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The Rehabilitation Living Lab in the mall (RehabMaLL) project is the first interdisciplinary and multi-sectorial research study to explore the principal obstacles and facilitators, either physical or psychosocial, to social participation and inclusion for persons with disabilities in a commercial mall environment. The project is conducted by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation of greater Montreal (CRIR) and is in the process of transforming an urban shopping mall, Alexis Nihon in downtown Montreal, into an inclusive environment for persons of all ages, particularly for those with disabilities.
Persons with disabilities face daily challenges that often hinder their social participation or full accomplishment of ‘life habits’, which include daily activities such as feeding oneself and communicating with others as well as fulfilling social roles like running errands or meeting friends for coffee. The urban shopping mall provides an ecologically-valid example of a societal microcosm where complex transactions and activities involving persons with and without disabilities take place year-round.
The Rehab MaLL regroups researchers from local and international universities working in about 15 different disciplines, among them, engineering and robotics, psycholinguistics, occupational therapy, psychology or design. Our Living Lab (LL) also includes clinicians working in rehabilitation centers, members of community organizations dedicated to people with disabilities or the elderly, industry and our main partner, the shopping mall. It is this unique commitment and synergy between the different stakeholders in public and private settings that is the driving force behind our LL. Our vision is to create an inclusive and enabling environment aiming to optimize social participation and inclusion for all individuals, grounded and stemming from leading-edge research, while serving as a blueprint for the creation of similar enabling environments world-wide.
To fulfil this vision, since 2011, we have run a number of projects aligned with three main objectives:
Users occupy a prominent place within the RehabMaLL and can be regrouped into several categories unique to our LL. The first category consists of persons of all ages living with a physical disability be it of a motor, sensory or cognitive nature. The second category of users includes the family members and caregivers of these individuals since they too may be involved in the co-creation of innovation developed within the LL. The third group of users includes clinicians (allied health professionals from multiple disciplines and physicians) working with persons with disabilities and their families in the rehabilitation facilities and the community. Given that the rehabilitation research laboratories of CRIR researchers are housed within the different CRIR rehabilitation facilities, LL researchers and their graduate students are in constant contact with rehabilitation users and their families, thus facilitating communication and collaboration with persons from the three user categories throughout the co-creation process. A fourth group of users are persons working in the shopping mall: the mall owners, persons who rent the commercial space within the mall, and persons (shopkeepers, clerks, cashiers, security guards, food court cleaners, etc.) who work/serve the people who use the mall.
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