  5. Vocabulary enhancement
  6. Social software
  7. Dissemination through presentation and publications

Workshops on Cognitive Technology

The Scientist in Residence office has organized a series of workshops, held in conjunction with the Coleman Institute Annual Conferences, at which leaders in the field of accessible technologies meet to share ideas and to shape a cooperative agenda for research, development, and advocacy.

2011 - Implications of Cloud Computing for Residential Supports and Community Services

On October 12, 2011, a roundtable on “Implications of Cloud Computing for Residential Supports and Community Services” was held with invited leaders from industry, higher education, information technology, public policy, and disability, as well as self-advocates, family members, providers of disability services, and directors of federal government agencies. The discussion explored how cloud computing could support the development of innovative, inclusive, comprehensive, and cost-effective residential supports and community services for people with cognitive disabilities. The roundtable participants were charged with framing an agenda that would allow policy makers, industry leaders, and disability advocates to explore how cloud computing could provide strategic opportunities to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families and whose realization would generate partnership opportunities and address public policy issues. A whitepaper summary of the roundtable is available online here.

2010 - Implications of Cloud Computing for People with Cognitive Disabilities

In 2010, two events were held to discuss the implications of cloud computing technology for people with cognitive disabilities. On July 30, 2010, the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities in partnership with the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship hosted a roundtable on “Cloud Computing and Disability Communities: How Can Cloud Computing Support a More Accessible Information Age and Society?” The roundtable brought together leaders in industry, education, public policy, disability advocacy, and government to explore emerging opportunities and challenges presented by “cloud computing, ” specifically how it might help or hinder a more “accessible” future for people with special access needs. A whitepaper summarizing the event is available online here.

The 2010 workshop was held on October 20, 2010, in partnership with the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, with the theme, “Implications of Cloud Computing for People with Cognitive Disabilities.” The workshop brought together leaders from industry, education, public policy, disability advocacy, and government with a shared interest in shaping our national infrastructure for computing and communication to explore opportunities for improving the lives and increasing the independence of people with disabilities, particularly those with cognitive disabilities. The program began with introductory presentations on cloud technology, cognitive accessibility, and policy considerations, followed by interactive panel discussions on technical directions; the potential benefits, opportunities, and challenges of cloud computing from the viewpoint of people with disabilities, families, caregivers, and advocates; and legal and regulatory barriers to accessibility technology in “the cloud.” Presenters included leading figures from industry, academe, government, and advocacy organizations. The workshop agenda is available online with session video recordings, audio recordings, and presentation slides.

2009 - Web Technologies for People with Cognitive Disabilities

A summary of the 2009 workshop on “Web Technologies for People with Cognitive Disabilities” is available online and as a PDF file. The workshop explored emerging research projects, industry developments, and international standards and practices that have the potential to support inclusive and accessible Web technologies for people with cognitive disabilities. Participants were charged with identifying the best of what they knew, to explore new ideas, and to allow a forward-looking free flow of ideas and discussion. The workshop reviewed recent technology developments and projects promoting universal Web accessibility including the “Raising the Floor” initiative, HTML 5, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Workshop participants agreed to continue discussion, debate, and exploration of collaborative activities in a newly formed Raising the Floor Cognitive Language and Learning Discussion Group.

2008 - Mobile Technologies and Web Accessibility

A summary of the 2008 workshops on mobile technology and the Web is available online. Results were presented in a panel at the CSUN 2009 conference by Lewis, David Dzumba (Nokia), Michael Paciello (The Paciello Group) and Gregg Vanderheiden (TRACE Center). A presentation focussing on mobile technology was presented at RESNA and at the HCII Conference in July 2009.

For information about participating in future workshops, please contact

Encouraging Student Projects in Cognitive Technology Development

Students have much to offer in shaping technology to increase independence and improve the quality of life for people with cognitive disabilities. Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities Design Awards Program offers recognition to students who carry out projects of this kind. Undergraduate and graduate students are eligible and must be working on such a project in a technical, engineering or social impact course or independent study. One such course was offered at the University of Colorado Boulder, with Institute support, and focused on developing applications for the Google Android platform. Projects included a word finding therapy application for people with aphasia, and a calendar system offering remote management by family and caregivers.

