Scott Shea, B.P.S.
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center
StateUniversity of New York at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY, USA
(published in RESNA '93 Proceedings-June 12,1993)
The provision of home modification services to older people requires
access to technical information on a wide variety of topics. Microcomputer
applications can be very useful in helping service providers obtain
and use this information. However, existing applications have limitations
in scope and flexibility. They are useful primarily to search an existing
product database. HyperHome Resource takes a different approach, one
that focuses on information management rather than providing a database
of information that cannot be changed.
For older people, home modifications must address a much wider array
of concerns than the traditional focus for younger people. Not only
is support for ADL important but, to insure independent living, a number
of other environmental concerns must be addressed. Creating an enabling
environment for the older person with a disability can include:
security improvements such as upgrading locks, adding outdoor
lighting, or securing windows.
fire safety improvements such as eliminating overloaded electrical
circuits and installing smoke detectors,
accident prevention and health measures, including repairing stairways,
improved lighting, and repair of floor surfaces,
accessibility and usability interventions including construction
of entry ramps, installation of grab bars, and garbage removal,
caregiver support modifications, particularly those that reduce
the burden of caring for people with dementia,
construction related services such as emergency repairs, weatherization,
maintenance and general rehabilitation.
Due to the wide scope of services technical information
is needed in the "front end" of service delivery, assessment
of problems and recommendations for action. In these activities, constant
reference is made to checklists and assessment forms, catalogs of products,
guidebooks and construction manuals. Computer applications can help
to increase productivity when searching for information and help automate
the matching of needs to recommendations. They can also help to convey
expert knowledge to programs that do not have professional staff in
either rehabilitation technology, environmental design or building construction.
A microcomputer application has been developed to help home modification
service providers assist the older population. The program is an aid
for managing the diverse technical information on products and environmental
design ideas that is needed to deliver high quality services. This application
allows users to customize databases to the specific needs of the services
There are two existing microcomputer tools that are currently available
to access technical information for home modification. A review of their
a need to take a different approach.
HyperAbledata3 is a large database that is used to
search for solutions to the varied needs of people with disabilities.
It is inexpensive but requires a large capacity mass storage device.
Although very useful for doing product searches, it focuses solely on
assistive technology and does not include information on general construction
products such as security devices, construction details such as handrail
installation, design ideas like bathroom renovations or home maintenance
actions like rodent elimination.
Ease4 is designed specifically to help occupational therapists deliver
home modification services. It guides a rehabilitation specialist through
two assessments, an ADL assessment on the individual and an environmental
assessment on the home. The data is automatically compared to identify
discrepancies in fit between person and environment. A database of products
and design ideas is then searched to generate specific recommendations.
The Ease product is a well integrated tool that could be of great value
to a therapist. It focuses mostly on accessibility and safety issues
but it can be customized for other issues if they can be tied to ADL
concerns. New product data bases, data on design ideas and information
on local vendors can be added. It's cost is much higher than HyperAbledata
and it requires extensive training.
Both systems have two major limitations: the lack of product illustrations,
and the lack of a user interface to add or remove information.
Written descriptions and technical data on products are not sufficient
for making recommendations. Appearance play as major role in consumer
acceptance. Moreover, it is desirable to show clients photographs and
sketches of recommendations to assist them in prioritizing needs. Although
HyperAbledata has some graphics and is improving in this area all the
time, there are still a lot of gaps. Ease is completely text based.
Individual home modification projects can vary from eliminating roof
leaks, to renovating a bathroom, to reducing wandering out of the house.
There is no comprehensive source of technical information on all the
necessary subjects. Good service providers, through experience, continually
identify new approaches, new products and new ideas all the time . Both
applications are "closed systems" that can be modified only
through the development of new versions. Ease can only be customized
by the company. Incremental changes cannot be made as the information
Ideally, a service provider should be able to modify their database
at any time. This applies to assessments and expert knowledge as well
as product information. For example, if a new, superior assessment methodology
is available, the service provider should be able to make use of it
immediately without abandoning the technical information in the database.
