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  1. Auditory Attention and Blindness: Visual Imaginary and Head-Centered Meridian Effects

  2. Visual deficit intensity and auditory spatial compensation: Evidence from self-positioning by auditory cues

  3. Integration of tactile, visual, and acoustic stimuli in the near and far space of unilateral brain-damaged patients

  4. Asymmetries in neuropsychological profile in Cri-du-Chat syndrome

  5. Snapout to Packout: Software solutions for children with disabilities to assess their own Assistive Technology needs

  6. Dyslexia, ‘Inspiration’ and Academic Writing

  7. Evaluation of executive functioning in brain injured patients

  8. Age differences on mental scanning of locomotor maps

  9. Autonomy within domestic space, the approach of new technologies and market status

  10. External Representations and Working Memory in the Solution of Simple Spatial Problems as Applied to Children with Dyslexia

  11. Analysis of Barriers to Travel by Persons with Visual Impairments: The Effects of Auditory Signage

  12. Satisfaction in Assistive Technology use. Factors that impact on students with disabilities, research results

  13. Improving the quality of our life in the digital society: Where psychology might help, and what psychologists might do

  14. Movement in the Mind’s Eye (MIME) : An Interdisciplinary Initiative for Understanding Mobility and Improving Clinical Practice for Rehabilitation Therapy

  15. Accessibility and usability evaluation of the help desk web page for students with disability in the University of Rome “La Sapienza” web site

  16. A multidimensional model to analyze the complex interaction via web interface

  17. Spatial Processing, Mental Imagery and Creativity in Individuals With and Without Sight

  18. Sex differences in object location memory in a real three dimensional environment

  19. Cross-Modal Attention in Schizophrenic Patients: Head-Centered Meridian Effect

  20. Quantifying Navigational Performance in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease

  21. Automatic Detection of Visual Attention Regions in Images

  22. Service For The Assessment And Distribution Of Domestic Or Computer Aids

  23. Expert on Web Environment: An experimental Distance Learning Course

  24. Socio economic barrier and facilitators

  25. Universal design and space disability

  26. School environment and disability issues in Kabul (Afghanistan): A survey within an emergency project

  27. Eugenic Atlantic: The Making of an International Disability Science, 1800-1945

  28. "Enabling Manager Technology": The approach of the International Classification of Functioning and Health in school environment

  29. "Case Study Analysis of Disturbs in Spatial Cognition: Unified TOGA Approach"

  30. Mental representation of the city in blind and partially sighted people

  31. Spatial orientation in large-scale environments: A single case of progressive topographical agnosia with prevalent right temporal lobe atrophy

  32. Training of the spatial cognitive abilities for children with spina bifida in virtual environments

  33. User Satisfaction with Assistive Technologies: Application of the ICF-Checklist and QUEST on a group of Afghan disabled

  34. Personal and environmental factors interacting with disability: Application of the ICF-Checklist on a group of Guatemala street urchins

  35. "Parlami": A speech enabled web browser

  36. Ecstasis and Handicap

  37. Rehabilitation of Visual Neglect

  38. Disability, New Technology and the Redefinition of Space-Opportunities and Challenges

  39. Assessing the benefits of using technology for spatial cognition

  40. ICF and the Environment: Prospects for Universal Social Policy


Auditory Attention and Blindness: Visual Imaginary and Head-Centered Meridian Effects

 F. Calligaris2, V. Santangelo1, F. Ferlazzo2 and M. Olivetti Belardinelli1, 2

1 ECONA,  University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy

2 Department of Psychology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy

Keywords: blindness, crossmodal attention, spatial orienting

Two experiments examined auditory spatial attention orienting in three groups of subjects: normal-sighted, congenital blind, and acquired blind. In Experiment 1, subjects were required to stare an imaginary point placed straight ahead on the vertical head-centered meridian, and to detect an auditory target preceded by an endogenous auditory cue, which could be in the same or in a different location of target, with or without crossing the vertical meridian. Results showed no significant differences for blind subjects between crossing and no crossing conditions. Conversely, normal-sighted subjects showed slower RTs when cued and target locations were at the opposite sides of head-centered meridian, in agreement with previous studies that found a similar effect in the auditory modality (Ferlazzo et al., 2002).

In Experiment 2, subjects were required to stare an imaginary point placed on one side (vertical visual imaginary meridian) and to carry out the same task of Experiment 1. In this case, RTs were slower in crossing conditions, for both blind and normal-sighted subjects.

 Moreover, in both experiments congenital blinds’ performance was better than acquired blinds, putting in evidence the greater ability of this former group in the auditory modality; while acquired blinds’ performance was more similar to normal-sight subjects.




Visual deficit intensity and auditory spatial compensation: Evidence from self-positioning by auditory cues

Olivier Després and André Dufour

Centre d’études de Physiologie Appliquée, Strasbourg (France)

Keywords: Visual impairment, spatial auditory compensation

Auditory compensation, generally observed in visually impaired people, may be a considerable advantage in self-positioning when auditory stimuli are the main spatial information. We examined the relationship between the magnitude of visual deprivation and self-localization capacities on the bases of auditory cues. We asked normal-sighted, near-sighted, late and early blind subjects to indicate on a two-dimensional map of the experimental room, the position where they had been sitting and passively listening to auditory cues. Two experimental conditions were distinguished: a) sounds were successively played through loudspeakers positioned on the experimental room’s walls; b) sounds were played simultaneously. In the first condition, we observed a linear decrease of self-positioning errors as a function of the importance of visual impairment. In the second condition, only early blind subjects showed significantly better self-positioning performances. These results highlight two interesting aspects of compensatory plasticity. Firstly, it appears that even a partial visual deficit gives rise to auditory compensation since myopic subjects were significantly better at self-positioning than normal-sighted subjects. Secondly, the mechanisms underlying auditory compensation may be different according to the visual deficit, since only congenital blind subjects seem to take advantage of auditory cues when they are played simultaneous sounds from different localizations.



Integration of tactile, visual, and acoustic stimuli in the near and far space of unilateral brain-damaged patients


Filippo Crostella1,3, Marcello Costantini2 and Salvatore Maria Aglioti1,3

1 Dep. of Psychology, University “La Sapienza”, Rome;

2 Dep. of Clinical Sciences and Bioimaging, Univerisity “G.d’Annunzio”, Chieti;

3 Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome. 

Objectives:  To investigate in brain-damaged patients (BDP) with or without unimodal extinction, whether processing of trimodal stimuli is influenced by the distance between the patients’ body and visual and auditory stimuli.

Methods: On the basis of preliminary tests of unimodal (tactile, visual, and auditory) extinction subjects were assigned to the E+ and E- group respectively. Series of single or trimodal computer-controlled stimuli were used. In separate blocks of trials, visual and auditory stimuli were presented close to the hands (near condition) or 60 cm away from the hands (far condition). Patients were requested to report verbally modality (tactile, visual, or auditory), and position (L or R) of the stimuli.

Results: Single stimuli were reported with good accuracy by both groups in all conditions. E- patients detected with greater accuracy trimodal stimuli presented in the near space. This space-related facilitation was absent in E- patients.

Conclusion: Integration of multimodal stimuli in the peripersonal space may be selectively impaired in E+ patients.



Asymmetries in neuropsychological profile in Cri-du-Chat syndrome


Maria Rosa Pizzamiglio2, Laura Piccardi1,2 and Cecilia Guariglia1,2

1 Dipartimento di Psicologia -Università degli Studi “La Sapienza” – Roma, Italy

2 Fondazione Santa Lucia IRCCS – Roma, Italy

Keywords: cognitive profile, visuo spatial abilities, visuo motor  abilities.

Cri-du-chat syndrome (CdCS) is a rare genetic disorder characterized by the partial deletion of the short arm of chromosome 5. Clinical features include high-pitched cry, microcephaly, facial dysmorphisms and a severe mental retardation characterized by learning disabilities and reduced verbal abilities. Cri-du-chat subjects show a high variability in the phenotype, depending on the size of the deletion and on the different genic expressivity. Recent study (Cerruti Mainardi et al., 2001) have evidenced the relationship between the size of deletion and the level of psychomotor development.

Few studies have attempted to describe a global cognitive profile.  Past studies have focused on the profound mental delay, limited verbal abilities and self-injuries behavior (Wilkins et al., 1980).   Cornish and coworkers (1999) have evaluated for the first time Cri-du-Chat subjects with standardized tests. Their results stressed the presence of a severe language delay, and dissociation between comprehension and expressive skills, being the former better than the latter.

We analyze the cognitive profiles of 6 Italian patients with CdCS, enlightening asymmetries in the development of different cognitive domains. Results show that CdCS present a clear asymmetry in the cognitive development with respect to normal subjects matched for mental age. In fact, CdCS show very low level of visuo-spatial and visuo-motor abilities and a relatively high level of social skills.

