Tag Archives: Disability Innovations

Visit our new online technology hub – in partnership with AbilityNet

Technology is transforming the lives of disabled people. We are working with tech experts from AbilityNet to highlight some of the software and equipment that can make life easier, more productive and fun in our new technology section.

Adapting your computer

Sometimes your existing computer has accessibility features on your existing PC that you might not be aware of. Try My Computer My Way, a free, interactive tool developed by AbilityNet that makes any computer, tablet and smartphone easier to use.

Check out our keyboard shortcuts, too!

Computers and autism

People with autism spectrum disorders can use a variety of multimedia applications and programs to experience the world around them within clear and safe boundaries.

How tech can support people with learning difficulties

Find out about touchscreens, keyboard and mouse alternatives and software that can help people with learning difficulties to access computers.

Visual impairment apps and suppliers

For people who have difficulty seeing conventional displays, there are many useful apps and specialist suppliers in visual impairment products. Other options to accessing information online include magnification and screen-reading.

Voice recognition

If you think you have never used voice recognition, think again! Voice recognition is becoming more and more mainstream so if you have a Windows computer or an Apple product, you already have it! Find out how you can use voice recognition more effectively.

Computer training and resources

One of the biggest barriers to disabled people accessing technology is training. We offer links to a wide range of private and voluntary organisations that offer computer training and support for disabled people.

Talk tech

Join our online community to talk to an AbilityNet advisor to discuss technology.

Read our equipment tips.

AbilityNet is a UK charity that helps older people and disabled people of all ages use computers and the internet to achieve their goals at home, at work and in education.

Tech4Good awards: inclusion means everyone’s a winner

The Tech4Good awards were created by the charity AbilityNet with the help of BT to highlight the empowering influence of digital technology – whether it’s at home, at work, in education.

There were lots of great ideas this year but here were some of my favourites that used technology to make the world a more accessible place for disabled people.

Wayfindr

Visually impaired woman uses smartphone to navigate in station
Visually impaired woman uses smartphone to navigate in station

Accessibility Award winner Wayfindr is an audio-based, open source app that allows visually impaired people to navigate the world independently. It uses smartphone technology and offers directions for stations, hospitals and shopping centres. In the future the project aims to provide navigation wherever you are in the world!

OxSight

SmartSpecs
SmartSpecs

OxSight have created ‘Smart Specs’, an augmented reality display system that allows people to regain a sense of independence. It helps make sense of the physical environment by simplifying the ambient light, translating it into shapes and shades so that people can discern physical objects and perceive depth.

The Great British Public Toilet Map

Toilet map on smartphone
Toilet map on smartphone

The NHS has estimated that 3-6 million people manage reduced continence due to medical or health reasons. Public toilets are a necessity, but with funding being cut, they can be difficult to locate, and are often not accessible. The Great British Public Toilet Map provide a database that allows you to filter results to suit you, including finding accessible toilets and baby changing.

South London Raspberry Jam

Inspired by his love of coding, and his Tourette’s Syndrome diagnosis at the age of seven, Femi Owolade-Coombes set up a crowdfunding campaign for an Autism and Tourette’s Syndrome friendly ‘South London Raspberry Jam’. As a result, Femi has introduced over 100 young people and their families to coding – all for free, and all at the age of just 10 years old.

AsthmaPi kit

But the overall winner of Tech4Good is aged just nine years old! Arnav Sharma has an aunt with asthma and set out to find out more about the condition and how he could use tech to help. Using Raspberry Pi, gas and dust sensors, Arnav’s AsthmaPi kit can help parents of children suffering from asthma. Using email and text message alerts, patients receive prompts to take medication and reminders for review visits.

Read more about the Tech4Good awards.

Virgin Media Business’s VOOM: vote for your favourite disability product pitch

VOOM is a competition from Virgin Media Business giving businesses and professions the chance to pitch for a £250,000 ad campaign and £50,000 in cash!

Vote for your favourite pitches before voting closes on 23 May.

Here’s our round-up of some of the most interesting pitches we’ve seen which are about supporting disabled people.

Neatebox system

Women sitting in kitchen with guide dog using her mobile

The Neatebox app sends a signal from the user’s phone directly to staff in partnering businesses to tell them what the user needs and to give them tips on how best to interact and help.

Inclusive Leisure

Diagram of a gym

Inclusive Leisure wants to create a fully-equipped gym designed for disabled users but accessible for all.

Limitless Travel

Pier going out to lake and mountains. Text reads #Limitless

Limitless Travel wants to create a community of disabled travelers to share their knowledge and travel experiences.

Opening Minds Training

Disabled man with woman and shop assistant in a clothes shop

Opening Minds provides support and training to organisations from disabled people. The sessions give businesses invalue insight into how to be more inclusive and the challenges around accessibility.