HyperHome Resource is designed to overcome the problems
of closed systems. Rather than a database of information, it is actually
a "technical information manager". Like "personal information
managers" that keep track of appointments, contacts, notes and
to do lists, allows service providers to create their own custom database.
The program is written for Hypercard, the hypermedia database tool that
comes with every Macintosh computer. The basic elements of a Hypercard
database are "cards" and "stacks". Cards can contain
a mixture of graphics, sound and text. Access to them is obtained through
a menu card. Stacks are sets of similar cards.
HyperHome has two basic stacks, problems and recommendations. The stacks
are organized into sections with 5 types of problems and recommendations.
Scrolling windows allow the user to scan through items rapidly. Access
to the database entries is obtained through "buttons" and
other icons on the cards. By pointing and clicking with a mouse or other
interface device, one can go forwards or backwards through a stack,
jump to different locations or access different stacks. The most important
button however, links each problem to related recommendations. Each
recommendation may be linked to many different problems. This linkage
builds intelligence into the database.
An edit menu card allows the user to add new cards and remove old cards
easily as well as edit links between problems and recommendations. New
stacks can also be added to reference additional types of information
that one may wish to add, for example, lists of local suppliers and
contractors. Problems and related recommendations can be printed out
in a report for any client.
Graphic images are scanned into a separate data base. This gets around
Hypercard's limited graphic resolution. From the recommendation card,
users can activate a button that opens a window to the related image.
These images can be photos, line drawings or even rough pencil sketches.
Supplementary information can be attached to a recommendations card.
By pointing and clicking on a button, a comment window is opened. This
window can be used to record any type of information desired, including
product availability or feedback from previous use of the product or
There are several advantages of the information management approach.
Only the information needed has to be included, reducing storage space
to a minimum and increasing search speed. As a commercial product, the
price does not reflect the cost of developing the database. Permission
does not have to be obtained for use of information in the database
that comes from a proprietary source, unless the database itself will
be sold to others. The database can be expanded and edited in "real
There is also a major advantage to using Hypercard. As with HyperAbledata,
only the script for the database will have to be distributed. Anyone
who has a Macintosh computer will be able to use it without purchasing
One major problem with the program is that all data entry has to be
done by the user. As we develop our own comprehensive database further,
we may be able to distribute it with the script. Another possibility
is developing a means to port information from HyperAbledata and other
computer databases into HyperHome Resource. A third option is sharing
stacks among service providers.
We hope to add more features to make it more useful in everyday practice.
Currently, an assessment is completed by hand and the results compiled
as a list of problems. The problems are then used to search the database
for solutions. We took this approach to keep the database independent
from assessments. Individual users can thus utilize any assessment method
and still make use of the program. In the future, we hope to add assessments
with an editing feature that would allow the user to customize them
to their own preferences. Items in the assessment tool could then be
linked to problem cards in the existing database.
In summary, HyperHome Resource is a technical information manager that
overcomes some of the limitations of existing microcomputer applications
used for home modification. It is open ended and can support graphics
with ease. The user interface is simple, requiring only a few minutes
of training to master. The availability of the comment window allows
users to supplement recommendations with any related information they
desire. Although we have not yet made plans for distribution, we expect
the cost (without databases) to be very low.
Funding for this project was provided by the National Institute on Disability
and Rehabilitation Research (grant no.H133E1000892), W. Mann, Project
Edward Steinfeld, Director
Center for Inclusive Design &Environmental Access
School of Architecture and Planning
SUNY/ Buffalo Buffalo, NY 14214, USA (tel.)716-829-3485 x327 (fax)716-829-3861
1 Steinfeld, E. "The Scope of Residential Repair & Renovation
Services and Models of Service Delivery" in Lawton, MP an Hoover,
SL (Ed.), Community Housing Choices for Older Americans. New York: Springer
Publishing Co., 1981
2 Pynoos, Jon, Evelyn Cohen and Claire Lucas. The Caring Home Booklet:
Environmental Coping Strategies for Alzheimer's Caregivers. Los Angeles:
Long Term Care National Resource Center at UCLA/USC, 1988.
3 Trace Research and Development Center, U of Wisconsin-Madison
4 Ease is developed and distributed by LifeEase, Inc. St. Paul, MN.
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