RERC Rec-Tech is a five-year R&D project aiming to develop adaptive game controllers and other recreation technologies for people with disabilities.
Young people with disabilites who want to participate in sports and physical activity face different challenges, from limitations in strength and aerobic fitness to problems with coordination and balance. As a result, they are less excited about games and sports than their peers and generally have lower levels of physical activity. The increase in sedentary behaviour leads to higher levels of obesity, which introduces a new set of health risks.
The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Recreational Technologies (RERC Rec-Tech) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is currently developing innovative technologies to offer people with disabilities a wider range of options for physical activity and recreation. It is a five-year project focusing on promoting the health and wellness of people with disabilities through the development of various adaptive recreation technologies.
The RecTech project is based on four key concepts: access, participation, adherence, and health and function, the last of which refers to actual improvements in health resulting from physical activity, as well as to the associated monitoring techniques.
Rec-Tech's development projects include adaptive game controllers, a virtual exercise device to promote physical activity, and uniform standards for accessible fitness equipment. The project is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the US Department of Education.
Active games that require whole body movements are known to motivate children to be more active and more excited about exercise. These games promote fitness, physical activity and weight management among young people and are an excellent tool for fighting the growing obesity epidemic in schools and communities. However, many of the games have limited play options for children with disabilities and, while different adaptations exist that make active games more accessible, there are no research and development efforts focusing not only on successful play, but also on achieving the effort and energy expenditure similar to that in able-bodied versions.
Over the next few years, Rec-Tech aims to identify the barriers children face when playing with existing game controllers, to study the energy expenditure values in METs for active games for children with disabilities, and to develop adaptive game controllers that will facilitate satisfactory game play.
Find out more about the project in the video below.