Kim Adams, PhD, PEng, ATP

Associate Professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine - Rehabilitation Medicine

Pronouns: she/her/hers


Associate Professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine - Rehabilitation Medicine
(780) 492-0309
3-85 Corbett (E.A.) Hall
8205 - 114 St NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2G4




  • PhD – Rehabilitation Science, University of Alberta, 2011
  • MSc – Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Specialization, University of Alberta -1993
  • BSC – Electrical Engineering, Computing Specialization, University of Alberta – 1987


  • Licensed Professional Engineer in Alberta since 1989 and has been a RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America) certified Assistive Technology Practitioner since 1999.
  • Past-RESNA board member and past-chair of RESNA’s special interest group on internationally appropriate technology.
  • 20 years of experience in the area of assistive technology and has worked in Scotland, Australia, United States, Peru, and Canada in various service delivery models serving children and adults with a range of disabilities.

Professional Interests

  • Use of assistive robots for children with physical disabilities to engage in play and learning activities
  • Augmentative and alternative communication
  • Human factors engineering
  • Assistive technology design, development and evaluation


Children’s development of cognitive, linguistic, social and motor skills

  • Using robots for academics (numeracy)
  • Using robots for play
  • Using robots as a cognitive measure

Assistive technology development

  • Integrating robots with other assistive technology - E.g., alternative and augmentative communication devices
  • Development of virtual and physical robots
  • Interfaces with haptic feedback and machine learning

Internationally appropriate assistive technology

  • Social media for assistive technology information dissemination and socialization

AT Clinical research with I Can Centre

  • The user experience of AAC

For more information see the Assistive Technology lab website: Assistive Technology Labs | Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine


Dr. Adams’ teaches the assistive technology content to the occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology departments in the Faculty of Rehabilitation at the University of Alberta.  In addition, she teaches REHAB 512 to the Masters in Rehabilitation Science program.   

Scholarly Activities

Research - Assistive Technology Clinical Research

Dr. Adams has a research affiliation with the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and collaborates with the I Can Centre for Assistive Technologies. This creates a clinical linkage that supports the evaluation and further development of assistive technology applications. This affiliation has developed research that is grounded in clinical practice.  For instance:

Using low-cost robots – Due to the high cost of industrial or educational robots ($10,000 or more), the benefits seen in previous studies was limited to the lab. We have been using Lego Mindstorms Robotic Invention System™ ($300) as an inexpensive tool that children with a motor impairment can use in school or at home to control play or learning activities.  In addition, they can build switch skills that will be used in controlling other assistive technology such as wheelchairs and augmentative communication systems.  

Virtual Robots – Even low cost robots can be difficult to distribute in some areas, such as developing nations where the cost of even the most inexpensive robots is out of reach. We have evaluated the use of an on screen virtual robot, which will potentially provide the same type of interaction as demonstrated with a physical robot.

Integrating robots with other Assistive Technology – Children who use speech generating devices for their complex communication needs often have to put the device aside to play unlike typical children who talk while they play. We have evaluated how the integration of spontaneous robotic play and communication can enhance the play and learning environment for the child.

Research - Assistive Technology Interface and Robot Development

This research stream investigates how to make assistive technology interfaces and robots easier to control by children with disabilities.  Current research includes non-invasive brain-computer interfaces to make play accessible even to children who cannot use other access methods (like eye gaze, head pointing).  Also, we are using learning from demonstration techniques to reduce the need to pre-program for every possible play activity.  

Research - Children’s Development and Assistive Technology

AT for Academics – Early studies completed by the Assistive Technology Lab demonstrate that by using robots, children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy can reveal skills that had not been previously measured. Recent research completed by Dr. Adams explored the use of augmentative communication devices to control Lego robots to access the standard math measurement curriculum. Participants were able to demonstrate their level of understanding of math concepts, increased proficiency and learned new concepts.

AT for Play – The use of AT and robotics provides an opportunity for children with disabilities to interact with their peers and participate in play, an activity often taken for granted with typically developing children. Research completed by the AT Lab has found that children demonstrate positive changes in behavior, social and language skills following robotically assisted play and interaction. Current research being completed by a PhD student in the AT Lab explores robotically assisted play as both a cognitive and motor activity.

AT for Cognitive Development – Research completed by the AT Lab has found that children with severe motor impairment such as cerebral palsy were able to display more sophisticated cognitive skills through manipulating the robot than in traditional standardized cognitive tests. The AT Lab is has compared the performance of robot-facilitated tasks completed by typically developing children with children who have motor impairments.

Research - Internationally Appropriate Assistive Technology

This research stream focuses on making AT available to people with disabilites within an international context. Ongoing international research collaboration has led to replication of Canadian studies, investigation of cultural and socioeconomic implications for AT application.

Past research completed by the AT Lab in Colombia explored the use of relevant, available technology (mobile phones) for improving information access and reducing social isolation, particularly for people with disabilities and their families.

Featured Publications

An exploratory study of children's pretend play when using a switch-controlled assistive robot to manipulate toys

2. Adams, K., Rios Rincon, A., Becerra, L., Castanellos, J., Gomez, M., Cook, A. M., & Encarnação, P.

British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT). 2017 January; Special Issue on Assistive Technology (2017)

Design and preliminary testing of a haptics-assisted robot platform for play by children with physical impairments

1. Sakamaki, I., Adams, K., Gomez, M., Castanellos, J., Tavakoli, M., Jafari, N., Janz, H.

Assistive Technology. 2017 January; 2017

Barlott T, Adams K, Diaz FR, and Molina MM

Disability & Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. 2015 January; 10 (4):347-54

12. Adams, K., & Cook, A.

Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. 2014 January; 9 (3):231–241

G. Piedade, A.M. Cook, K. Adams, I. Gil, C. Maya, L. Azevedo, A.R. Londral, S. Rodrigues

Everyday technology for Independence and Care. 2011 January;