The objective of the Buddy project was to create a new marketplace of assistive technologies for people with cognitive disabilities. The progress of the project and its different outcomes is presented here.
In the first phase of the project, we were focusing on planning and preparations, combining user needs with existing assistive technologies and tools on the market.
We have researched user requirements of a wide range of people with cognitive disabilities in order to ensure that Buddy suits the various needs and requirements of end users. Based on literature review and consultation (interviews and surveys) we have analysed how cognition and cognitive accessibility are framed in the context of accessible ICT products and services, checking also the legal and policy framework for how assistive technology is provided. End users with cognitive disabilities, disabled people’s organizations and assessors of assistive technology took part in the consultations. In parallel, we were investigating the technical requirements of the repository and setting up the initial architecture of the system.
Our data gathering on what assistive technology exist on the market resulted in an overview of the types and categories of assistive technology and tools supporting users with cognitive disabilities. This data helped to better understand the existing market, its size, structure, and what business models are used. It also helped identifying gaps, such as: which user needs are more scarcely addressed and what languages have less coverage. This information was useful for filling up the initial assistive technology repository Buddy offers.
The final development of the Buddy repository focussed on the repository design, the population process, and the relationship between the repository, the user profile, and the personalised AT recommendations given to end users. The interaction between these different components to produce high-quality, personalised recommendations makes up the main functionality of Buddy. At the end of January 2022, Buddy’s assistive technology repository counted 67 tools.
For the Buddy platform to work, it is necessary to set up individual user profiles, and specify in advance the structure of user attributes. The user profile stores the personalised user needs and preferences, which are used to find the suitable assistive technology from the repository. The user profile can be set up either in a classic standard form or using a game-based approach. The security of user data and the privacy of the users are ensured by multiple complementary means.
Buddy’s AI Tool Recommender uses artificial intelligence to provide personalised recommendations of suitable AT entries to its end users. The recommender matches the user needs with the functionalities of the AT tools, and refines its suggestions based on the ratings given by users with similar needs.
The final implementation report provides an overview on the state of implementation of the Buddy system at the end of the project cycle.
During the whole project, we have been working closely with end users with cognitive disabilities, using interviews, focus groups and user testing to ensure the results support the target audiences in the best possible way.
The Buddy platform has been tested by users with impairments ranging from intellectual disabilities to language disorder, dyslexia and neuropsychiatric disorders; and representing various user needs, like reading, writing, understanding, managing tasks and memory. This ensured that the functionalities and the use of the Buddy platform are understandable for a wide range of persons with cognitive disabilities. We would like to thank all of you who have spent your time participating in the user tests, supporting the Buddy project!
Involving users with cognitive impairments, from neurodiverse persons to users with intellectual disabilities, has been key to the development of the Buddy project. It also required researchers, designers and developers to make sure that the individuals can participate on their own terms and that they understand how their input is going to be used. Such ethical considerations have been discussed in the project and a suitable workflow that takes ethical aspects into account in each step of the process has been used.