Senior Assistant Professor Kataoka Selected for AMED “2022 Comprehensive Research and Development Project on Measures for Persons with Disabilities”


Senior Assistant Professor KATAOKA Yuko at Okayama University Hospital’s Department of Otorhinolaryngology has been selected by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) to lead a research team for its “2022 Comprehensive Research and Development Project on Measures for Persons with Disabilities (Other) (Physical and Mental Disabilities/Sensory Disabilities)”.

The project aims to conduct research and develop technology that will remove social barriers and support the livelihoods of people with disabilities in local communities, as well as promote advanced and practical research on the etiology and pathology, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation methods for diseases that cause disabilities.

Senior Assistant Professor Kataoka submitted a proposal to the project’s sensory disabilities field under the category called “Development of Interactive Systems that Provide Effective Support to People with Sensory Disabilities Requesting Assistance During Disasters and Verification of Effectiveness for Implementation”. She will lead a research team from 2022 to 2024 under the title “Investigating the Effectiveness of an Emergency Notification Sound/vibration Converter and Information Sharing Device for the Hearing-Impaired During Disasters and Emergencies”.

In reaction to her proposal’s selection, Senior Assistant Professor Kataoka explained her passion for her upcoming research, saying, “Currently, a lot of Japan’s notification systems during disasters and emergencies rely on auditory communication, including amplified announcements or ambulance sirens. This puts people with impaired hearing at a disadvantage and has caused life-threatening situations during fires or floods. As such, a special user interface device that can convert emergency notification sounds into vibrations was designed as a means for hearing-impaired people to receive real-time basic information in the event of a disaster or emergency without the assistance of a third party. Together with the developers of Fujitsu’s prototype product “Ontenna”, we are developing a wearable device that recognizes and converts important alerts, including everyday sounds such as disaster prevention radio notifications, sirens, and emergency vehicles, into vibrations. We also plan to develop and implement an app to simplify communication for the hearing impaired when they request rescue assistance. The prototype has already been featured in an NHK program, and with the collaboration of The Japanese Federation of the Deaf, our goal is to further develop the product and make it available not only in Okayama, but also nationwide, thereby linking it to future welfare in Japan. I would like to improve self-help, public assistance, and mutual assistance in times of disaster, and to create a society in which the hearing impaired can live safely and securely, with the possibility of communicating in real time without the need for a third party”.

Senior Assistant Professor Kataoka has provided support for children with hearing difficulties for many years through her educational research and medical activities.
In May 2021, Senior Assistant Professor Kataoka partnered with speech therapist NAKAGAWA Atsuko at the Okayama University Hospital Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to publish a booklet called “What is Important in School Life for Elementary, Middle, and High School Students with Hearing Loss: Teacher Edition”. The booklet includes twenty tips on how to relate to children with hearing loss and how to help them participate in class and communicate more easily with their teachers and friends.

Okayama University is dedicated to contributing to the support of people with sensory disabilities as well as effective rescue assistance in Japan, where disasters are frequent, and promotes Senior Assistant Professor Kataoka’s ongoing research to develop and implement an interactive device that will provide effective assistance to people with sensory disabilities. Please look forward to reading more about the activities of Senior Assistant Professor Kataoka’s research team in the near future.

You can find more information about the project on the AMED news page (April 19, 2022).

“What is Important in School Life for Elementary, Middle, and High School Students with Hearing Loss: Teacher Edition” (Okayama University Hospital, Department of Otolaryngology, published May 6, 2021) (Japanese only)

“I feel anxious when a teacher asks me a question”: Considering the difficulties children with hearing loss face at school, thoughts from the doctor who created a booklet to help (from Okayama) (Okayama Broadcast) (FNN Prime Online broadcast on September 25, 2021) (Japanese only)

Senior Assistant Professor KATAOKA Yuko