These data represent the first report of an asymmetric cognitive development in CdCS, and suggest the need of a complete neuropsychological assessment in the evaluation of CdCS individuals for better addressing reeducation efforts.



Cerruti-Mainardi P., Perfumo C., Calì A., Coucourde G., Pastore G., Cavani S., Zara F., Overhauser J., Pierluigi M., Dagna Bricarelli F. (2001) Clinical and molecular characterisation of 80 patients with 5p deletion: genotype-phenotype correlation. Journal of Medical Genetics, 38, 151-158.

Cornish,  K.M., Munir, F., Pigram J. (1999) Cognitive functioning in children with typical cri du chat (5p-) syndrome. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 41, 263-266 .

Wilkins LE, Brown JA, Wolf B (1980) Psychomotor development in 65 home-reared children with the Cri-du-Chat syndrome. Journal of Pediatrics, 97, 401-405.



Snapout to Packout: Software solutions for children with disabilities to assess their own Assistive Technology needs


Lorraine Cleeton  and Gil Cleeton

School of Education, St. Bonaventure University, New York, USA

Two innovative CD-ROMS have been designed to address the needs of children with disabilities in respect to assistive technology, as according to the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 97) the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team must consider the use of assistive technology devices and services when developing a child’s IEP and deliver such services if a child requires them.   The two CD-ROMs, Special Needs, Action Plans and Outcomes (SNAPOUT) and Packages to Outcomes (PACKOUT) have three goals:  (i) Enable children with disabilities to assess their own assistive technology needs.  (ii) Increase the number of individuals taking part in the assessment process (e.g. children, parents, teachers and other school professionals such as speech therapists) improving knowledge about assistive technology before having to purchase equipment.   (iii) Improve outcomes for children with disabilities by having the children make their own contributions--- through the use of and comments on the software and hardware they observe---as part of the assessment process.   Children with disabilities that use SNAPOUT/PACKOUT will be involved in the creation of a database that matches their disability to assistive software and hardware through the automated analysis of an assessment form included within the CD-ROMs.



Dyslexia, ‘Inspiration’ and Academic Writing

 Sheila Blankfield and Susan Williams

Edge Hill College of Higher Education, UK


Keywords: Dyslexia/Specific Learning Difficulties, visual thinking for academic writing

University students with Dyslexia/Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) often find it difficult to order and sequence verbal information to structure written arguments.   Using their understanding of Dyslexia/SpLD and how this can impact on learning style, Sue Williams and Sheila Blankfield have been using ‘Inspiration’,  a  visual thinking, mind-mapping software, to develop the academic writing skills of such students.  The use of colour, shape, spatial distribution and other features possible with ‘Inspiration’ are invaluable cognitive organising tools,  helping students with Dyslexia/SpLD to customise their approach to planning written texts.  The training method used addresses the content and contextual requirements relevant to each individual student’s course of study.



Evaluation of executive functioning in brain injured patients


Demis Basso*, Camilla Pisoni° and Patrizia Silvia Bisiacchi°

*ECONA, Interuniversity Center for Research on Cognitive Processing in Natural and Artificial Systems, Italy

°Department of General Psychology, Padua, Italy


Keyword: Executive functions, visuo-spatial, planning, frontal lobe.

 Executive functions require the co-ordination of several subprocesses, in order to achieve a particular goal. Neuropsychological research confirmed the relationship between frontal cortex injuries and executive dysfunctions. However, recent theoretical issues tend to consider the frontal cortex as the substrate of a dynamic and flexible neuronal network that reflect more a statistically regional differentiation, than a strict modularity. It follows that all the executive functions are related each other, but preserve a relative independence in the definition of a specific role in the cognitive functioning.

Subjects showing two types of frontal lobe damage (lesions radiologically documented) were assessed. 14 mild closed head injured and 14 vascular patients were investigated with visuo-spatial planning tests (the Maps test and the City Map Task) and other neuropsychological tests for the evaluation of executive functions.

Analysis of the strategies used by patients revealed a different behaviour with respect to the performance of healthy subjects. Performance in planning tests was also compared to the performance in the other tests (investigating components as memory, attention, inhibition and fluency), but only little relationships were found. Finally, findings lead to consider planning process as an independent component among the other executive functions.



Age differences on mental scanning of locomotor maps


Tina Iachini, Carla Poderico, Gennaro Ruggiero and Alessandro Iavarone

Department of Psychology, Second University of Naples


Keywords: Aging and spatial cognition

 In literature age-related decrements have been reported on a variety of spatial tasks, for example visualisation tasks, memory for object locations, learning environments (e.g. Kirasic, 2000). This research regards age differences in mental scanning of  locomotor space. Mental scanning was chosen because of its purpoted role in memory for the surrounding environment. Further, we devised a naturalistic procedure in a real three-dimensional environment. Twenty young adults (age 19-26) and 20 old adults (age 60-80) were asked to learn a path comprising 6 positions, by walking and observing them. Afterwards, they had to imagine mentally scan from a first to a second position, according to different distances. As a measure of the performance we had scanning times. Our purpose was to test whether decrement in spatial memory was a general age-related effect or was due to specific components of spatial cognition. General cognitive ability was assessed by a battery of psychometric tests concerning short and long term memory, visuo-spatial intelligence, language and executive functions. Spatial cognition was assessed by tests measuring perception, memory span, visualisation and manipulation, rotation and spatial inference. Further, we tested whether the decrease in spatial cognition was due to reduced speed of processing or to the construction of spatial representations incorporating less valid metric information. Data are being processed.



Autonomy within domestic space,

the approach of new technologies and market status


Andrea Micangeli1, Corrado Adriani1, Debora de Cosmi1 

1 CIRPS, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy


Keywords: home automation, market, new technologies

 Building Automation is a term commonly used to indicate a well-designed and technologically equipped domestic environment which makes daily life activities easier.

The Building Automation technology is nowadays mostly utilized for industrial and offices purpose, while a wide range of application could be spread at domestic level. In this case  Home Automation gives answers to a wide range of population particularly elderly and people with disability, as assistive technology.

Home Automation started in ‘70s with the objective to add functions and communication among electrical devices in the house. A central system of coordination of several devices makes a true Home Automation useful and safe, but the most important step is cost reduction and skills diffusion among disabled and final users for a more friendly environment.

The creation of more “intelligent” ICT technologies enhanced the House Automation .

 In Italian market Home Automation is nowadays linked to disability by a minimum percentage, even if the production is now assessed on 78-93 millions of euro with a trend of growing that could bring to 155-180 millions of euros within 2003. High prices limit the expansion of these technologies.

Another important point, studied in this last year, regards power consumption rationalization, as demonstrated during the “House Automation week”, this aspect points out the universal benefit of this technology.

The significance of Home Automation rose the necessity of a common communication protocol. In 1996 BCI, EIBA and EHSA began to think on a common protocol, this common work gave the actual European standard: KNX protocol. Other European and international standards have been defined and other standards based on new technology as wireless or web technologies are coming.



External Representations and Working Memory in the Solution of Simple Spatial Problems as Applied to Children with Dyslexia


Lorraine Cleeton

School of Education, St. Bonaventure University, New York, USA


External representations (Ers) stand for something in the absence of that thing, representing something about the world and occurring in everyday living.   Graphical representations such as freehand idea sketches are an invaluable aid to creativity in design disciplines such as architecture (Goldschmidt, 1991).   Ers are used in everyday problem-solving or related activities include taking along an annotated plan to the carpet store when buying a new floor covering, communicating directions to a party which require the drawing of a map, and taking a shopping list to the supermarket.   Ers are also effective aids to problem solving for a broad range of problems: analytic reasoning, verbal reasoning, mathematical word, and spatial problems and are the basis for educational research.   Experiments have been done to examine the use of Ers in solving problems with adults (Cox and Brna, Zhang, Cleeton).    Introducing an assessment tool (Riding- The Information Processing Index) to test working memory and study a specific population, (e.g. children with dyslexia), has not been carried out.   Examining Ers tells us about an individual’s method of solving problems and could guide teachers and parents in identifying deficits in a child’s learning at an early stage.



Analysis of Barriers to Travel by Persons with Visual Impairments: The Effects of Auditory Signage


 James R. Marston


Department of Geography, University of California at Santa Barbara


Keywords: blind, visually impaired, access to public transportation, activity and travel behavior, barriers to travel and mode transfers, auditory signs, technologies for blind navigation. 

