Every year, teams of Master’s of Occupational Therapy (MSOT) students at UW-Milwaukee work with a faculty member on a research area of interest. In 2020 two MSOT teams completed their research projects through the R₂D₂ Center, with the teams being led by director and professor, Dr. Roger O. Smith. Despite having a research plan in place, original intentions radically shifted in 2020 as COVID-19 impacted the feasibility of research protocols. As an example, initially, research topics for the two R2D2–based research teams targeted 1) community engagement around the AccessPlace Buildings rating system and 2) a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) study for individuals with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Unfortunately, the arrival of COVID-19 required a recalibration, as both the BCI and AccessPlace research studies required face-to-face data collection.
As summer ended and the Fall semester began, research commenced for both groups, though groups never met in-person. New methods for coordination and communication between members of the groups became an essential aspect for the groups to complete the research projects . Team communication utilized phone, e-mail, and Zoom meetings. Due to the need for updated, safe procedures and physical distancing, the research studies required creative redesigns, and resulted in two successful projects. On December 14th, the two R2D2 research groups joined the full MSOT 2019 cohort to present their findings. The first group presented on a protocol that studied the Impact of AccessTools Assessments (an accessibility rating app) on restaurant managers. The second group presented a validity analysis of restaurant accessibility comparing the perspectives of people with various impairments to the questions included in the AccessTools taxonomy. While COVID-19 required flexibility on behalf of both MSOT research teams, the groups were able to think creatively, adapt, and produce quality research projects that contributed to the body of research surrounding AccessTools and accessibility.