Agile Assyst – Helping People with Disabilities

Sometimes Agile can create things that really help people. I was excited to come across a story of an application that was built, using Agile methods, to help people with disabilities. This company is called AGILE ASSYST.

The Product Cycle

Each semester, Chao, an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Computer Science, teaches a software development course for both undergraduate and graduate students. In the class, he believes hands-on and real world collaboration with a client is key.

Chao is director of Agile Software Development, a program that is part of the Department of Computer Science. It provides software developing services to individuals and organizations in the community.

“People come to me with an idea of a software they want created but can’t do it on their own,” Chao said. “I then have them meet with my students to tell them what they want and my students begin work on the software for this client throughout the semester.”

In fall 2010, Chao’s students created an app to help people with cognitive disabilities accomplish everyday tasks. The app is used on hand-held devices to help them view video and picture models as an aid.

The Back Story

The idea came from Robert Williamson, at the time an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development. It stemmed from Williamson’s personal experiences with his son.

During his first year at the University, Williamson’s son was hit by a car and life-flighted to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Williamson said. He was in a coma for three weeks and suffered traumatic brain injury.

Williamson said he spent much of that time researching cognitive prosthetics, a system that prompts what a person does, as well as how and when to do it. Even though Williamson was unsure of what the future held for his son’s life or even his son’s survival, he wanted to be prepared.

What he discovered is a hand-held device would work best, because it could remind users with cognitive disabilities what to do at specific times.

With the idea brewing, Williamson looked for places to create the app he knew his son needed. He struggled for a while until he looked to his fellow faculty members and found Chao.

“I sent him an email out of the blue and asked if he knew how I could create the system,” Williamson said. “I believe in fate and Joe was perfect. He almost immediately wrote me back asking to chat; we did, and the rest is history.”

Williamson’s idea for a disability app was a perfect opportunity for Chao’s software development class to work with a client and create something beneficial, Chao said. Its development would require both time and effort, but would provide students with real-world experience in software development.

Chao divided the students into groups, each working on a different aspect of AgileAssyst. Williamson met with the groups throughout the semester to check on the app’s progress, like a real-world client.

Finished Product

The completed app allows someone to set up a daily schedule for a person with a cognitive disability and sync it with a smartphone, Chao said. When tasks should be completed, such as eating breakfast, a reminder would go off with either a text command, video or picture representation of the task.

AgileAssyst is available for purchase through the Android marketplace, but the patent is pending for the app to be available elsewhere, Chao said.

“Students who worked on this app have changed the lives of the people who use it and the lives of the family members that support them,” Williamson said. “I am more grateful than words can say when I use this app with my son; I see the faces of the CS students who worked on it in my mind and only wish I could have thanked them more.”

PURE AWESOME. I also like that their iPhone app is called “Agile Coach.” Glad they picked that name out. Perfect.

[HT:BG News]

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