Independent travel and access to opportunities by persons with visual impairment, especially in novel environments,  can be limited by the lack of accessible cues.  The increased interest in technologies that can help persons with visual disabilities overcome barriers and gain access to additional information and cues makes it critical to: understand specific task difficulties; examine the effect these barriers have on travel behavior; and analyze ways in which these barriers can be mitigated.  A field experiment at a multi-modal transportation terminal was conducted, including pre and post-test input and evaluations.  Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to elicit information to identify barriers to travel and urban opportunities for persons with visual impairments.  Participants performed five transfer tasks and visited 20 locations along the way, using their regular methods of travel and also using auditory signage.  Results showed that with the additional cues from auditory signs, people traveled faster and with less errors and requests for assistance.  Experiment data to be reported on include: difficulty ratings of 26 travel tasks, learning of spatial relationships and configurations, the ability to make shortcuts, effects of barriers on travel and transfer-making behavior and activity participation, and anticipated changes to behavior if more cues were available.



Satisfaction in Assistive Technology use. Factors that impact on students with disabilities, research results.


Gerald Craddock and B. Eng

Manager Client Technical Services, Department Central Remedial Clinic, Dublin, Ireland


Keywords: user satisfaction, assistive technology, students with disabilities, statement of need, matching person and technology.

 This research is based on a study of forty-five students with disabilities who were introduced to AT while progressing from second to post second level education. Each student was evaluated and provided with a statement of need (SON) regarding their assistive technology requirements. Their progress was monitored to determine successful use and/or non-use of the technology over the following two years. The factors that impacted on these students will be discussed, ranging from psychosocial, environmental to technology. The research was based on the matching person and technology (MPT) model and instruments developed by Dr Marcia Scherer.



Improving the quality of our life in the digital society: Where psychology might help, and what psychologists might do


Giovambattista Presti, Paolo Moderato and Renato Gentile

E-Psychology Research Group, Department of Psychology,

University of Parma - Italy


Keywords: quality of life, psychology, internet, digital life, e-psychology

 The global communication tool, known as the Internet, is rapidly evolving at an exponential pace. According to some analysts, a bright future is just a few years ahead. According to others computers and the Internet are not good replacement for existing communication systems between human beings, and cannot provide a richer and better life. No matter where one stands between these two positions, it must be recognised that the Internet, and the world it is shaping, is something that sooner or later will affect everyone.

We think that the growing necessity for high tech solutions should be informed by psychological knowledge. The goal of a science is prediction and control. The goal of a technology derived from such a science is to improve our way of living. Improving the way in which the Internet might be useful to human communication and relationship requires knowledge that might be best derived from psychological science.

We will briefly illustrate the role that psychologists, as researchers and professionals, might give to the development of a wired society. In addition, the contribution of the Internet as a tool to the advancement of psychology will be briefly summarized. Finally, we will try to imagine new ways in which psychologists might expand their professional area of intervention.



Movement in the Mind’s Eye (MIME) : An Interdisciplinary Initiative for Understanding Mobility and Improving Clinical Practice for Rehabilitation Therapy


G. Edwards1,2,3, D. Duguay1, S. Fontaine1, B. Loitz-Ramage4, F. Malouin3,

B. McFadyen3, C. Richards3, J. Ronsky2,4, B. Tversky5,

J. Vickers6, M. Olivetti Belardinelli7 and M. Denis8


1Centre de recherche en géomatique (CRG), Université Laval, Québec, Canada, G1K 7P4

2The GEOIDE Network

3Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en réadaptation et intégration sociale (CIRRIS)

Université Laval, Québec, Quebec, Canada, G1K 7P4

4McCaig Centre for Joint Intervention and Arthritis Research (CJIAR),

University of Calgary, Calgary,Alberta, Canada

5Department of Psychology, Stanford University, California, USA

6Human Performance Laboratory, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

7 ECONA, Dept. of Psychology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy

8 LIMSI-CNRS, Université de Paris-Sud, Orsay, France



Keywords: rehabilitation therapy, body movement, motor imagery, biomechanics, spatial cognition, geomatics. 

A recently funded initiative brings together scientists to develop therapies for patients suffering from a range of mobility deficits (injury, recovery from surgery, stroke, cerebral palsy, arthritis, visual impairment). The team includes scientists from psychology, rehabilitation medicine, bioengineering, geomatics, kinesiology, and neurology. A study and intervention strategy is proposed that examines: (a) the movements of the body itself and its biomechanical adaptations when faced with deficits, (b) sensory inputs both from the environment and from proprioception, (c) internal models of the body and of environmental space, (d) mental and motor imagery, (e) movement planning and anticipatory strategies, (e) plasticity and adaptation, and (f) environmental constraints. Furthermore, intervention strategies include (1) environmental design, (2) education and training, (3) the development of prostheses and braces as well as (4) feedback concerning the efficacy of surgical procedures. Research methodologies include cognitive and biomechanical behavioural studies, the analysis of sensory inputs, brain imaging studies, computer simulations and modelling, instrument prototyping and development, and the development of formal theory. The study also addresses a range of movement competencies, including studies of expert dancers and top athletes as well as healthy controls and patients with mobility, sensory or neurological deficits. However, both experts and patients with deficits are more viewed as more similar than they are different – experts are susceptible to deficits (injuries) and their expertise is characterised by changes in brain organization that resemble those found in patients.



Accessibility and usability evaluation of the help desk web page for students with disability in the University of Rome “La Sapienza” web site


Stefano Federici1, Andrea  Micangeli1,2, Irene Ruspantini1,2, Stefano Borgianni1, Fabrizio Corradi3, Emanuele Pasqualotto3 and Marta Olivetti Belardinelli 1,2,3

 1 ECONA,  University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy

2CIRPS, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy

3Department of Psychology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy


Keyword: web, accessibility, university facilities, new technologies

An accessibility and usability evaluation of the help desk web page for student with disability, included in the University of Rome “La Sapienza” web site, has been carried out on a design based on integration between the top-down and the bottom-up approach to the accessibility and usability criteria. The top-down method is devoted to verify the conformity of the interfaces to standard rules stated by national and international organisms of internet control, such as WAI. Conversely, the bottom-up method studies how the final users interact with the artificial system, accessing levels of user satisfaction based on personal factors and environmental barriers. In order to perform this empirical design five kinds of measurements were applied:

1.     Preliminary evaluation of the compliance with the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines using Watchfire® Bobby™;

2.     Accessibility by means of graphic browser Microsoft Explorer 5; and

3.     Accessibility by means of textual browser Lynx 2.8.4.

4.     Direct observation of the user’s behaviour by the “Thinking aloud” test;

5.     Submission of standardize psychometric tool: SUMI (Software Usability Measurement Inventory) developed by University College Cork’s “Human Factors Research Group” and the collaboration of the “MUSiC project”.

The health and health related conditions of the students were assessed by means of WHODAS II, It must be noted that the aforementioned students were labelled as disabled on the basis on their own declaration at the University enrolment.

Top-down and bottom-up methods highlighted different and sometimes conflicting results. Both methods have pointed out much more consistency about levels of accessibility than usability ones. Since usability is largely affected by individual differences in user’s (dis)abilities, bottom-up measures underscored the fact that blind students encountered much more web surfing difficulties.



1       Federici, S., Olivetti Belardinelli, M., & Micangeli, A. (2003). Dall’inserimento dello “scolaro handicappato” a scuole per tutti accessibili. In M. C. Usai, & M. Zanobini (Eds.), Psicologia del ciclo di vita. Scritti in onore di Maria Teresa Bozzo  (pp. 339-355). Milano: Franco Angeli.

2       Garito, M. A., & Federici, S. (2001). L’inclusività della istruzione e formazione a distanza per soggetti con diverse abilità fisiche e sensoriali. In A. Tronconi (Ed.), 7° Convegno Nazionale Informatica, Didattica e Disabilità,  Roma 8-9-10 Novembre 2001  (p. 201). Roma: Università di Roma “La Sapienza”.

Micangeli, A., Federici, S., & Bozzetti, M. (2001). Per l’introduzione del modello affermativo di disabilità nelle strutture scientifiche della ricerca e della progettazione tecnologica. In A. Tronconi (Ed.), 7° Convegno Nazionale Informatica, Didattica e Disabilità,  Roma 8-9-10 Novembre 2001  (pp. 161-166). Roma: Università di Roma “La Sapienza”.



A multidimensional model to analyze the complex interaction via web interface


Francesco Pozzi, Giovambattista Presti, Renato Gentile and Paolo Moderato

E-Psychology Group, Department of Psychology, University of Parma - Italy


Keywords: Usability, Human-Computer Interaction, Accessibility, Cognitive Model, User Behavior.

