New research project: Technology-enabled homes for people with spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury

The National Injury Insurance Scheme Queensland (NIISQ) is partnering with the University of Sunshine Coast (UniSC) to investigate the benefits of technology-enabled homes for people with spinal cord injury (SCI) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The two-year project, led by Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, Dr. Michele Verdonck, will seek to understand how technology can be used in the homes of participants to improve independence, manage their disability, and enhance quality of life, health and well-being.

The project will increase knowledge and understanding of technology-enabled homes and grow a community of practice for participants to empower their use of smart technology. Guidelines will be created for best practice as well as a resource library on benefits and challenges for smart technology use.

Dr. Verdonck said recent improvements in mainstream access to smart tech and home automation presented exciting new options for quality of life.

“Voice-controlled personal assistants like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri can be integrated with other smart technologies such as cameras, air conditioning, door openers, pet feeders and even sensors that monitor the health and wellbeing of the home occupant, remotely and unobtrusively,” Dr Verdonck said.

NIISQ General Manager Gaenor Walker said she was proud to partner with UniSC on the co-designed project.

 “Having participants and people living with disability involved each step of the way means that not only are we understanding the different smart tech options available, but gaining excellent insight into what other people in the Scheme will be able to use successfully in the future,” Ms Walker said.

“Ultimately, it is our hope that by better understanding the features and benefits of available assistive and mainstream technologies, people living with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries will have improved wellbeing and quality of life.”

Dr Verdonck is co-leading the study with Professor Jacquie Ripat, based in Canada, and UniSC academics Dr Katharina Merollini (health economics), Dr Dana Dermody (nursing) and Dr Bridie Kean, a public health expert and former paralympian in wheelchair basketball.

“This study is innovative because people with disabilities are involved as researchers and as participants from start to finish, from co-design to sharing findings,” Dr Verdonck said.

An advisory group with almost 30 people was established last year at UniSC and a Facebook group now numbers more than 50 participants.

The two-year project commenced in April 2024 with a total budget of $156k.

Last updated: May 2024