Making the most of technology

Today is UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for this year is the ‘Promise of Technology’ so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about some of our favourite tech innovations and update you on our work around technology.

The digital revolution has already had a huge impact on our lives – ever stopped to think how you managed before you had that life-changing tech device, app or website? Despite the rapid changes we have seen over the last decade, many would argue that this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how technology will change the way we live. Our report looking at the future of care published earlier this year, featured robots, monitoring devices that can help you manage health and well-being, and apps that can manage a remote care network. They all have big implications for the way we manage care. Although there will always be some people who are a little behind the curve in adopting new technology, its potential to make the world more accessible, convenient and easier to navigate is undeniable.

The rapid pace of technology development can feel a bit overwhelming, but it also means that new products can be developed faster and more cost effectively than ever before. For example, we are excited by the growing range of home automation products that allow you to control household devices like lights, heating, appliances and potentially any household object using a smart phone or tablet. These have the potential to make it easier for disabled people to be independent at home and are a fraction of the costs of existing specialist domestic technology systems.

What are we doing?

Here at Scope we are particularly interested in how disabled people and their families can make the best possible use of the technology that’s out there to make day to day life easier and more affordable. We’ve commissioned some research looking at how disabled people currently use technology and how they would like to be able to use it in the future. We have also been looking into what support is currently available to disabled people to help them find, use and buy technology. We are particularly keen to explore how we might enable and encourage disabled people and technology experts to share their experiences and knowledge so more people can find out about useful technology products and get the most out of them.

One example of a product we’d love more people to know about is the Giraffe Reader. This is an innovative and low-cost adaptation for use with the iPhone which allows people with visual impairments to read paper documents using the Optical Character Recognition. It’s lightweight, easy to carry, is sold for £32 and can be used instead of a piece of specialist equipment that usually costs between £500 and £2000!

We’d love to hear from you…

We want more people to share their opinions on what tech products are being used and what is out there. What do you like/ hate/ how do you find out about new things and what is missing from the market at the moment? With this in mind, if you are a disabled person or you help support a disabled person, then we’d love to know about your experience. Visit our forum to talk about your favourite piece of technology (app, website, device…), and we can start to share your tech wisdom with others.

We will continue to update this blog with progress and information on more of our projects, as well as with our insights on all things innovation; ideas, ventures and trends that we find. We look forward to hearing from you as we go!

“Technology gives me freedom” #100days100stories

We first shared the stories of how technology has enhanced the lives of disabled students at Beaumont College in Lancaster in December 2014. We’re republishing it here as part of Scope’s  100 Days, 100 Stories  project.

David, 20: “It gives me freedom”

DavidFor verbal communication, David uses a Liberator communication device, which he controls with his eye movements. It has a Bluetooth adaptor, so it lets him use any PC or Mac by sending commands through the Liberator.

“It was just the best feeling when I learnt to use it – it took me a couple of weeks. Communicating with people was very difficult before.”

He also has an ACTIV controller in the headrest of his chair in his bedroom, which means he can control his TV, Blu-Ray and music players.

“Technology is very important because it enables me to communicate and be more independent, which gives me freedom.”

Shaun, 20: “It means I can do more”

ShaunShaun uses a Liberator communication aid with a head switch. The device scrolls through different rows and columns on a screen, and then he hits the buttons if he wants to create a message. He can also control things in his bedroom with it such as, open and close the door, curtains and windows, as well as his TV.

“I find it easy, but it took a couple of months to learn. It was life-changing – it means I can do more things. Before, I found communication with people was hard if they did not know me. It has changed my life for the better.”

Dominique, 22: “I wouldn’t be able to talk to my family on Facebook”

DominiqueDominique uses a joystick to move a mouse pointer and then clicks the switch with her head rather than the mouse button.

“It’s easy to learn, but it can take a long time to get used to – it took me about three weeks before I was nine out of ten!

It was weird because it was new, but it is very important. It lets me use a computer, and communicate in shops, on transport, in restaurants and pubs. I talk to my family on Facebook every day, and without my technology I wouldn’t be able to use Facebook.”

Cameron, 19: “I can produce my best work”

CameronCameron drives his wheelchair with a joystick. When using a computer he uses a different joystick, a touch screen and a large keyboard.

“It takes a bit of getting used to, but I am a very, very determined individual who will not stop until the task is completed to my own expectations! It took a fair few weeks, but I continued to push myself. It was a strange sensation – it’s kind of like when you play your first game of wheelchair basketball, because you have to use your strength to propel an object, only it’s a touch screen or keyboard rather than a ball.

Assistive technology helps me complete my college work – without it, my work wouldn’t be as effective. Because I’m at a college where the technology does exist, I find I can produce my work to the best standard I can do.”