“Usability” is nowadays a very fashionable word when experts speak refer to web interfacing, although the term is not well defined, even by professionals. The commonly accepted definitions focus on characteristics such as “efficacy, efficiency and satisfaction with whom the user is able to accomplish his task” (ISO 9241, Part 11); they often tend to include aspects which should be instead ascribed to the areas of accessibility or programming code. At the same time, they tend to neglect relevant psychological aspects of the user interaction, such as attraction, emotion, boredom or fear.

We are in the process of developing a multidimensional model of usability. It is based on the idea that usability of a web interface can be conceptualised as the result of the interaction of the user behaviours described by different classes of variables (e.g. interest-boredom, attraction-fear, usefulness-uselessness) that can be objectively defined and measured.

The purpose of our research is to prepare and refine tools which will let us analyze usability dimensions and their relative influence, starting from a functional analysis of the user behaviours and integrating collected data into a cognitive model of the interaction. To reach this goal we need to walk through the development of an efficient and flexible tool for the Multidimensional Analysis of Usability.



Spatial Processing, Mental Imagery and Creativity in Individuals With and Without Sight


Alison F. Eardley and Linda Pring

Goldsmiths College, University of London


Keywords: Blindness, spatial processing, mental imagery, creativity. 

The role of visual imagery in creative thinking has been of interest for many years. Using the ‘Mental Synthesis task’ (Finke & Slayton, 1988), which involves imagining and manipulating individual shape into new structures, Pearson et al.(1999) found the key processes not to be  ‘visual’ but ‘spatial’.  If this is the case then individuals born totally blind would be expected to perform equivalently to those with sight. The role of spatial processing was explored in both the mental synthesis task and the classic measure of creativity – divergent thinking. Profoundly visually impaired individuals and blind-folded sighted controls participated. In the mental synthesis task, whilst those with sight performed significantly better than the blind on the two-dimension conditions, there was no vision advantage in the three-dimension conditions.  Spatial interference resulted in fewer legitimate patterns in both groups.  In other words, haptic exploration is as effective at breaking down the component shapes of objects as sight and further, enables the combination of indivdual shapes into a meaningful whole as successfully as does vision. These findings contrasted with those from the divergent thinking task where spatial processing played no role but vision was beneficial. These studies underline the need to provide haptic experience in 'visual' displays.



Sex differences in object location memory in a real three dimensional environment


Tina Iachini, Augusto Gnisci, Ida Sergi and Gennaro Ruggiero

Department of Psychology, Second University of Naples, Italy


Keywords: sex differences and spatial cognition

 This research regards sex differences in spatial cognition. In literature, it is widely reported that males tend to perform better than females in spatial tasks. However, it has also been noted that spatial cognition is a multi-component system and spatial ability involves a wide range of activities. We are interested in studying sex differences in memory for object location. We adopted the object relocation task devised by Postma and De Haan (1996), adapted for a real environment. Seven common real objects were displaced on the floor of a cylindrical room. This room was devised to remove the cues given by environmental axes. Sixteen males and 16 females were asked to memorize the spatial layout. Next, the experimenter removed the objects, added 7 new objects, and participants had to relocate the original objects in their initial position. In accordance with Postma et al. (1998), we found no sex difference in object recognition and in categorical spatial relations. Further, males were better than females in distance accuracy. Overall, the data show males superiority in some components of spatial cognition closely linked to the encoding of the metric structure of the environment.



Cross-Modal Attention in Schizophrenic Patients: Head-Centered Meridian Effect


V. Santangelo1, A. Gaetani2, F. Ferlazzo2  and M. Olivetti Belardinelli1,2

1 ECONA,  University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy

2 Department of Psychology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy


Keywords: crossmodal attention, schizophrenia, spatial orienting. 

The aim of this study was to investigate whether a supramodal system or modality-specific systems underlie visual and auditory spatial attention orienting in two groups of schizophrenic patients: youngers and olders. We measured reaction times and percentages of error in a task based on detection of an auditory target preceded by a visual cue, which could appear in the same location of target, divided from it by the vertical visual meridian, or by the vertical head-centered meridian.

While a previous study conducted on “normal” subjects (Ferlazzo, Couyoumdjian, Padovani, and Olivetti Belardinelli, 2002) found slower RTs when cued and target locations were at the opposite sides of the head-centered meridian with respect to the visual meridian or any meridan (i.e., in the same location), in schizophrenics this pattern of results was found only for older subjects. This could be due to a substantial reduction of schizophrenic symptoms in older groups, probably as a consequence of a longer treatment (further analyses showed that the age of outbreak desease was not significant different between two groups).



Quantifying Navigational Performance in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease


L.A. Cushman, T.M. Monacelli, V. Kavcic, M. Mapstone and C.J. Duffy

University of Rochester Medical Center


Keywords: Spatial orientation. 

Our previous work shows that spatial disorientation in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) reflects visuospatial perception impairment.  We have now developed a multifactorial behavioral navigation test to quantify spatial disorientation. We tested 14 mild AD patients and 99 normal subjects. All subjects were also given a battery of neuropsychological tests and a series of psychophysical tests pertaining to perception of motion.

Regression analysis demonstrated that performance on the behavioral navigation test was explained best by a combination of 4 variables:  perception of radial motion and object motion, as well as neuropsychological measures of figural and verbal memory.

We next focused on navigational competence by dividing our subjects into two behaviorally defined groups: ‘lost’ and ‘not lost’.   A stepwise discriminant function analysis using a combination of spatial orientation, psychophysical, and neuropsychological tests was used to predict membership in the lost and not-lost groups.  The Photo Location and Self-Orientation subtests accounted for 100% of the separation between groups. 

We have developed a standardized measure of behavioral navigation skills that reflects fundamental perceptual abilities, can be used to assess spared and impaired navigational skills in persons with AD as well as older normals, and is more ecologically valid than many standard neuropsychological measures.



Automatic Detection of Visual Attention Regions in Images


Christian Giusti and Goffredo G. Pieroni

University of Udine (Italy)


Keywords: Visual Attention, Image Content, Vision Psychology. 

Selecting visual attention regions in a scene is a very well known procedure in nature as many species of animals take advantage of it in order to help recognize possible threats from the surrounding environment. In humans, visual attention is a rather subjective issue. Somebody is more immediately attracted by certain details while others are attracted by different ones and the choice is very frequently made at semantic level. However the initial attention is generally directed to image regions possessing more complex structural characteristics. Unfortunately, the complexity of the human visual attention process did not allow so far the construction of a convenient machine learning model. Despite that, the construction of a first approximation model of the human visual attention mechanism can be attempted. One way for accomplishing it consists in decomposing images into smaller regions according to hierarchies depending on region association rules. E.g. the attention towards a human face could be triggered by the identification of a structured compound of smaller regions representing simpler objects like nose, eyes, mouth, hairs, and other characteristics. According to that approach, the human mechanism can be described by a tree structure where nodes represent image regions and branches represent  the  relation  “ part of ”. By exploiting that idea, a computer program capable of detecting a tree structure of visual attention regions in images has been constructed. Applications of this technique can be found in several areas and, in particular, for constructing artificial vision devices for blind people. Meaningful partial results will be provided.



Service For The Assessment And Distribution Of Domestic Or Computer Aids


A. Davalli*, R. Sacchetti** and A.Pacetti***

* Reference person for the research area at the Inail Prosthesis Center, Italy

** Technical director of the line for upper limbs and Inail aids from the Prosthesis Center, Italy

*** Person involved in the provision of technical aids at the Inail Prosthesis Center, Italy


Following an occupational accident, INAIL (Italian National Institute for Insurance Against Occupational Accidents) provides the trauma victim with a series of services aimed at the social and occupational reintegration.  In order to achieve this reintegration, a personalised rehabilitation program including the allocation of computer and/or domestic aids is created.  The programme is conducted by multidisciplinary teams of experts (allocated in the main Italian cities) following a precise model aimed at assessing the victim’s physical and psychological conditions for his/her social and occupational reintegration, or, more simply, aimed at giving him/her greater independence.  Within this framework INAIL has developed base and advanced distance learning courses, also aimed to acquire ECDL.
In the most difficult cases the evaluation is held at Inail Prosthesis Center site, which embed a ‘smart automatic apartment’ and a collection of hardware and software products for computer access.

The paper will show the 2000-2002 results and some of the most particular cases.



Expert on Web Environment: An experimental Distance Learning Course


Andrea Micangeli1 and Stefano Federici2

1CIRPS - University of Rome “La Sapienza”

2ECONA - University of Rome “La Sapienza”



Keywords: distance learning, web accessibility, communication technologies. 

