near infraredBarrier-free access to the environment and to communication has not been adequately facilitated through conventional computer interfaces and single switches. Consequently, many individuals with physical disabilities do not have a means of expressing something as fundamental as personal preference and therefore cannot direct their own care. In many instances, however, these individuals have fully intact cognition and given the opportunity could participate more fully in life’s activities. We are particularly interested in providing access to individuals who are non-vocal and without access, whether they are in the community, complex continuing, critical or palliative care.

skin conductanceThis research priority has been defined through consultation and conversation with parents, caregivers, front-line therapists, and teachers in the hospital and in the community. While we are exploring new ways to maximize the capabilities of switch technology through innovative implementations, we are also investigating a number of physiological access channels and their innovative combinations. For example, one potential access pathway is skin conductance, the response of the sympathetic nervous system manifested electrically at the surface of the skin. Another potential channel that we are studying is brain activity as measured through near infrared spectroscopy. We are also tapping into residual motor activity, changes in heart rate and fluctuations in breathing patterns as possible access avenues. The creative combination of multiple access channels, whether physiological or mechanical, holds particular promise.

Our ultimate goal is to enable a robust access pathway, regardless of the individual’s physical condition.

Research Videos

thermal open

Thermal Open
This video shows a thermal video of a client opening and closing his mouth, a subtle movement that can serve as an access pathway.

gesture based access

Gesture Based Access
Here is a client using a gesture-based access system for communication.

mouth activation

Mouth Activation
Here is an example of a child using a non-contact switch based on the virtual music instrument technology.

Research Team

Graduate Students
Elias Abou Zeid
Idris Aleem
Winston De Armas
Ahmed Faress
Brian Leung
Lucy Lu
Saba Moghimi
Andrew Myrden
Sarah Power
Larissa Schudlo
Colleen Smith
Nayana Thalanki Anantha
Eric Wan
Sabine Weyand
Timothy Zeyl

Clinical Collaborators
Anne-Marie Renzoni (Bloorview)
Betty Winsor-Stallan (Bloorview)
Dr. Eric Bouffet (Sick Kids)
Kathi Carroll (Bridgepoint Health)
Loralee Maclean (TRI)

Industry Partner
QualiLife Canada