Author Archives: admin

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Launch of EU Research Project

The DISABUSE research project was launched by Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor in the Helix on December 4th, with all members of the Erasmus + project team present including Marian McDonnell and Dr. Irene Connolly from the Department of Technology and Psychology in IADT.

​The DISABUSE Project is a 2 year project that is part of the Erasmus Plus Programme, Key Action 2 “Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices” involving five partners from four European countries (Anti-Bullying Centre, Dublin City University, Ireland; Fondazione Mondo Digitale, Italy; ICSTE-IUL, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Portugal; IADT-The Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Ireland; UM-The University of Murcia, Spain).

Mary Mitchell O'Connor at the launch of DISABUSE
Mary Mitchell O’Connor at the launch of DISABUSE

DISABUSE’s aim is to help prevent and counter disablist bullying by learning from the experiences of those in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEN/SEND) community, at both child and adult level and the research surrounding them. The goal is to highlight the right kind of supports necessary to empower the community and those that work with them at school and work level. As part of that, the project aims to create an ongoing online support module that will be available to both SEN/SEND learners, and those who seek to educate or work with them.

Marian McDonnell and Dr Irene Connolly from IADT
Marian McDonnell and Dr Irene Connolly from IADT

This module’s objective is to improve socialisation, reduce marginalisation and ease user’s lives in school and their migration into adulthood and the working world, to allow them to enjoy fully rounded lives and contribute more widely to society. It will also support and educate, teachers and trainers in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in learning through educational institutions and wider society, via more in-depth understanding and work with SEN/SEND individuals, and the provision of training/educational materials.

The project’s website and resource platform is being designed and developed by Mohammed Cherbatji and Ryan Dowler at IADT.

See or for more details.

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Lack of an interdisciplinary approach


There is limited published research in the area of designing interfaces for ID and there is a lack of suitable eLearning and mobile applications to evaluate with the actual users. There is a lack of an interdisciplinary approach to the problem area. Psychologists, designers and technologists need to come together in fruitful collaborations to address this important field. By bringing people together to accelerate progress in this area of research with focused intensive support from social entrepreneurship funds, change will happen faster to improve the quality of life and health of those with ID. It is envisaged that some of the proposed networks’ findings could be applied to areas like learning disabilities and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

It is envisaged that the proposed prototype output could be beneficial as an eLearning application, helping to reduce time and cost of paper training for this user group.


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More work needs to be done


(HCI) and User Experience (UX) draw on a multidisciplinary base of psychology, computing, design, art and increasingly social and organisational fields. As technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous and pervasive, we now experience technology as a fundamental fabric of our social lives. As technology developments today accelerate, there is a need for interface designers to take into account users with intellectual disabilities to order to avoid their exclusion from the information society

Designing ICT tools for people with intellectual disabilities is challenging. Unfortunately, there are a considerably small number of research projects and publications referring to the use of instructional technologies by users with intellectual disability and their exclusion from the information society. More work needs to be done in this area. International conferences like the International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs (Miesenberger et al, 2014) show a growing interest in the topic. However, the number of researches with a focus on designing and developing suitable applications for people with intellectual disabilities remains low in comparison with other, mostly physical, disabilities. This is the main theme, or problem which this innovative project intends to address.


Findings from HCI research tell us that artefacts that successfully transform lives and societies are those are designed and iterated with constant reference to people, where the user gives testimony to his/her experience. HCI research often involves the intended users in research and usability studies. However, accessibility to this population can be difficult for researchers.  Sears and Hansa (2011) state that it is difficult to recruit users with disabilities.  The use of non-representative users can lead to inaccurate conclusions about mobile technologies effectiveness. Other issues in HCI research include small number of participants and lack of control groups. Setting up a collaborative network of researchers with a number of local service providers who can provide access to the target users could address some of these issues.

In order to improve quality of life and health for these users, a more targeted interdisciplinary research focus is needed to design and develop applications for this user group. Designing for those with ID can be challenging for several reasons. As mentioned earlier, some research does not include the intended user with an ID and also user testing does not occur. In addition, there is a lack of design principles when developing applications, as “one size does not fit all!”. ID accessibility can call Universal Design into questioning – as it is not possible to design a product for all especially in the broad area of ID (Kennedy, Evans & Thomas, 2010).   Kennedy et al (2010) p. 375 state that “people with intellectual disabilities represent a community frequently left out of discussions about web accessibility, for a number of reasons, not least the complexity of conditions that constitutes an intellectual disability, the lack of standardization in terms of assistive technologies used by these populations, and the fact that the expertise of the individuals driving the accessibility initiatives usually lies in the fields of sensory or physical disability”.

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Quality of life directly affects health


ID is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by impairments in both intellectual and adaptive functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The three main areas affected include the conceptual, social and practical domain. In recent years, mobile technologies complete with eLearning applications have become a popular tool in aiding those with ID. These include devices such as the iPod touch, iPad, tablets and smartphones. Mobile technologies can increase quality of life and independence in those with ID (Rodríguez, Strnadová, & Cumming, 2015). Quality of life directly affects the health outcomes for this user group (McCarron, M. et al, 2014)