New ICT Technologies offer a wide range of opportunities to people with disability, in both educational and employment fields.
Following the concepts of mainstreaming and appropriate technology, at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” a course implementing a synchronous Distance Learning model was offered to 100 disabled and not-disabled graduated students, based on multimedia technologies capable ensuring a direct interaction between student/teacher. As a face-to-face traditional lesson, although in remote classrooms, an audio/visual live transmission of the teacher lesson was broadcasted and, at the same time, students’ questions and a description of the classroom atmosphere were sent by a classroom-tutor to the teacher in a chat platform. The results yielded a good bi-directional interaction between teacher and students in spite of the necessary compromises due to space, costs and disability constraints. The technology deployed standard Telecom cables and Internet services within the DL model framework.

This Distance Learning Technology was analysed for a specific professional course inclusively designed, namely, projected in order to address both to disabled and not-disabled students. 20% of the students were disabled. All students were selected according to interests in web-related job activities. The lessons were delivered from teachers in Rome, while the students were in remote classrooms placed in five cities of region Lazio (Latina, Frosinone, Civitavecchia, Vierbo, and Rieti). The distance-interaction between the participants was realized through the system of “computer conferencing”. Before starting the experiment, some technical aids were chosen in order to complete a personalized accessibility with the students.

The connection data and the systems values were compared with the official registers and with data collected by local tutors, and then the matrices of damages and frequencies were defined. These are two graphic tools that allow the calculation of the magnitude and frequency of damages within the entire system and its sub systems. By crossing the two matrices the heaviest damages resulted.

The evaluation of the system gave a result of 97,95% as global efficiency. Used parameters are:

Hglob: global hours of connection to classroom server: there were connections also during teacher lessons for technical tests on machines and hours needed to transfer data for day lessons (photo, slides).

Hint: hours of interruption

Î: the percentage of hours lost in comparison with the total hours

Istab: index of stability

Special thanks to engineer Pierluigi De Carolis, and CIRPS, ENEL, ILITEC and Hochfeiler. 


ISFOL (2002). I Laboratori della Formazione Continua. Milano: Franco Angeli.



Socio economic barrier and facilitators


Sushila Paudel

Nepal Disabled Women Society


The social status of women with disabilities (WWDs) is tripally barrier in Nepal.  Because they are women, poor and disabled. They are deprived of all kinds of social opportunities like education, employment, economic opportunities, health and matters concerning family.
Economically they are discriminated in  major financial decisions of the family. They are considered as unproductive family members. Only the traditional type of the works - like sewing, webing, cutting and knitting etc. - are offered to them. And they are not paid by the family for all those works. There are very few WWDs that have got the opportunity to work in good offices but some of the employers want to pay them little compared to other employees.
As to education, family do not send them to school and don’t spend money for their education because their education is considered as a non-profit education. So they want them to stay at home.


1. To establish a national coordination committee of WWDs including all institutions concerned in disability issues.  

2.  To work for free education from primary school to university level.

3.  To work for secure government employment for WWDs.

4. To work for involvement of WWDs in all national development program and in the programs of income  generation.



Universal design and space disability


Kumari Niroula

Social Upliftment Forum


Geographically Nepal is a land locked country. Its 75% area is covered by the mountains, hills, forests and rivers etc.. 80% of WWDs live in remote and inaccessible communities where there is no transportation, no schools, no industries for the labour markets and no prothesis centers.
However, very few WWDs  have got educational opportunities and employment but some of them resigned from job because office is in the top floor and they are wheelchair users and no services are available.
Another WWD who is working in the government bank, drinks water only in the morning  and evening before and after the office due to the inaccessibility of the bath room.
Another fellow walks two hours with her manual wheelchair everyday  to go to office because nobody gives her room for rent near her office and the public bus conductors say that there is no more space for the wheelchair.

Recommendations :

  • To arrange an international conferences in Nepal about barrier-free-environment;

  • To create a mass sensibilization;

  • To organise advocacy programs to include accessibility issues in national policy of disability law in Nepal, in terms of transportation, building and road costruction, study course, technology devices etc;



School environment and disability issues in Kabul (Afghanistan): A survey within an emergency project


Andrea Micangeli1,2, Filomena Pietrantonio1 and Stefano Federici2

1CIRPS   - University of Rome “La Sapienza”

2ECONA - University of Rome “La Sapienza”


Keywords: School, Cooperation, Disability Survey. 

Of the 22,5 million people in Afghanistan about 800,000 are disabled (28%) mainly because of preventable diseases and mine accidents. Although these impressive data are supplied by surveys supported by the UN, the new Afghan Government does not have a clear population census. Italian Cooperation experts with the supervision of a team of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, in collaboration with the non-governmental organization GVC - Civil Voluntary Group, have carried out a survey on health and health-related conditions as a pilot project. These conditions, considered as disability dimensions according to the biopsychosocial model, were studied in 65 schools of Kabul with a twofold purpose: to offer reliable information to the Afghan policy makers, and to validate the ICF classification in the school environment. About 1.300 questionnaires were distributed from which data were electronically entered.

Results: 115,923 children between 5 to 14 years old were surveyed. Only 1,1% of total sample were disabled (1,294 ss., 858 m. and 436 f.), of which 39% had motor disabilities (amputations, polio, bone deformities, hemiplegics), 26 % had visual impairments, 3,3% deaf, and 0,3% had paraplegia. Regarding the main etiological factors affecting physical impairments 31% were congenital, 16% injuries due to war. Regarding congenital deformities, they often occurred because of inadequate prenatal care.

Discussion: Considering the percentage of disabled children with respect to the entire Afghan disabled population, the survey highlights a low access to public education for children with disabilities. Consequently, the survey has pointed out the urgency of governmental policies to improve access to education and health care for disabled children, access to rehabilitation centres and quality of life. According to the ICF classification, environmental barriers could be neutralized implementing technologies for enabling educational environments for the mainstreaming of the students with disability.


Federici, S., Olivetti Belardinelli, M., & Micangeli, A. (2003). Dall’inserimento dello “scolaro handicappato” a scuole per tutti accessibili. In M. C. Usai, & M. Zanobini (Eds.), Psicologia del ciclo di vita. Scritti in onore di Maria Teresa Bozzo  (pp. 339-355). Milano: Franco Angeli.

Federici, S. (2003). Adattamento, socializzazione e sviluppo in situazione di disabilità. In M. Brunetti, A. Di Norcia, & M. Olivetti Belardinelli (Atti a cura), Orientamenti della ricerca in Italia sullo sviluppo e l'adattamento psicosociale: "Valentini day" 12 gennaio 2001  (pp. 29-53). Roma: Kappa.

Üstün, T. B., Chatterji, S., Bickenbach, J. E., Trotter II, R. T., Room, R., Rehm, J., & Saxena, S. (2001). Disability and Culture: universalism and diversity. Göttingen: Hogrefe & Huber.

World Health Organization. (2001). International classification of functioning, disability and health: ICF . Geneva: World Health Organization.



Eugenic Atlantic: The Making of an International Disability Science, 1800-1945

David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder

University of Illinois at Chicago


  In addition to the advent of cultural locations used to confine and segregate disabled people such as institutions, segregation laws, and sterilization practices, Eugenic science created a shared discursive space between European and American nations.  In this analysis we draw upon sociologist Paul Gilroy's emphasis on trans-Atlantic traffic in racial thinking (that which he calls "the Black Atlantic") as a site to include comparative discussions of disabled peoples.  In doing so, we theorize some parallels between race and disability as dehumanizing ideological formations.  We seek to fold disability and race into a mutual project of human exclusion based upon scientific management systems successively developed within modernity (i.e. statistical norms, definitions of citizenry, formulations of heredity, evolutionary theory, and newly developed beliefs about "inferior" cognition).  Eugenics shifted not only the way nations imagined disability but also the way individual disabled people imagined themselves.  During this period a perceptual change in the status of disability as intolerable variation resulted in the ostracization -- and, in Germany, the eradication -- of entire populations from participation in the newly minted category of productive citizen.  From the end of the eighteenth century to the conclusion of World War II, bodies designated as defective became the focal point of European and American efforts to engineer a healthybody politic.  While fears of racial, sexual, and gendered "weakness" served as the spokes of this belief system, disability, as a synonym for biological (or in-built) inferiority, functioned as the hub that gave the entire edifice its cross-cultural utility.



