- Rehabilitation of people with disabilities has become a popular research domain in HCI leading to the emergence of assistive devices. Assistive technology can help people with certain disabilities to function better and improve their quality of life, helping them work, communicate and learn efficiently while maintaining or improving their capabilities. Our research in this area involves the design and evaluation of new computing environments for special user groups, primarily children with cognitive and physical disabilities, visually impaired adults, and elderly with mental and physical ailments, to enhance their experience with, and through, the technology. This line of research also addresses a research gap by developing new approaches for involving these special user groups in the design process.
Our “Assistive Technologies for Children with Special Needs” Project spreads across multiple avenues with a systematic approach to increase understanding of children on the Autism Spectrum in a country where a timely diagnosis is often rare. Currently, our focus is on designing screening and rehabilitation technologies for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
We are also actively working on Dyslexia which is a learning difficulty that affects one’s ability to read and write. In Pakistan, its prevalence is unknown. Currently, there are no Diagnostic and Remedial tests and programs for individuals with Dyslexia in Urdu. We head paramount research in this area where we are working on the first Screening test and Remedial Program in Urdu for children who struggle with Urdu reading.
In recent years, mental illness has become recognized as a major disease burden globally. In Pakistan, however, despite the alarming prevalence of issues surrounding mental health, there are still several barriers to care. There is often a lot of stigma attached to mental health problems resulting primarily from a lack of awareness, which can act as a deterrent for anyone considering seeking professional help. Additionally, factors such as high treatment costs, lack of resources, and particularly for students, the over-burdening of university counseling facilities make it difficult to access appropriate mental health care. The training of enough mental health professionals to support a growing affected population in Pakistan or designing a complete support system using healthcare resources is both a burden for its struggling economy as well as time consuming. Technology has the potential to help close this mental health access gap in a way that is cost effective and scalable. We began my research in this area to better understand the problem from various perspectives and began several projects to provide a viable means of intervention for individuals suffering from depression or anxiety.
Furthermore, in the field of assistive technology for adults, a widely researched area is visual impairment. However, in the cultural context of Pakistan, resources are scarce and information limited. Thus, we have been researching on how to assist adults with visual impairment in an educational capacity.
One of our main focuses in research is to try to improve the lives of older adults with cognitive or physical disabilities. Even though Pakistan is a collectivistic culture, the elderly are often socially deprived and struggle to maintain normalcy with their increasing cognitive or physical hurdles. After establishing a detailed understanding of how the eldelry interact with technology, we moved our research into the domain of rehab for elderly with cognitive or physical disabilities. There is a need to support stroke patients in Pakistan for improving their quality of life, and recent research has shown the potential of using technological aids as an alternative to conventional rehabilitation facilities. We are currently extending this line of research for eldelry with Mild Dementia, Mild Cognitive Impairment or Aphasia.
- We pursue Human-Computer Interaction in the Global South, in particular for under-resourced and under-represented communities. Although this field has received a lot of attention in the past few years, the developments remain in their infancy and far from the point where ICTs could have a systematic and positive social impact. Our first focus in this area is to create an inclusive culture for the marginalized communities who don’t have access to basic healthcare. Health and technology are increasingly making their mark across the world as a cost effective solution to optimized patient care.
The other main focus of our research in the Global South is on “Gender & Technology''. Women’s safety is a growing concern in Pakistan with crimes against them escalating day by day. We explore how women in the margins can be helped with the use of technology to face problems like harassment while using public transport help as well as empower marginalized women with the right knowledge, skills and information about their rights in Pakistan.
Finally, we also work on ICT for education, with a main focus on skill-based education for children in low-resource communities of Pakistan. The third aspect of my research in this area is to improve the functional literacy of out of the school teenagers who are currently doing blue collar jobs.
- This research area covers both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Tangible cultural heritage covers material culture and the production of physical artifacts, their maintenance and transmission in a society. Intangible cultural heritage includes the evolving knowledge and skills which are transmitted through learning and tradition.
Projects: Khoji App