Research News

CDS researcher partners on project to improve communication


Published December 8, 2020

Jeff Higginbotham.

Jeff Higginbotham, professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences and director of the Communication and Assistive Device Laboratory in the College of Arts and Sciences, has received a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.

The $2.5 million grant, “Project Open,” will support work by Higginbotham and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to improve expressive communication during in-person conversation and interaction with individuals who have complex communication needs (CCN) and use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

“The research will focus on creating a comprehensive catalog of the problems and range of etiologies for individuals with CCN using AAC to replace or support speech and other modes of communication,” says Higginbotham.

Additionally, the research will cover strategies individuals with CCN and their communication partners employ to address problems and support successful in-person interactions.

The target populations for the research include older youths and adults with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cerebral palsy, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Project Open” will develop an open-source, web-based, AAC prototype research-and-development platform that will allow individuals and manufacturers to use the code for their own purposes. The open-source programmer interface will be used during the project to design and implement focused user interfaces and test cases for field testing and continued research and development.

Researchers will also feature a project website and regular face-to-face and online meetings with the inclusive open source research-and-development community.

Higginbotham will collaborate with principal investigator Karen Erickson andco-PI Lori Geist, both of the Center for Literacy & Disability Studies, Department of Allied Health Sciences, UNC Chapel Hill.