"Enabling Manager Technology": The approach of the International Classification of Functioning and Health in school environment




1 CIRPS, University of Rome "La Sapienza"
2 ECONA, University of Rome "La Sapienza"

Keywords: ICF, biopsychosocial model, mainstreaming, enabling

A Research Project, entitled "Disabled people' access to educational, academic, and work environments", was carried out in order to train students and members of school staff to become "Enabling Manager"(EM). The EM is a vocational and educational guidance for disabled high school students who have acquired competence to point out accessible paths to disabled students for their full fruition of educational or professional opportunities in the region Lazio (Italy). These competences are achieved by learning technological, socio-psychological, and environmental resources available in the area of the region Lazio. These competences serve to make operative the mainstreaming of students with disability in the educational institutions and job environments.
For the training a multimedia support was implemented, a CD-Rom, entitled "Enabling Manager- for an accessible education" based on ICF viewpoint.
The efficacy of the EM, as a guide for students, was observed in 7 high schools of Region of Lazio confirming the efficacy of the training method which meets the real disabled students' needs.
The empirical study was conducted with a qualitative method of direct observation. A professional observer attended the lessons led by an EM in a high school classroom. He then collected data regarding 3 principal variables:

1) content comprehensibility;
2) contents affecting on the student-teacher interaction;
3) relation between the usefulness of the CD-Rom with respect to the project aims.

The results have confirmed the efficacy of the Project and have given relevant suggestions to improve the availability of the psycho-technological tolls.


· Federici, S. (2001). Modelli di disabilità e l'ICIDH-2: per un nuovo approccio allo sviluppo e all'integrazione di bambini con diverse abilità. In A. Tronconi (Ed.), 7° Convegno Nazionale Informatica, Didattica e Disabilità, Roma 8-9-10 Novembre 2001 (pp. 216-217). Roma: Università di Roma 'La Sapienza'.

· Federici, S. (2003). Adattamento, socializzazione e sviluppo in situazione di disabilità. In M. Brunetti, A. Di Norcia, & M. Olivetti Belardinelli (Atti a cura), Orientamenti della ricerca in Italia sullo sviluppo e l'adattamento psicosociale: "Valentini day" 12 gennaio 2001 (pp. 29-53). Roma: Kappa.

· Federici, S., Olivetti Belardinelli, M., & Micangeli, A. (2003). Dall'inserimento dello "scolaro handicappato" a scuole per tutti accessibili. In M. C. Usai, & M. Zanobini (Eds.), Psicologia del ciclo di vita. Scritti in onore di Maria Teresa Bozzo (pp. 339-355). Milano: Franco Angeli.

· Garito, M. A., & Federici, S. (2001). L'inclusività della istruzione e formazione a distanza per soggetti con diverse abilità fisiche e sensoriali. In A. Tronconi (Ed.), 7° Convegno Nazionale Informatica, Didattica e Disabilità, Roma 8-9-10 Novembre 2001 (p. 201). Roma: Università di Roma 'La Sapienza'.

· Micangeli, A., Federici, S., & Bozzetti, M. (2001). Per l'introduzione del modello affermativo di disabilità nelle strutture scientifiche della ricerca e della progettazione tecnologica. In A. Tronconi (Ed.), 7° Convegno Nazionale Informatica, Didattica e Disabilità, Roma 8-9-10 Novembre 2001 (pp. 161-166). Roma: Università di Roma 'La Sapienza'.



"Enabling Case Study Analysis of Disturbs in Spatial Cognition: Unified TOGA Approach"


2 ECONA - Interuniversity Center for Research on Cognitive Processing in Natural and Artificial Systems
3 University of Rome "La Sapienza"

The work objective has been to contribute the development of a computational cognitive architecture, i.e. a theory for understanding and simulating human cognition. The paper presents ongoing methodological results related to the confrontation of empirical models with a general top-down systemic framework. As an illustration, an unified cognitive modelling approach, continuously evolving yet , is applied to the explanation of some spatial cognitive disturbances.
There are discussed two characteristic cases from clinical psychology: agoraphobia and claustrophobia (AC cluster) using one problem-independent general cognitive architecture and representing an intelligent cognitive entity.
The analysis has been performed in frame of the TOGA (Top-down Object-based Goal-oriented Approach) theory where human intelligent cognitive processes are represented by the model composed with well distinguished functional layers (A.M.Gadomski, http://erg4146.casaccia.enea.it/wwwerg26701/gad-ag.html). In the work the following layers are especially distinguished: sub-symbolic - neural network based, symbolic - reactive reasoning, symbolic - meta-cognitive, and emotion-based. The symbolic layers are organized according to the IPK (Information, Preferences, Knowledge) meta-levels architecture.
Using the mentioned conceptualisation frame we subsequently demonstrate conflicts and lack of congruence between:

1. spatial information perceived from the active physical environment (Domain) and sub-symbolic cognitive domain models currently available for the human subject,

2. sub-symbolic space interpretation and symbolic domain model-knowledge,

3. available domain symbolic models and meta-cognitive preferences, and finally,

4. rational preferences and emotional preferences.

The key components and data flow of the employed conceptual model are roughly illustrated on the figure below.

More particular, we are taken under consideration the learning capability of neural networks and their hierarchical sub-symbolic and symbolic management which together enable to model typical symptoms of the AC cognitive disturbs. The mental conflicts models are illustrated using cause-consequence flowcharts. According to TOGA, the discussed conceptualisation framework should enable subsequently a top-down specialization of the model components by the incorporation of more detailed attributes of the human behaviour, and by the enabling to define a computational ontology for the simulation of AC psychological conflicts. On the other hand, the presented conceptualisation can also be seen as a base for the development of the cognitive management of the behaviour of highly autonomous artificial intelligent agents, i.e. various types of robots designated to the missions in unstructured, hostile and unexpected physical time-space changing environment (such as, territorial emergency interventions, extraterrestrial missions, cognitive self-repairing ).


"Mental representation of the city in blind and partially sighted people"


University of Cagliari (Italy)

Keywords: cognitive map, urban mental representation.

Within the sector for study of cognitive mapping (Downs and Stea, 1977, Kitchin, 1994) a research has been carried out on how cognitive maps are born in blind or partially-sighted people, which are considerated special "users" of an specific and complex environments such as cities. The main purpose was to point out how blind people can gather info on the environment around and, then, develop a mental representation of reality. 10 subjects have been interviewed, amongst which 4 were blind and 6 almost blind, aged 14-18. A structured interview has been used, composed of 40 open questions, aiming at finding out the perception channels through which the blind gather environmental inputs and descriptive info over aspects, structure and other physical and environmental elements of cities. Other areas surveyed were: orientation and mobility, personal preferences related to certain parts or global aspects of cities and emotional evaluation of urban context. Answers provided were subjected to a textual analysis, supported by the statistic application SPAD. The results confirmed the existence of expected differences between blind and partially-sighted people with reference to the way they used for move and orient themselves across space, identify its relevant elements and come to know it as a whole. Nevertheless, beyond the differences, some important similarities have been identified.


"Spatial orientation in large-scale environments: A single case of progressive topographical agnosia with prevalent right temporal lobe atrophy"


1 CNRS & Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France
2 Centre de Recherche, Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, France
3 Service de Neurologie et de Neuropsychologie, La Timone, Marseille, France

Keywords: human, temporal lobe atrophy, topographical agnosia, compensatory strategies.

A 71-year-old right-handed man presents an inability to recognize faces of familiar and famous persons (prosopagnosia), associated with an inability to recognize famous and familiar places including buildings he sees in his hometown on a daily basis. This study aimed to better understand the impact of "visuo-perceptual" deficits on spatial orientation. Neuropsychological assessment revealed preservation of cognitive domains including language, memory, executive functioning, praxias, visuoperceptual and visuospatial abilities. The overall decision plan was well structured. No marked spatial representation deficits were observed. The patient's wayfinding abilities were assessed in familiar and unfamiliar environments. In his hometown, he could accurately describe a number of routes with the names of the streets, places and important buildings along them, although he was unable to recognize them during navigation along these routes. He could find his way by means of a verbal strategy, which was also successful in unfamiliar environments, although to a lesser extent. MRI scans revealed prevalent atrophy in the right inferior temporal lobe, particularly marked in the fusiform gyrus, parahippocampal cortex and hippocampus. In the present study, we report the case of a patient who presents with a slowly progressive deterioration in the ability to recognize and identify familiar buildings and places due to a visuo-perceptual configurational deficit, despite normal wayfinding abilities.


"Training of the spatial cognitive abilities for children with spina bifida in virtual environments"


Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf (Germany)

Keywords: spina bifida, children, visuospatial abilities, virtual reality.

It is generally known that the visuospatial cognitive abilities of children with spina bifida are more impaired than their verbal ones. This might be due to the minor movement possibilities in early childhood. Furthermore there is a research lack concerning the spatial component in comparison to the visual one. It is our main goal to analyse and train the spatial abilities of children with spina bifida in virtual environments, which are widely accepted as a reliable research and training tool.
We firstly analyse the general intelligence development (HAWIK III [German version of WISC III]) of 40 children with spina bifida at the age of 8 to 12 in comparison to a control group of 40 healthy children. Secondly we investigate different components of their spatial cognitive abilities: the spatial factors visualisation, spatial relations, closure flexibility and furthermore the acquisition and retrieval of spatial knowledge in virtual environments. Thirdly we train a) their ability to take another perspective with a virtual mental rotation test, b) their knowledge acquisition in virtual environments and c) their ability to transfer their knowledge from a virtual to a real environment.