Coleman Institute Announces First Student Design Award

The Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities is pleased to announce that Joshua Hailpern, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will receive a "Gold" Student Design Award for his research project called the " Aphasia Characteristics Emulation Software [pdf, 473k]" or ACES. ACES is a software system that allows students, caregivers, and Aphasia therapists to understand some of the problems which face people with Aphasia when trying to communicate with others. Aphasia is an acquired language disorder that results in difficulty producing or comprehending spoken or written language, and affects approximately 1,000,000 people in the United States. The Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities established a Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities Design Awards for Technologies to Benefit People with Cognitive Disabilities to encourage, recognize and reward group and individual student projects that result in technical prototypes, or a vision of future technologies, to enhance and support the cognitive function and adaptive behavior of people with cognitive disabilities.

Cognitive Accessibility on the World Wide Web

The Web has become a critical channel for information, participation, and services of all kinds. The Institute advocates support for people with cognitive disabilities in their efforts to utilize technology. One effort has been to provide specific input about regulations and standards to such groups as the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC) of the US Access Board, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) of the World Wide Web Consortium, and the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. Lewis contributed to the drafting of a policy statement by the Association for Computing Machinery calling for enhanced Web accessibility that was adopted in 2008.

The Institute is participating in the Raising the Floor Initiative, an international effort to build needed accessibility into the fabric of our information infrastructure, including the Web and mobile technology, led by Gregg Vanderheiden and Jim Fruchterman. Lewis is serving as lead for the Working Group on Cognition, Language, and Learning. Please email if you would like to participate.

Lewis has also participated in the Fluid Project, a family of interrelated Web technology efforts aimed at enhancing the accessibility of Web applications for higher education and museums. The Fluid Project, directed by Jutta Treviranus, has been funded by the Mellon Foundation.

Personal Mobile Platforms

The communication facilities of the mobile phone and the computer are blended in a new class of powerful handheld devices. The Institute has supported a number of initiatives that are related to these emerging technological breakthroughs. These include ChatPC Communicator, a prototype that links Saltillo Corporation's ChatPC communication aid to a Nokia phone, and a project course at the University of Colorado Boulder in which students developed applications for the open-source Android smart phone platform. Student projects included a mobility aid, a reminder system with remote caregiver input, a location-aware prompting system, and a naming practice tool for people with aphasia.

The naming practice project has produced a prototype called Banga that communicates with a therapist's Web site that allows therapists to manage clients' practice remotely. Developed in cooperation with Prof. Gail Ramsberger of CU's Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Science, and with students from CU and from Jackson State University, with support from the National Science Foundation, Banga is described in presentations at the 2008 ASSETS Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the 2009 ASSETS Conference in Pittsburgh. A technical talk at Google on the work on mobile technology is available online. Current work is readying Banga for deployment as an HTML5 application, usable on any phone or other platform with a compatible Web browser.

Vocabulary Enhancement

Lewis serves as co-PI of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for the Advancement of Cognitive Technologies (RERC-ACT), directed by Dr. Cathy Bodine of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine of the University of Colorado. The institute co-sponsors the Center's project aimed at enhancing job-related vocabulary for people with cognitive disabilities. Lewis leads this project with Dr. Thomas K. Landauer of the University of Colorado and Pearson Knowledge Technologies. Dr. Landauer is one of the creators of Latent Semantic Analysis, a technique for analyzing language use, which provides the foundation for the vocabulary enhancement project.

Social Software

Social networking systems like Facebook potentially offer great benefit to people with disabilities, enabling them to stay in touch with friends and family. With institute support, Lewis and graduate student Jeffery Hoehl are beginning a survey study of social networking participation by people with disabilities. The results should indicate whether existing social networking systems are providing adequate support, or whether enhanced designs are needed.

Dissemination Through Presentation and Publications

The scientist in residence presents research results and works in progress worldwide at conferences targeting cognitive disabilities, technology, and other related fields. Research is also published in leading academic and industry journals. For more information regarding recent presentations and publications contact Clayton Lewis via email or visit his webpage.