Magnum Services

Magnum Services logo

Magnum Services uses professional amputee actors and makeup artists for simulation in film, television, emergency services and the military.

Access Champ

Access champ logo and website address - accesschamp.co.uk

Accesschamp wants to train hotel, restaurant and venue staff on how to provide outstanding customer care and accessible venues for everyone.

Everyone can play

Drawing of adventure play space

Thomley is an activity centre for disabled people with play areas, sensory room and a seven acre outdoor play space. They want to create a new exciting outdoor space.

Seable HolidaysGroup of people guiding each other down a road

Seable is a social enterprise which provides accessible and active holidays.  They want to recruit a larger team in order to scale up their business.

Vote for your favourite pitches before voting closes on 23 May. Find out more about how VOOM works.

Disability services in Finland: a better life?

Recently Jean Merrilees returned from spending three months at a regional centre that assesses people for equipment in Finland, as part of her degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Northampton. Having worked for Scope for a couple of decades, advising disabled people on a wide range of issues, it was a good chance to reflect on how disability services in Finland compare to those in the UK. Continue reading Disability services in Finland: a better life?

Disability Innovation: A day in the life of an iPad

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology and hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

The development of various tablets has already had a huge impact for many disabled people, making it easier for them to plan, communicate and engage. There are lots of different apps and software out there that can offer support, and although many were developed without disabled people as the intended audience, they can be used throughout the day to make life easier and give more control. The following is a possible day in the life of an iPad.

Starting the day

7 am: My alarm wakes me at 7 with a gently increasing sound, so as to not wake me with a shock. Now there is a range of possible alarms including vibrating or high pitched sounds, so regardless of your impairment you can still be up on time.

7:30 am: Using Skype or Facetime I can get in touch with my support worker to discuss the day ahead and let them know how I feel- is today a good day or a bad day? Is there anything unexpected I might need today they can bring?

8 am: I turn on the radio using my radio App to find out what’s happening in the world today, how the traffic is and what I can expect from the weather. It helps me plan my outfit, transport and activities. If you need more detailed weather information there a range of weather apps to choose from.

8:30 am: Using assistive technology from Perrero I switch open the door so my support worker can get in.

Keeping active during the day

9 am: I’ve checked emails, LinkedIn and Facebook. Whether you are working from home, checking on freelance opportunities or just staying in touch with friends and family it’s easy wherever you are.

10:30am: I’m enjoying a mid-morning relax with an online paper. Sadly the iPad won’t make my a cup of tea (yet!)

1pm: The taxi I ordered via my app has arrived to take me into town for a doctor’s appointment, and once it’s done I can book a follow up appointment online.

2pm: Just seen a great top in a shop window so I’ve taken a picture on the iPad camera so I can hunt it down online later and get it delivered straight to my door.

5pm: Catching up on my favourite TV programmes via demand services such as BBC iPlayer.

6pm: As a treat I’ve ordered takeaway from somewhere local to be delivered to my door using Just Eat. Got no cash? That’s OK because I can pay online as I order.

Winding down

8pm: I may not be going out tonight but I can still socialise online: What’s App with a friend, chat to someone new on Tinder or contribute to online discussion boards like Scope’s Community.

9pm: Quickly check my Google calendar for tomorrow’s plans and see if there’s anything I can book in advance.

9:30pm:  Chilling out watching a film online to unwind for the evening.

11pm: Back in bed I’m going to read a bit of your current book via my ereader app before a good night’s sleep.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Disability Innovation: What might the future be for technology and care?

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology and hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field. In this post we hear from George

My name is George and I am a law student at the University of York. I, like most people my age yearn for independence from my family and seek to carve a future for myself. However, achieving independence is made harder when you live with a physical disability which means I occasionally have to depend on carers to assist me with care.

While striving for this independence, I have spent a considerable amount of time wondering what the future of care will look like. As budgets continue to get tighter and tighter, I find myself questioning whether technology will ever fill the place of traditional carers and if so, how will it work? What will it do? And how should it be implemented?

What is out there now?

 At the moment there seems to have been a trend towards inventing more devices to help with care tasks. These are aimed more at the aging population, but cover many of the tasks that millions of adults struggle with every day. The first of such inventions is the Oasis Seated Shower system. This product from America allows a person to remain seated while various outlets provide both water and soap to all body surfaces. The device features a unique seating system that allows a thorough washing of areas that would normally be inaccessible on a traditional shower chair. The entire process can be controlled with either a remote control or in an automated process. This not only means that a person using the device does not need help to do so, but also means that there is less strain on carers looking after people.