"User Satisfaction with Assistive Technologies: Application of the ICF-Checklist and QUEST on a group of Afghan disabled"


1 CIRPS- University of Rome "La Sapienza"
2 ECONA- University of Rome "La Sapienza"
3 Department of Psychology, University of Rome "La Sapienza"

Keywords: Assistive technologies satisfaction, Cooperation, Disability Survey

A survey on user satisfaction of 30 disabled Afghans with technology devices was performed by the group on cross-cultural disability study of University of Rome "La Sapienza". According to the new perspectives of ICF (WHO, 2001) the biopsychosocial model of disability was adopted in order to assess the interaction among body, personal, and environmental dimensions of disability.
Methodology: 30 subjects (15 male, 15 female) were tested on June 2002 at the rehabilitation centre of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) of Kabul. Two tests were administered: the ICF-Checklist in order to codify the "components" of disability, and the QUEST (Demers, L., Weiss-Lambrou, R., and Ska, B., 1997), aimed at assessing the user satisfaction by means of a questionnaire.
Results: Almost 100% of the interviewed faced environmental barriers, lack of educational and support programs, as well as employment prospects. Discrimination was considered a great obstacle to participate in the full range of social roles and ways of living, especially by women.


Demers, L., Monette, M., Lapierre, Y., Arnold, D. L., & Wolfson. C. (2002). Reliability, validity, and applicability of the Quebec User Evaluation of Satisfaction with Assistive Technology (QUEST 2.0) for adults with multiple sclerosis. Disability and Rehabilitation, 24(1-3), 21-30.

Demers, L., Weiss-Lambrou, R., & Ska, B. (2000). Item Analysis of the Quebec User Evaluation of Satisfaction with Assistive Technology (QUEST). Assistive Technology, 12(2), 96-105.

Demers, L., Weiss-Lambrou, R., & Ska, B. (1997). Quebec user Evaluation of Satisfaction with Assistive Technology (QUEST): A New Outcome Measure. RESNA, June 20-24, 94-96.


"Personal and environmental factors interacting with disability: Application of the ICF-Checklist on a group of Guatemala street urchins"

Stefano Federici 1, Silvia Caggiano 2 and Marta Olivetti Belardinelli 1,2

1 ECONA, University of Rome "La Sapienza"
2 Department of Psychology, University of Rome "La Sapienza"

There is an estimate of 5000 (0,4‰) street urchins in Guatemala which for a population of 12,600,000 people (Data from the U.S. Census Bureau estimated for 2000). This large number is a consequence of many social and political factors such as increase in poverty due to the concentration of population in the city after the civil war of the 80s.
This survey intends to study the health conditions and the social integration of the street urchins in Guatemala. The ICF-Checklist was adopted to classify both health and health related conditions, focusing on how body functioning and socio/cultural aspects interact.
Along with an unstructured interview, in a face-to-face modality, the ICF-Checklist, as a tool to elicit and record information on the functioning and disability from a biopsychosocial perspective, was administered. The contents of the interview were developed by list-codes of the ICF-Checklist selected in order to checking the specific conditions of the street urchins. The codes were selected within the components of Activity and Participation and Environmental factors.
18 subjects (10 male, 8 female) between 16 to 28 years old were interviewed. They were grouped for similar habit and places frequented. The results confirm that the ICF-Checklist is a tool capable classifying multifactorial dimensions of disability in operational, universal, and sharable codes, although applicable and usable only by experts of the instrument and professionals of the field surveyed. A common profile of the street urchins is characterized by a complete lack of trust in governmental institutions and, especially, in police officers. The immediate family doesn't give any kind of social support and very often is seen as the reason to leave their home. Rather friends are experienced as a new family. Their low level of education prevents them to find a stable and profitable job.


Lutte, G. (2001). Principesse e sognatori nelle strade in Guatemala. Roma: Kappa .

Ufficio dei Diritti Umani dell'Arcidiocesi del Guatemala. (1998). Guatemala nunca mas. Roma: La Piccola.

Üstün, T. B., Chatterji, S., Bickenbach, J. E., Trotter II, R. T., Room, R., Rehm, J., & Saxena, S. (2001). Disability and Culture: universalism and diversity. Göttingen: Hogrefe & Huber.

World Health Organization. (2001). International classification of functioning, disability and health: ICF. Geneva: World Health Organization.


"Parlami": A speech enabled web browser


University of Trento

Keywords: web accessibility, visually impaired users

A Text-To-Speech synthesizer (TTSS) is a computer-based system able to read any text aloud. A TTSS could be an effective aid for visually impaired people. "Parlami" is a speech enabled browser, developed using java programming language and open source libraries. The software parses a web page, extract the textual content and additional textual information (e.g., document title and images description) of the document and then reads it aloud using the open source library FreeTTS."Parlami" is an open source software, that can be easily modified to suit different web-usability experiments. As an example, we developed three types of interaction. In the simplest one, the software reads aloud the entire content without stopping until the end of the page. In the second one, the browser reads one sentence at a time and waits for user's input before reading the following sentence. The third type of interaction, it allows the user to navigate through the sentences list, skipping or repeating the phrases the have been read by the software.Our aim is to study how these different kinds of interaction can influence comprehension of the spoken text and usability of the system.


Ecstasis and Handicap

Antonio Bilo Canella


The impossibilty of control as peculiarity of the constrained condition of Disability and the Will of non-control as fundamental distinctive feature of my original research on poetic voice and body.

Why do my body and voice - forged by an artistic inspiration - reveal a clear aesthetic resemblance with the constrained " disharmony " of body and voice suffering from spastic tetraparesis ?

Is it possible to define a condition of " non-everyday life " i.e. of " non- normality " as a potentially endowed condition and not necessarily as an handicapped condition ?

My presence has the aim to propose , through the reported and regenerated experience , a reflection - with the philosophic support of Quantistic Mechanic, of the Heidegger and Lacan - about the possible and fecund relationship between Artistic Research and Disability.


Rehabilitation of Visual Neglect

Luigi Pizzamiglio

University of Rome "La Sapienza"


The aim of this presentation is to illustrate with empirical data, the neurophysiological mechanisms that can be activated in spatial disorders by the use of neuropsychological rehabilitation.
I will begin by presenting some of our own findings and discussing them in relation to a rehabilitation model. I am referring specifically to the classification of functional disturbances which may derive from circumscribed lesions of the brain proposed by Poppel and Steinbuchel (1991). These authors propose four possible consequenses of a lesion:

  • One may produce a partial loss of an area, resulting in a reduction of functional competence. This deficiency can be remediated by using structured training of impaired functions.

  • The second one may produce the complete loss of an area representing one or more functions. The absence of previous competencies suggests the subistitution of the function as a terapeutic goal.

  • The third consequence is described as reduced activation of neural structures causing a functional impairment that can be approched by increasing the level of activation of a particular structure with the appropriate stimulation.

  • Finally a lesion may disrupt the interaction between different circumscribed areas representing separate functions. The removal of these interferences will guide the therapeutic intervention.

I will illustrate the first two models (the deficency and absence model) by briefly describing the rehabilitative procedure which proved to be clinically satisfactory and presenting a possible interpretation of the results.

Cognitive treatment

The aim of our rehabilitation study was to devise a cognitive program to improve heminattentive disturbances and to verify its effectivences in patients with stabilized symptomatology. The results can be summarized as follows:

1) the cognitiva traing used appeared to be very effective in reducing severe neglect in patients with long-standing impairment.

2) This improvement was confirmed in several standard tests of neglect. More importantly the patients demostrated an extension of exploratory scanning to everyday situations.

3) This remained stable when assessed several months later.

4) Furthermore the observed improvement could not be attributed to general cognitive improvements, since most of the patients showed only small changes on other visuo-spatial tests.

After this first study, we collected futher clinical evidence of the effectiveness of the cognitive rehabilitation by comparing two groups of neglect patients. One group received the cognitive treatment for the some amount of time and with similar characterictics (interval from stroke, severity, age etc.) and one group did not. The difference between the two groups is quite evident and statistically significant
I would like to argue that the improvement due to this specific treatment probably does not depend upon changes in some attentional impairments in our patients and that it probably described as a development and optimization of diferent cognitive strategies.

