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Craig Hospital Awarded Research Grant from Department of Defense to Study Impact of Assistive Technology

June 21, 2018

Assistive technology is a powerful tool in the lives of those living with spinal cord injury; it can assist people in returning to the technology they used before a traumatic injury and improve their independence and functionality after injury by helping them interact with the world around them in a new way. To measure the impact technology can have in the lives of those with spinal cord injuries, Craig Hospital has been awarded a $638,000 grant from the Department of Defense Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, Spinal Cord Injury Research Program. The research project, “Assistive Technology and Functional Outcomes Following Spinal Cord Injury,” will evaluate the impact of assistive technology (AT) on functional and psychosocial outcomes among people with high-level spinal cord injury (SCI) using focus group sessions and a survey.

"Whether using the internet to complete online coursework, perform job functions, search for health information, or network socially or professionally, technological innovation stands to greatly improve the ease and quality of life of individuals living with physical disabilities by allowing them to circumvent barriers in the physical world," says Dr. Kimberley Monden, one of Craig's principal investigators for the project. " But prior research indicates that individuals with disabilities in the U.S. may not be fully benefiting from these innovations because they are less likely than those who are non-disabled to use a computer, internet, tablets and other handheld devices. Unique barriers to technology access may, and likely do, exist among individuals with disabilities. It is important to understand the effects of AT use among those who do take advantage of these technologies in order to guide future work to improve accessibility and argue for stronger funding from insurers."

Craig Hospital is the lead site for this study, which was conceptualized in collaboration with Erin Muston-Firsch and Jill Baldessari from Craig’s Occupational Therapy Department and Assistive Technology Lab. The study, led by Craig’s Drs. Kimberley Monden and Susan Charlifue as Craig’s Principal Investigators and Dr. Leslie Morse as Craig’s Co-Investigator, will collaborate with the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and include more than 150 civilians and veterans with SCI living in the community. Fifteen to twenty participants from each site will be invited to take part in focus groups to discuss barriers to and facilitators of successful use of assistive technology as well as how access or lack of availability to assistive technology has had an impact on their functional and psychosocial outcomes, including employment, community integration, self-efficacy and quality of life. An additional 150 participants from the study sites will be contacted via telephone interview to answer questions assessing the relationship between assistive technology use and employment/school and other outcomes, such as mood and self-efficacy.

Recruitment for this three-year study will begin in the fall of 2018. For more information on the study or how a person can qualify, email Kimberley Monden (

The Assistive Technology Lab at Craig Hospital assists people with spinal cord injury and brain injury in returning to the technologies they used before a traumatic injury as well exploring adaptive technologies that can help them become more independent at home and work.

Learn more about Craig Hospital’s Assistive Technology Lab.