Alice, 20: “Every time she uses it, she has a big smile”

AliceAlice has complex learning, visual and communication difficulties, and uses a communication device with a PODD Grid to communicate. It’s an onscreen grid of symbols, and Alice uses a head switch to scan through them and point to the one she wants. She has a speaker in her headrest, and the device reads each symbol out loud. Her assistive technologist, Zak Sly, says:

“Alice has used a PODD book in the past, but before someone had to turn the pages for her – it took a lot longer to get to the words or sentences she needed. She learnt to use the new device in a few weeks and is now building up her skills, using it more and more in her day-to-day activities. When she first got the device, she smiled lots and every time she uses it, she has a big smile.”

Find out more about 100 Days, 100 Stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.

International Day of People with Disability

As 3 December is International Day of People with Disability, and this year’s theme is technology, we thought we’d celebrate by talking to some of our online community members, who have been brought together by technology.

Hannah, parent

Hannah Postgate with her daughterScope’s online community has been a revelation for me as a parent of a disabled child. I was at the start of my journey when I discovered Netbuddy, now part of Scope. It made all the difference, as I could post a question about something serious or silly and someone out there would have a tip or an idea to help.

For many parents of a child with a disability there are not the physical networks available locally, simply because we are few and far between, which can be very isolating. Technology has allowed us to connect with other families and make friends through communities and forums like this.

It’s been a lifeline and a laugh I must say!

Noah, disabled community member

Noah, community championForums like the Scope community are a great place to share ideas with other disabled people and hopefully help others gain something that will enable a greater quality of life. It feels good being able to help people, and you never know what you will get back.

The community is a safe place for disabled people to discuss things that perhaps their other friends wouldn’t understand. It reduces the feeling of being alone, trying to curve your way though life around the many challenges that having a disability brings.

The community is open 24 hours a day every day of the year, and you never know what you will get in reply from the hundreds of members that have such a wealth of different experiences. It might be that latest app that is changing their life for the better, or a new off-road mobility trike that’s helping them get out about and a little fitter. When people share their experiences they can inspire others.

On the other hand if you are can’t see the wood for the trees and need a some inspiration on how to move forward, or simply want to vent your frustration, you can post on the community for some support from people who understand.

Catherine, young carer

Catherine (young carer)I believe technology is a brilliant and efficient way to communicate amongst friends, peers, family and even potential ‘internet friends’.

As a young person, it’s a way to be taken seriously and that’s why I think Scope’s community appealed to me. The idea of an online community is it’s a way of providing support and security for people who both need and deserve it.

You can share tips, tricks and advice to the benefit of others, to make their lives better, overcoming issues such as distance. Also, I feel more relaxed at approaching a professional in this manner. I love the Internet, and I look forward to becoming more a part of this helpful community!

 Debbie, Helpline information officer

Debbie Voakes, Helpline Information OfficerWorking on the Scope helpline we’re used to dealing with issues on a one-to-one basis by phone or email. When the online community launched, we were slightly nervous at the thought of providing information and advice on such a public platform. But, now we’re all signed up and actively monitor and respond to posts daily.

I volunteered to become a community adviser in my lead role of Housing and Independent Living and it has become a very enjoyable way of reaching a wider audience. It also helps me with the research I carry out for my role which helps keep my knowledge up to date.

It has become increasingly difficult to find advice agencies particularly in the areas of Welfare Benefits, Housing and Social Care. We hear from people every day who are struggling to get advice about really important issues. To be able to give information on a public platform like the Scope online community means we are able to reach people we may not have previously been able to reach by phone or email.

It’s great when other community members join in with the various discussions and its brilliant seeing lots of people’s different perspectives on a particular topic. Most of all, I think people like seeing who they are talking to and knowing there is a real person behind the answers given. I hope that all of our community members feel as much a part of Scope as I do.

Chris Peak, Community advisor

Chris Peak Assistive TechnologistTechnology is changing around us daily and it offers disabled people  opportunities that generations before could only have dreamed of. As an adaptive technology specialist, I  find it extremely exciting.

A couple of years ago I heard of the wonderful work a small charity called Netbuddy was doing in offering on-line support, advice and tips across a whole variety of topics. As someone who worked with people with complex difficulties and impairments, I was keen to offer my services as an assistive technologist, and now continue to do so through the new Scope community.

In my experience it seems that sometimes people just require confirmation of an idea to point them in the right direction, or a community of people in a similar circumstance who can offer meaningful support.

I think the new community Netbuddy and Scope have created is a fantastic opportunity for people to support each other through technology, with friendly, caring,  non-biased advice and ideas.

Join us on the online community, where you’ll find discussions about the things that matter to you. Plus you can search hundreds of great tips and advice on everything from technology to travel.