Engineering Psych. Seminar on Assistive Technology
PSYC 8040 / CS 8803-AT (Spring 2017)

Home Page & Syllabus


Bruce N. Walker


Room 230, Psychology Building (Coon Building)


(404) 894-8265


Office Hours:

By appointment

Course web page:

Class schedule:

MWF, 2-3pm (technically, 2:05-2:55pm)

Class location:

For Spring 2017: Klaus Building, room 2443

Required Textbook:

Cook, A. M., & Polgar, J. M. (2015), Assistive Technologies: Principles and Practice, (4th ed.), St. Louis, MO: Mosby. ISBN: 9780323096317.
The text is available for purchase or rent, in paper or electronic copy. Here are direct links to the book's page from Amazon, and from the publisher, Elsevier.

Note: A number of additional readings will be required. Most are very brief, including conference proceedings, and other short pieces. Some are full-length papers. They will be made available in PDF format via links from the Schedule Web page for this class; some are Web sites that can be accessed directly. It is the student's responsibility to obtain and read all required readings before the class in which they are discussed. If a reading is not accessible, or if there are any issues obtaining or reading the document or resource, please let me kow immediately.

Course Description

This is a graduate seminar in Engineering Psychology and also a graduate seminar in Interactive Computing. We will be reading and discussing how the engineering psychology/human factors/HCI processes apply to the design and evaluation of assistive technology (AT). We will first discuss the definitions, history, laws, and policies related to AT. We will then consider how our well-known processes may need to be adjusted or changed. We will cover the attributes of many impairments, and then discuss many assistive or enabling technolgies that are currently being used. We will have some expert visitors who participate in our discussions. There will be a project, midterm exam, discussion, and probably a paper.

Educational Philosophy for this Course

I believe that most courses at the graduate level should focus on discussion and integration with daily experience, and with information gathered in other courses in the university. However, in order to have a meaningful discussion in this topic area, there are a lot of facts to learn first. These serve as a foundation for discussion and technology design. Students will be left to learn many of the more straightforward facts through the required reading, private study groups, or discussion outside of class. As much time as possible will be reserved for discussion, much of it led by students. However, there is a lot to learn, so in order to get the chance to discuss, we may move quickly through basic material. You are expected to have read the required material before class, and be prepared to contribute to an integrative and meaningful discussion.


There will be a group project (and final presentation; see below), a midterm exam, class discussion, and a paper. Additional brief writing assignments may be added, such as reflections on readings. Students will also lead discussion on some topics, and must prepare in advance for that. Your attendance, participation, preparedness, and contribution to class will account for a significant portion of your grade.

Students are expected to do their own work at all times and to follow the university's codes of academic conduct and honor code. The exception to this is on the group project(s), where collaboration is expected. Cases of suspected inappropriate collaboration or cheating will be immediately forwarded to the Dean of Student Affairs, and will be pursued to resolution. This is an unpleasant process for all involved, so please do not put yourself in this situation.

Students are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner--this entails handing assignments in on time (if applicable) and showing up for class, meetings, and exams at the appointed time. Late assignments and papers will not be accepted, and make-up exams will not be given. If some form of prior commitment prevents a student from taking an exam at the given time, PRIOR arrangements (including documentation where appropriate) should be made with the instructor.

Extra work, after the semester, is not allowed to "bring up" a grade. A student's grade shall be earned from their performance solely on the semester's work.

Group Project

There will be a group project, completed by teams of two or possibly three students. The topic of the project will be selected by the team from a set of projects provided by the instructor. The team will consult with the instructor, the TA, and any other "sponsor" of the project, in order to further define the details. The projects will follow one of the following paths:

  1. For an existing assistive technology, perform an evaluative analysis, and determine how the system could be improved. Design such an improved system, and evaluate it using mock-ups, prototypes, or actual implementations, with representative or actual users.
  2. Identify a population or user for whom some form of assistive technology would/could be beneficial in some way. Perform a needs analysis, then design and build a solution, either in prototype, mock-up, or actual implementation form. Evaluate the effectiveness of the solution using real or representative users.

In either case, be aware of the requirements of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) with respect to research involving human participants. It is the responsibility of the team to secure approval for all research protocols. Note that this may take some time, so plan accordingly. See the IRB Website for more details.

Each team will present the results of their project at the end of the semester, in the FINAL EXAM period for the class. That is, the presentation will constitute the final exam. The final exam period is scheduled by the Registrar. For 2017 this will be: Friday April 28, 11:30am-2:30pm (see official exam schedule).

Part of the evaluation of the project will come from the team members themselves. Specifically, each team member will confidentially evaluate the contribution of each of the team members, himself or herself included.


There will be one midterm exam to test factual knowledge. This will occur at approximately 2/3 of the way through the course. As discussed above, the presentation of your project resuls will constitute the final exam.

Individual Paper

There may be a paper assigned, which will discuss issues and topics from the course. This paper would be due approximately 3 weeks before the end of the semester.

Respect and Consideration:

Please, above all, be respectful and considerate of others in the class. It should go without saying, but this includes showing up on time for classes, meetings, exams, etc. Please turn your mobile phone, or any device with alarms and ringers to silent (or, preferably, off) while you are in class. If you disturb the class, including incoming phone calls or messages, you may be asked to leave.

Students with Disabilities

Students needing accommodations must provide me with the Georgia Tech Office of Disability Services letter describing accommodations. I also ask students to email me one week prior to any exam if they plan on using testing facilities at the ODS office. Further information can be obtained from the ODS office (phone: 404-894-2563; email: or

Academic Integrity

All students are assumed to have read the Honor Code and consented to be bound by it. Violations of the Honor Code are taken extremely seriously and will result in a failing grade for the course and referral to the Dean of Students for further action. Specific violations include (but are not limited to):

Unless explicitly indicated on the exam itself, all exams administered in this course are to be taken without the use of notes, books, ancillary materials and without the assistance of any other person or group, in the class or outside of the class. Use of electronic devices such as PDAs, cell phones, or audio devices during the exams is prohibited. Use of these devices during exams is viewed as a violation. If you have any questions, please ask. I will assume that all students enrolled in the course know and understand what constitutes academic misconduct and agree to be bound by these rules.