Emerging Assistive Technologies to Foster Autonomy of People with Cognitive Disabilities

Cognitive disability is an umbrella term used to refer to people presenting with a wide variety of health conditions, such as dementia, neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., developmental intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders) or brain injuries. The impact of cognitive disability on the persons, as well as on their families and society at large is well recognized.  Available evidence shows that people with cognitive disability may require a wide variety of healthcare and social support services. In addition, this condition may lead to high rates of unemployment and poverty.
There are no reliable estimates on the number of people living with cognitive disability worldwide, but an increasing aging population, reduction in mortality rates, as well as improvement in diagnostic practices for certain conditions, suggest that the number of people with cognitive disability is expected to markedly increase over the next few years. For instance, by 2030 the number of people with dementia is expected to rise to 75 million. Available global estimates on developmental disabilities also indicate that, in 2016, more than 50 million children below age 5 presented with a developmental disability.
People with cognitive disabilities may require extensive support from caregivers in performing activities of daily living such as preparing a lunch, completing an occupational task (e.g., assembling an object), enjoying recreational activities (e.g., listen to preferred music), or moving independently in spaces (e.g., cities, parks, buildings). Due to these limitations, persons with cognitive disabilities are seldom involved in meaningful activities, with the consequence that they may lack the opportunities to achieve autonomy in important areas of life, including self-care, learning, work, or leisure. Moreover, lack of engagement in activities of daily living or occupational tasks may further exacerbate their tendency to passivity, possibly leading to an increase in maladaptive behaviors (e.g., self-injury, stereotypical behaviors), and a deterioration of their health and well-being, as well as their social image.
Traditionally, the assistive products that have been developed to support people with cognitive disability have been referred to as assistive technology for cognition.  Although there is no agreed definition of this specific type of products, they can be generally defined as any assistive technology that can be used to reducing the cognitive demand associated to a task. For instance, electronic calendars may automatically remind a person with memory impairment the day of the week as well as the activities to be done during the day.
This Special Thematic Session builds on the assumption for which the rapid development and availability of enabling technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), Internet of Things (IoT), smart assistants, and speech-recognition systems, are opening new and exciting possibilities for people with cognitive disabilities to live independently and participate in different aspects of life, including education, work, sports, leisure, and culture.
The Special Thematic Session aims to gather researchers, developers, and engineer actively involved or interested in the process of design, implementation, prototyping and testing of such emerging technological solutions with a view to promote the participation of people with cognitive disabilities of all ages in activities of daily living or occupational tasks. Emerging assistive technology solutions include but are not limited to:

  • Internet of Things
  • Smart homes
  • Smart cities
  • Voice-controlled personal assistants
  • Mixed/Augmented/Virtual reality
  • Social Assistive Robotics
  • Intelligent Agents
  • Intelligent and/or Pervasive Systems
  • Context-aware systems
  • 3D printing

We invite interested authors coming from diverse domains and disciplines to submit extended abstracts of research work, but also more practice-oriented concept papers, models, reports, and position papers on topics related to this field.


  • Lisa Cesario, WeCareMore Centre for Research and Innovation of AIAS Bologna onlus

Contributions to a STS have to be submitted using the standard submission procedures of ICCHP24.
When submitting your contribution please make sure to select the right STS from the drop-down list "Special Thematic Session". Contributions to a STS are evaluated by the Programme Committee of ICCHP-AAATE and by the chair(s) of the STS. Please get in contact with the STS chair(s) for discussing your contribution and potential involvement in the session.