FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

The ATOMS Project is a five year assistive technology (AT) outcomes and impacts project funded in part by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) under the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects (DRRP) program. The ATOMS Project seeks to research, develop, and recommend the next generation AT outcomes measurement system.

What are AT outcomes?
AT outcomes are data and information that tell us about use/nonuse, success, impact, and costs related to AT interventions. Different people and groups may want and use different types of outcomes, from broad comparisons between AT and other interventions, to success/failure rates of specific devices.

Why did NIDRR create the AT outcomes DRRPs?
The NIDRR priority indicates that the purpose of the two AT outcomes projects is to “determine the efficacy and utility of AT and the implications for abandonment of AT devices.” The priority also expresses concerns that outcomes measurement in AT are lagging those in other fields, and that AT outcomes have not kept pace with the growth of the field of assistive technology.

Who is part of the ATOMS Project Consortium?
The project is based at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The consortium includes AT experts and stakeholders from across the country, including the Ohio Department of Education, University at Buffalo (SUNY), the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Warren and Associates, Steve Mendelsohn, Helen Hayes Hospital, and the University of Colorado.

Why do we care about AT Outcomes? The positive outcomes of AT seem obvious.
Those of us who use or provide AT services know by experience that AT works. However, very little of the value of using AT has been empirically documented. Measures and research methodologies to compare AT device interventions (devices and services) are greatly needed, and it is very difficult to isolate the impact of AT from the many other concurrent interventions people use in the natural setting. A comprehensive AT outcomes system will contribute to a more evidenced-based practice.

Where are AT outcome measures needed?
Outcome measures are needed for the wide variety of settings in which AT is used and provided, including: hospitals; vocational rehabilitation and employment; schools and special education services; universities and colleges; long-term care; independent living centers; AT device developers and suppliers; and public/private AT service programs.

Can’t we just use existing outcomes instruments?
Few AT outcomes measures have been fully developed. The field is still predominantly using “homemade” checklists and tools that help with AT device selection, but that do not contribute to outcomes analysis. It is essential that we use the best measures available. Today, this may mean using current tools and procedures. Tomorrow, we hope that robust outcomes measurement will be more fully integrated in the daily protocol of AT practice.

What is the ATOMS Project working on right now?
The ATOMS Project has completed a multi-faceted needs assessment including 15 field scans, focus groups, and database analyses. Eleven technical reports are posted on the ATOMS Project website documenting these efforts. These include a comprehensive discussion of legal issues related to AT outcomes. The ATOMS Project also reviewed more than 50 currently available AT assessment instruments and has created a library available to clinicians in national workshops. The ATOMS Project also partners with the State of Wisconsin Department of Vocational Rehabilitation with an AT outcomes assessment project linking statewide data and 4 stakeholder surveys to the RSA data. We are also studying “AT abandonment” and are partnered with the Wisconsin Wheelchair Recycling Program, a program that was initially funded by the State of Wisconsin DNR to keep discarded equipment out of landfills.

What is the ATOMS Project vision of its end products?
We see the end product including recommendations for a comprehensive system that includes what data is collected, how it is collected, and how it is analyzed. The needs assessment will help us to more fully develop this vision.

How are the ATOMS Project and the CATOR project related?
NIDRR funds two assistive technology (AT) outcomes and impacts projects. The ATOMS Project and CATOR (Consortium on Assistive Technology Outcomes Research, Duke University) are working cooperatively to extend AT outcomes knowledge and improve AT outcomes measurement tools. CATOR can be contacted at www.atoutcomes.com

How is the ATOMS Project funded?
This project is funded in part by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR, www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/NIDRR/) of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, under Grant H133A010403. The opinions herein are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education.