Disability vs. Smart Environments

Disability vs. Smart Environments

Rachid Kadouche (Université de Sherbrooke, Canada) and Bessam Abdulrazak (Université de Sherbrooke, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-843-2.ch010
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This chapter discusses a novel approach to manage the human environment interaction in case of disability. It provides accessible services to the user in smart environment. This approach is based on the user limitation capabilities (“handicap situations”) in smart environment. It is built upon formalisms based on S??T(?) Description logic (DL) named Semantic Matching Framework (SMF). The architecture of SMF is designed in a way that Human-Environment Interaction (HEI) is generated online to identify and compensate the handicap situation occurring in the course of daily life activities. The SMF architecture is based on modules and implemented using semantic web technologies and integrated into a demonstrator, which has been used to validate the concept in laboratory conditions. The chapter includes the time response and the scalability analysis of SMF.
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The quality of life would benefit from smart homes and pervasive computing designed under the “assistive environment” paradigm and can experience significant enhancements due to the increased support received from the environment. This support includes facilities for environmental control, information access, communication, monitoring, etc., and built over various existing and emerging technologies. Nevertheless, people with special needs are usually confronted to accessibility barriers due to the user’s disability. These problems include both, physical difficulties to handle devices and objects, and cognitive barriers to understand and reach suitable functionalities. Actually the main objective of researchers is focused on the human deficiency study that allows identifying the user’s limit capabilities according to each environment, and then personalizing the environment access. We mean by environment, the infrastructure and the devices that are around the users. We believe that novelty is not located at an engineering level, where most of technological problems could be solved, but mainly on the usability issue where human behavior should interfere with available functionalities of any system. This multidisciplinary approach focused on user modeling, which should guide future research work on context awareness in the pervasive computing community. The challenge is to understand the interaction between the human and his environment to design an ubiquitous assistive environment dedicated to people with special needs.

Handicap Situation

Disability refers to the social effects of physical or cognitive impairment. This definition makes a clear distinction between the impairment itself (such as a medical condition that prevents a person to sit or to walk) and the interaction between the environment and that impairment. The real issue is that the living environment infrastructure is creating physical barriers, in term of accessibility, mobility and so on, which limits the autonomy of people with special needs, this situation is called “Handicap situation”. Proper use of information and communication technologies could minimize the impact of those barriers on daily living activities. It could thus help improve the quality of life and facilitate social and professional integration of people with disabilities. Our research work is centered on the human-environment interaction that identifies the relationship between the environment and the impairment. We are working on how to identify the differences between a person with severe disabilities and a person with no known disabilities in terms of daily activities. This difference is related, on one hand, to the user’s physical disability (ies) causing the handicap situation and, on the other hand, to the environmental elements becoming an obstacle for the user. To achieve that, we focus on the interaction between the human body and its environment which we have defined as Human Environment Interaction (HEI), to compensate human limitations (Kadouche, Abdulrazak, Mokhtari, Giroux, & Pigot, 2009), (Kadouche, Mokhtari, & Maier, 2005), (Kadouche, Abdulrazak, & Mokhtari, 2004) (Kadouche, 2004). Our work belongs to the assistive pervasive computing community.


Many system architectures have greatly contributed to facilitate the development and deployment of context-aware applications and aimed at supporting rapid prototyping of ubicomp applications. ParcTab system (Want, Schilit,, Adams, Gold, Petersen, Goldberg, Ellis, & Weiser, 1996) was the first context-aware infrastructure; it was developed at Xerox PARC to explore the capabilities and impact of mobile computers in an office setting. Context Toolkit (Dey, & Abowd, 2000) is a toolkit aimed at handling component distribution and provides frameworks for acquiring and managing sensed context. Microsoft’s Easyliving (Brumitt, Meyers, Krumm, Kern, & Shafer, 2000) provides context-aware spaces, with a particular focus on the home and office. HP’s CoolTown project (Krishnan, 2000) is an infrastructure for bridging people, places, and things in the physical world with web resources that are used to store information about them. Context aware applications integrates several technologies; particularly the mobile computing paradigm in which applications, using mobile platforms, can discover and take advantage of contextual information (such as user location, and user activity, time of day) (Aleksy, Butter, & Schader, 2008), (Sadeh, Chan, & Van, 2002).

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