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Facilities

$36 million iDAPT project officially launched

TORONTO – It will be one of the world’s most advanced rehabilitation research and development facilities – a place where new therapies and assistive technologies will be developed for people recovering from, and living with, disabling injury or illness.

The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) has officially announced its $36 million research initiative – iDAPT (Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology).

Located in the heart of Canada’s ‘Discovery District’ in downtown Toronto, approximately 60,000 square feet of renovated and newly constructed space for 14 different research laboratories will be dedicated to the iDAPT facilities and rehabilitation research.

Led by Dr. Geoff Fernie, Toronto Rehab’s Vice President, Research, in collaboration with the University of Toronto, iDAPT will bring together the brightest research minds and state-of-the-art technology in a collaborative venture, one that involves hundreds of scientists, research students, clinicians, social scientists, engineers and industrial designers from across Canada and beyond.

“iDAPT offers new hope,” says Dr. Fernie. “iDAPT will help people with disabilities and older people to adapt to new challenges and equip them with assistive devices that actually work in the real world so that they can get on with their lives.”

iDAPT facilities will enable researchers to safely study the complex interactions between people and their environment and help people with disabilities adapt to their new challenges, and equip them with innovative and well-designed products that they will actually use and benefit from.

“Until now, our ability to study how people with disabilities and older people function in the real world has been limited by a lack of the unique facilities that iDAPT will provide,” says Dr. Fernie.

“Current assistive devices often do not function well in real-life environments, are generally not attractively designed or as user friendly as consumers would like.”

“Getting around in winter is an issue. As soon as there is snow on the ground or ice, traction becomes a problem”, says John Shepherd, spinal cord injury survivor and former Toronto Rehab patient.

“I’ve learned that as soon as there’s more than maybe an inch, or inch and a half of snow, I simply can’t go outside. It’s not that it’s difficult for me to go outside. I just literally can’t move. I can’t get groceries, I can’t go to the pharmacy, can’t do the most basic things, never mind get to my job, go see friends, or have asocial life.”

John adds that assistive devices are designed by people who may not understand the needs of users well. iDAPT facilities will enable researchers and designers to produce more user-friendly assistive devices and technologies that people with disabilities will actually use and benefit from. The demand for rehabilitation therapies and assistive technologies, such as wheelchairs and other mobility aids, is increasing as Canada’s population ages and more lives are saved, thanks to advances in medical science and technology.

The number of people with disabilities is on the rise worldwide. In Canada alone, over 3.6 million (about one in eight) Canadians currently have a significant disability. Disability affects most Canadian families at some time – and costs the Canadian economy an estimated $60 billion annually.

Part of the Toronto Rehab’s multi-million dollar capital redevelopment, iDAPT will be housed at the hospital’s University Centre (550 University Ave., Toronto) and Lyndhurst Centre (520 Sutherland Dr., Toronto) and in the Rehabilitation Sciences building at the University of Toronto (500 University Ave., Toronto). iDAPT facilities will include:

• a state-of-the-art, subterranean laboratory called the Challenging Environment Assessment Laboratory (CEAL) that will be built deep below the hospital’s soon-to-be redeveloped University Centre. It will be equipped with a giant hydraulic simulator that can generate winter-like conditions, including ice, snow, howling winds and slopes. A motion simulator will enable researchers to safely test people’s balance and mobility devices in real-life situations;

• a typical hospital patient-care room, with an overhead catwalk for observation, where researchers can develop and test new technologies to assist nurses and reduce caregiver injuries;

• a laboratory featuring a modest single-story house where researchers can develop artificial intelligence and smart home technologies to help people with dementia and other disabilities to live as independently as possible, and improve their quality of life; and

• a movement evaluation laboratory that will advance research on treatments for paralysis from stroke and spinal cord injury.

Building on existing Toronto Rehab research, iDAPT will also include a sleep laboratory where scientists can advance recent findings linking treatment for sleep disturbances to better patient outcomes.

Several iDAPT laboratories and workshops are already open and research is currently taking place. The Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory at the hospital’s Lyndhurst Centre, for example, is already working on research to help restore or replace functions of the human neuromuscular system once damaged. New and innovative assistive devices are being designed and prototyped in the interdisciplinary Research and Design Studio and cutting-edge Rapid Prototyping Workshop.

It is anticipated that the remaining iDAPT labs and workspaces – including the hallmark of iDAPT, CEAL – will be operational by 2011, when the University Centre redevelopment is expected to be complete.

Funding for iDAPT has been provided by the federal government through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, by the provincial government through the Ontario Innovation Trust and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, as well as by Toronto Rehab Foundation, the University of Toronto and private donors.

Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) is at the forefront of one of the most important and emerging frontiers in health care today – rehabilitation science. Toronto Rehab is one of Canada’s leading academic rehabilitation science centres providing adult rehabilitation services, complex continuing care, and long-term care. More information is available at: www.torontorehab.com.

 

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