Access to housing is a sign of independence, self-sufficiency, social inclusion and the ability to lead a normal life. For people with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder, performing household tasks can be a barrier to independent living.
The HABITAT program will test solutions to these barriers. Combining technology such as tablets and apps within adapted residential environments, HABITAT will seek to improve independence for autistic adults. Using an active research process, it will:
- search for and match technologies to the needs of individual residents
- test and adjust this match, and the results will be adapted into tools for use by other organizations
3 Key Goals
Use technology within the home to enhance the lives of persons with different intellectual abilities—like profiles of autism.
Measure the impact that technology within supportive environments has on the independence and self-sufficiency of people in the study.
Develop a generalized housing model and toolkit that can be shared with other organizations.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Creating an environment for autistic adults to live more independently
The Véro and Louis Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating homes adapted to the needs of autistic adults. It recognizes that many autistic adults require permanent supports for certain tasks, and that this affects their independence. Performing household tasks such as meal preparation, personal hygiene or keeping safe can be demanding.
The HABITAT program wants to create a connected home environment to act as a caring roommate to help residents with tasks. It will use 2 test residential environments managed by the Véro and Louis Foundation and Fondation les Petits Rois. Residents will be provided with specific technologies according to their needs. The resulting improvement in their well-being and independence will be measured.
Using a living lab approach to refine the model
A living lab approach combines research and action to bring about change. The method the research team will use has 3 repeating steps:
- Understand the problem.
- Apply the solution.
- Inspire others to implement this approach.
The first step involves understanding the problem. In this case, it includes understanding the needs of lab participants. People with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder have a wide variety of needs and each individual is unique. Literature reviews will help identify the range of potential needs. Different types of technologies and their capabilities will also be researched. Each resident will then be assessed to determine their individual needs.
Once the most promising tools are selected, the technologies will be applied in real-life situations. Technologies will be mapped to the needs of each resident in the 2 test residences. Participants will then have a chance to regularly use the technology. Support will be provided to make sure that staff, caregivers and the residents feel comfortable with each tool.
Acceptance of the technology will be measured in different ways for each technology, resident and staff member. Strategic and operational committees will analyze the data and adjust the deployment as the application phase continues.
This “active research” approach ensures that lived experience informs the choices that are identified as being successful. Prototyping, testing and adjusting the measurement along the way keeps things relevant for the end-users. This applies to both residents and the housing managers and developers who wish to introduce technology into their residences.
Tools to provide support to a larger community of persons with disabilities
Once the evaluation has been completed, the final “Inspire” phase will package the information into a useable format. This is intended for other organizations to implement.
Sharing the knowledge gathered from this active research project will happen at 2 different levels:
- Directly with the participants involved in the living lab.
- Through the development of a toolkit that similar organizations can use.
Participating in the living lab process will allow residents to try the researched technologies. Learning about the technologies and receiving training on when/how to use them also provides invaluable experience for caregivers and support staff.
A technology library, typical use cases and their relative effectiveness will be developed through the active research process. This information will be shared with other organizations to give them a head start on what to try with their residents.
Program: NHS Research and Planning Fund
Activity Stream: Research Program
Research Program Title: HABITAT: homes adapted to individual needs and accessible technologies for all!
Lead Organization: Fondation Véro et Louis
- Fondation Les Petits Rois
- Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Location: Varennes, Québec