Sensory stimulations

A second section is dedicated to mechanisms of functional recovery that cannot be interpreted as sobstitution of function or simple activation of some intact structure. Rather, they can be regarded as an integration of functions resulting from a disturbance produced by the lesion.
A shall first describe a number of facts, collected in relatively similar domanains and than I shall offer a possible interpretation.
A, new, large group of findings started with an early observation by Silberpfening (1941) and more recently applied to a sample of neglect patients by Rubens (1985).
The stimulation of the left ear with cold water or a warm water in the right ear produces a nystagmus with a slow movement toward the left side and a quick movement toward the right side. This stimulation also produces a substantial, and, in some case, spectacular reduction of neglect as measured by a segment cancellation test and a test of sentence reading. The effect last from 6 to 10 min and then the patient's performance returns to how it was prior to the stimulus.
This improvement has been replicated with the important addition that two of these patients also had reduced anosognosia for almost half an hour.
Similarly, but using an optokinetic stimulus moving at a critical speed in either directions, Pizzamiglio et al (1990) produced a reduction of the left bias in the neglect patients when the stimuli were moving leftward and a worsening of their performance in a line bisection task when moving rightward.
A research which is in press by Vallar, myself and other outlined a positive effect on the horizontal position sense in neglect patients for leftward OKS and a worsening of this response to stimuli moving toward the side ipsilateral to the lesion.
Finally, following Biguer and colleagues' (1989) observation on the effects of vibration applied to the neck muscles, Karnath, Christ and Hartje (1993) were able to produce transient remission of the neglect disorders. Their rationale was that: "both vibration of muscle or muscle tendons produces kinestetic illusion. The illusion involves the perception of a constant movement as well as a spatial displacement of limb position, due to an altered somatosensory rapresentation and the relation between the body and the enviroment".
All these data can be summarized briefly and a general explanation will be proposed. The first point is that vestibular, optokinetic and vibratory stimulation can reduce neglect disorders. This implies that neglect is a reversable phenomenon under certain conditions. Second, all these stimulations are important, in normal individuals for generating a body-centered system of coordinates, necessary for organizing the perception of space and of the relations with the body. Third, these stimulations proved to be effective in reducing neglect disorders and can also decrease the disorders of tactile, proprioceptive, visual perception. Their effects is so robust that even imaginative and delusional symptoms can be reduced transiently.
To tray to explain this group of findings, one might refer to a model which can account for the conscious perception of spatial position of the body. Two stages might be necessary: one in which the processing of the primary sensory information by each hemisphere produce a somatotopic representation, the other, a perceptual processing which maps the sensory information into an egocentric rapresentation of the body.
Vestibular, visual and proprioceptive information is particularly relevant to the localization of body parts with reference to the egocentric coordinates. It is also necessary to hypothesize that both hemisphere are competent in processing controlateral information, while the ipsilateral representation of the left side of the body in the left hemisphere is comparatively weaker that the right one. Unilateral cerebral lesions, and particularly the right sides ones for the latter assumption, may disrupt the bilateral cerebral activity mediating the egocentric, body-centered representations of the body and of the external space. The right sided lesion inroduce an unbalance of the egocentric representation, resulting in a rightward bias of body and space perception. The displacement produced by the lesion may be temporarely reduced by stimulations producing leftward bias such as the ones we have described above.
It is important to note that, since the lesion produce a displacement of the whole egocentric representation, the effect of the vestibular and particularly of the OKS are direction specific, in the sense that they can increase or descrease the spatial exploration, as well as the tactile or proprioceptive impairment, according to the direction of the stimulation.
To return to the early discussion about the mechanisms underlying the recovery of function, the neglect offer an example of a disordered relationship between different subsystems, some of which are preserved, and need to be integrated by using specific stimulations. In this sense, the data and the interpretation presented here can be considered as a rational for organizing a specific program aimed at reacquiring functional capacity.
To sum up, in our opinion recovery of neglect can be obtained through two mechanisms:

1.The appropriate stimulation can probably reactivate a balance between two necessary representations of body and space. It seems likely that repeated stimulations may activate new propultions of neurons which then become responsible for this integrative function.

2. At the same time, part of the adjustment shown by these patients may be conceived as the adoption of conscions cognitive strategies which the patients discover by themselves and which the terapeutic setting helps to develop for a veriety of everyday situations.


Disability, New Technology and the Redefinition of Space-Opportunities and Challenges

Alan Roulstone

University of Sunderland

The 20th century has witnessed the rapid and exponential diffusion of Information and Comunication Technologies (ICTs) to all areas of social life (Kranzberg in Guile 1985; Forester 1989; Scwharz and Leyden 1997). More recent discussion points to the complex interplay between information, ICT diffusion and the redefinition of disability, ability and space. Regardless of the exact interpretation of these changes, the most notable changes are evident in the fast changing assumptions about space, location and environmental control that have been witnessed in education, employment and the wider social world.

Most commentaries on the promise of ICTs for disabled people take an historical view of technological change (Bowe 1980; Finkelstein 1980; Hawkridge and Vincent 1985; Cornes 1987, 1989; Macfarlane 1990; Perlman and Hanson 1990; Roulstone 1993, 1998a). Here the dramatic shift from heavy industrial work to post-industrial desk-top environments, electronic communication and teleworking (Lyon 1988; Duxbury 1998; European Commission 1998; Gomes and Aouad 1999; Murray and Jenny 1990) and the spatial redefintions at the heart of multi-media digital technology (Goggin and Newell, 2003) is accompanied by the subversion of predominant views of time and space (Giddens 1998). These changes in turn allow fundamental revisions to the way work is undertaken and workplace environments configured.

It would be wrong however to assume that new technology by itself guarantees more inclusive social relations, or indeed that the benefits of new technology have been recognised or acknowledged fully (Beinart 1996, 1997; Glickman 1996; Roulstone 1998). Engrained disablist attitudes (Bruce, Baker and Ryan 2000; Graham et al 1990; Honey, Meager and Williams, 1994; Winyard 1996), continued physical barriers (Imrie 1996; Zarb 1995) may all serve to limit the potential benefits of new technology. Indeed the increasingly globalised and disciplined nature of contemporary life, coupled with the rapid pace of technological change could lead to further social exclusion rather than less for disabled people (Hine 1999; Roulstone 2002b; Waddell 1999).


Assessing the benefits of using technology for spatial cognition

Marcia J. Scherer

Institute for Matching Person & Technology (USA)

It is possible today to mimic many environments and situations for the purpose of learning, motor training and safety. For example, there are computer-generated three-dimensional renditions of living spaces for environmental planning and learning to negotiate environmental objects. Driving simulators test and train motor reflexes and virtual reality systems allow chemical experiments to be performed without the need to have actual chemical agents present. For persons with sensory and other disabilities, there are additional considerations. How do you teach a totally blind child who has never experienced light, let alone color, what color is? How do you teach concept development such as body image and spatial concepts such as directionality (above, below), sequence, quantity? Listening skills and auditory comprehension? For people with vision loss as well as those with other disabilities, a person-centered approach is crucial; one that address the individual's learning style and unique needs and preferences. The Matching Person and Technology (MPT) Model and accompanying assessment process was created to fill this need. The MPT assessment process is a set of person-centered measures, all of which examine the self-reported perspectives of adult consumers regarding strengths/capabilities, needs/goals, preferences and psychosocial characteristics, and expected technology benefit. There are separate measures for general, assistive, educational, workplace, and healthcare technology use. Each measure can be used when evaluating a person for technology use and as person-centered, ideographic, outcomes measures. The measures have been determined to have good reliability and validity and they have been used in many research studies within the U.S. and Canada as well as Europe. In Italy and the U.S., one measure was used to conduct a cross-cultural analysis of relationships between disability self-evaluation and individual predisposition to use assistive technology (AT). In the Republic of Ireland the measures were used to assess outcomes of AT provision for (a) people throughout the country participating in a new localized AT service delivery process and (b) students transitioning from secondary education. The results of these and other studies show that persons with disabilities report more benefit from and satisfaction with technology as a result ob participating in a person-centered process aimed to match them with the most appropriate technologies for their use.


ICF and the Environment:
Prospects for Universal Social Policy

Jerome E. Bickenbach

S. Bonaventure University of New York


This paper discusses the prospects for disability policy that is broadly based on the principles of universal design, as these application to issues involving environmental factors and their role in the disabling process. The underlying framework for this discussion - in particular the conceptual modeling of disability that is presumed - is that provided by WHO's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). The paper begins with a brief description of scientific efforts on WHO's part to ensure the applicability of the ICF across cultures and languages, and an introduction to the central organising principles of the ICF - in particular, universalism and etiological neutral. The paper then shifts to an analysis of the central problem of disability policy as regard to incorporating the interactive approach to disability, which demands a full recognition of the role of the environment in the creation of disability. It is suggested that this issue can best be approached in light of principles for social policy development that mirror those found in the 'universal design' movement. The paper concludes with a discussion of the chief obstacles to implementing such a shift in policy focus.