GCC 5022

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The Human Experience of Sensory Loss: Seeking Equitable and Effective Solutions

This course focuses on the visual, auditory and other sensory pathways that convey information about the world to mind and brain. Millions of people worldwide experience deficits in a sensory function that affect their quality of life. We will focus on the characteristics of healthy sensory functioning as well as how sensory disorders can affect personal identity, impede information processing, and alter brain structure and function.

The course will address the demographics and risk factors for sensory disabilities, the implications of these disabilities for activities of daily living, the history of society’s response to sensory disability, as well as societal, ethical and personal attitudes toward sensory disabilities. The course will also explore translational and applied approaches for addressing sensory disabilities. Each class session will be co-taught by a pair of instructors, representing multiple scientific and social perspectives. A major goal of the course is to view sensory function and impairment from multiple perspectives—cognitive science, neuroscience, medicine, engineering, society, consumers, ethics and social justice.

The course will combine lectures, discussions, and student-led presentations of research papers. The course will include hands-on demonstrations of assistive technology and panel discussions with people with visual and hearing disabilities. During the semester each student (or pairs of students) will develop a mini research proposal to address a real-world issue related to sensory impairment. The proposal must be translational in nature and must include consultation with consumers of the proposed project. The final class session will be devoted to poster presentations of the mini proposals. The proposal report must include consideration of potentially opposing viewpoints about the proposed research. This course addresses two of our University’s grand challenges: Advancing Health Through Tailored Solutions, and Just and Equitable Communities.