There is an influx in the number of Veterans with disabilities (VwD) using mobility and manipulation devices due to aging, improved medical care which has increased survival rates from severe injuries, and polytrauma resulting in multiple disabilities. Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn account for over 250,000 unique VwD who received devices from VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aid Service (PSAS). Veterans are at the heart of everything that WARE does and strives to achieve. WARE has always been Veteran-led and Veteran-focused with a significant number of Veterans engaged with WARE at multiple levels. Participatory action design is and always has been the very heart of WARE?s research and development. The focus of WARE will be on research and development within four themes: (Theme 1) Smart Device Applications, (Theme 2) Advanced Wheelchair Design, (Theme 3) Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and (Theme 4) Human Machine Interfaces. WARE will link capacity building and Voice of the Consumer (VoC) and Voice of the Process (VoP) recommendations by creating core activities in promoting an innovation environment for VwD and VA clinicians. It is apparent that some VwD and assistive technology providers do not know that important technologies exist and asked to be kept informed about available and emerging technologies. WARE will measure consumer, provider, and family/caregiver awareness of available products, research outputs, and clinical practice guidelines and assess whether they are being used. Training the next generation of rehabilitation scientists and engineers is one of the most important contributions a Center can make to the long-term well- being of VwD. WARE is committed to mentoring new investigators (especially Veterans) to help them to successful careers focused on VwD. WARE is committed to remain a leader in assistive technology standards development and implementation. WARE?s proposed research, development, and core activities will result in improved function and mobility outcomes of VwD. WARE is aligned with the VA?s Blueprint for Excellence. It promotes Veteran-driven care, addresses vulnerable populations, elevates the VA as the provider of choice, aims to achieve care delivery that compares to or exceeds the private sector, and aligns the VA with academic partners. WARE will leverage the expertise developed by VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS), industry partners, Veterans Service Organizations, and the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). WARE has been and will continue to be focused on making tangible and measurable improvements for VwD who use wheelchairs and robotics technologies. An overarching goal is to translate findings throughout VA and into use by Veterans. Keywords (Scientific Disciplines): Rehabilitation Engineering, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Physical Therapy. Keywords (Research Foci): Smart Device Applications, Advanced Wheelchair Design, Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and Human Machine Interfaces Wheelchairs, Assistive Robotics, Wearable and Connected Devices.

Public Health Relevance

Mobility and the ability to manipulate objects are key factors in determining autonomy and independence for many Veterans with disabilities (VwD). Over 250,000 VwD use wheelchairs. The Federal Advisory Committee on Prosthetics and Sensory Aides Services has reported that the VA supplies over 80,000 new wheelchairs each year, and spends over $180 million on new wheelchairs and accessibility equipment. We surveyed 1022 individuals with disabilities, including >500 VwD. We also surveyed >150 providers, more than half of whom provide care through the VA and about 14% were Veterans themselves. The surveys revealed four themes that will be the primary focus of our proposed research and development: Smart Device Applications, Advanced Wheelchair Design, Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and Human Machine Interfaces. VwD within the VA?s Special Disability Programs, primarily those with conditions that directly result from Military service, are the target beneficiaries of the proposed research and development.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
Veterans Administration (I50)
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Centers, Research Enhancement Award Program and Consortiums (RRDC)
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Veterans Health Administration
United States
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