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Georgia Tech College of Design

Formerly known as the College of Architecture


Center For Assistive Technology and Environmental Access

Multidisciplinarity. Two words that capture the essence of The Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA). A dedication to enhancing health, activity, and participation of people with functional limitations draws CATEA’s four research labs together, but the specific work and application of these labs spans an incredibly vast scope.

 The Accessible Education and Information Lab, the Accessible Workplace Lab, the Enabling Environment’s Lab, and the Rehabilitation Engineering and Applied Research Lab make up CATEA, and provide students with a range of opportunities to engage in impactful multidisciplinary research.

From workplace technologies to rehabilitation projects, CATEA is working to ensure that individuals with disabilities have good quality of life as they get older. The best part of this Center is that it involves four of the six colleges on Georgia Tech’s campus, showing the true multidisciplinary spirit that is Georgia Tech!

The researchers and staff within the Center itself are also incredibly diverse. They have degrees and backgrounds in a number of areas, ranging from digital media to biomedical engineering to psychology to mechanical engineering, to name just a few. Experts are never far away!  

One of the Center’s projects focuses on developing technologies that support successful aging with disability. A recent $4.6 million five-year grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research in the Department of Education demonstrates not only CATEA’s prominence but also the interdisciplinary nature of its work. CATEA’s director Jon Sanford serves as the lead principal investigator for this project. Other project investigators include representatives from all over Georgia Tech’s campus, including the Institute for People and Technology (IPaT), School of Industrial Design, Center for Geographic Information Systems (CGIS), Alternative Media Access Center (AMAC), Interactive Media Technology Center (IMTC), Human-Centered Computing (HCC), Biomedical Engineering (BME), and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

The grant will cover research, development, and training projects for CATEA’S Rehabilitation Engineering Research Lab. The overall mission of this work is to prevent, minimize or reverse the disabling effects of age-related losses and contextual factors on the independence, health, and participation of people who are aging with chronic conditions or long-term impairment.

Such work impacts individuals and all of society in very significant and tangible ways. For instance, research and collaboration within CATEA has resulted in open source software and hardware that enables robots to assist people with a variety of needs that relate to work, home, transportation and health care. Henry Evans, someone who lives with quadriplegia, was able to use the mobile robot created by CATEA researchers to shave his face and perform other tasks that he is usually unable to perform. The impact of CATEA’s work in this area and many others reflects the significance of the Center and demonstrates the incredible outcomes that arise from its diversity of expertise and skill sets.

Armed with these crucial assets, the Center’s industrial, architectural and urban design projects overlap digital media, human-computer interaction, rehabilitation engineering, and more. These projects range from the development of new assistive technologies to innovative universal design practices. Unique in both the quality and quantity of research, CATEA is a significant force in the College of Architecture.