Another area where there have been lots of recent developments is toileting. While there have been many innovations in this area such as the introduction of Clos-O-Mat toilets, there has been little in the way of development with incontinence. This rather delicate area has not significantly changed for decades, however, a new product from a company called Novamed could solve some of the problems associated with this care activity. Their new Solaticare device provides a means whereby people who have difficulty transferring or are confined to a bed to use the toilet without having to wear pads. The system is able to remove waste and then provides warm water and warm air to clean the user. This once again means that users can stay in bed and do not have to depend on others. It also means that there is less need to wake up in the night to change pads or clean bedding in the case of accidents.

What does the future hold?

After a whistle stop tour of some of the products that are available, we must look towards the future of care and how it will be provided. Once again there are a number of products in the pipeline that are seeking to help disabled people and the elderly stay independent for longer. One example is the ISupport shower system being developed as part of the European Horizon 2020 event which is seeking to completely automate showering. Another instance is the increasing and experimental use of healthcare robots in Japan to help care for their aging population.

I personally feel it is up to us to be vocal about what we want from this technology. So, what would you do? What would you automate? Would you like to be helped by a machine?

Discuss technology on our community.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Disability Innovations: An orchestra trying new things

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology, including guest bloggers, like Rebecca. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

What is Able Orchestra?

The Able Orchestra is a project in which young people with varied needs and abilities, collaborate with professional artists in order to create extraordinary live performances. Creating multi-sensory experiences for audiences, the collective adapt the use of technologies, to help realise innovative methods for people to perform audio-visual content.

Started and developed by members of the County Youth Arts Team in Nottinghamshire, the project works with various groups and organisations to achieve their performances. Over an intensive period of days, artists Si Tew, Rebecca Smith, Ronika and Angus Mcleod work alongside groups, to create all component parts of the content.

How does it work?

Using recorded sounds and visuals from the young people’s environment, rich textures of material are captured, layered and further manipulated. Using software such as Ableton Live, Resolume, Quartz Composer and Madmapper, audio-visual aspects of the performance can be triggered, manipulated and even created live. “We may take something as simple as a bleep from the young persons wheelchair, or the sound of them dropping sticks from outside. But we then take that source material, and further work with it, to create something truly unique and with its own identity” – Si Tew, Artist.

The use of ipads with midi-controller apps such as Lemur, permit custom controlled instruments to be built. Light beams, physical pads, button, dials and a host of accessibility options allow for adaptive control of the content, regardless of the user’s mobility, movement or dexterity. “Our aim is to help enable freedom of expression through means that the young people may not have experienced before. Over the course of the sessions, we develop and create digital interfaces, to enable those with the most profound disabilities to contribute equally” – Rebecca Smith, Artist.

Always looking to push creative possibilities, the group have recently collaborated with musicians from the BBC Concert Orchestra to create a mixed traditional and electronic live performance, with behind the scenes footage available. “It’s a really exciting and new experience. This is my first real experience of music and it turns out you don’t need to actually play an instrument.” – Jessica Fisher, Participant.

The possibilities are endless

The collective are currently in the process of experimenting with new devices and processes to further enhance their work. These include wearable technologies, conductive paint and the live manipulation of scents to create a fully sensory experience . “We simply use the technology in order to make high quality, (sometimes complex) processes, very accessible, hands-on and expressive. Most importantly, it must always be fun and leave a smile on our face” – Rebecca Smith.

Discuss technology on our community.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Disability Innovation: A brief history of my Communication Aids

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology and hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field. In this post we hear from Simon, and his journey to the right communication aid. You can ask Simon questions about technology on our online community.

 Since I was eight years old, I have used online keyboards with a chin or head switch and operated various on screen keyboards.

When I was about ten, I had a BBC computer with a program called Beeblink. In those days, there was no word prediction as we know it. This program had a word bank. How it worked was if I wanted a word beginning with ‘E’, I would select the letter ‘E’ and go into the word bank with words beginning with that letter. Then hope the word I wanted was there for me to select. This was long winded because of how it worked.

The advent of the personal computer came and so did on screen keyboards. Word prediction was introduced as well which made typing much quicker.

Windows, on screen keyboards and word prediction

The Windows operating system came along and on screen keyboards evolved. For many years, I used a piece of software called EZ Keys. This was a really good package as it gave me full control of the computer using a head switch. It had word prediction and I could set up my own abbreviations as well. For example, if I typed ASAP, it would type “as soon as possible”. EZ Keys also had a facility for me to use the mouse which was really useful and this software package was also on my communication aid.

When I obtained my first communication aid, it was really amazing because I could drive up to people and have a chat. This was before Windows so it looked basic compared to the communication systems today. It gave me a huge sense of independence as I was in total control of who I chose to talk to. Since Windows has been developed, I have had a number of communication aids with EZ Keys on and they were great because they were like mini computers. This meant I could also do my college work on them, which gave me a lot more flexibility as to how I could conduct my affairs.

About eight years ago, I wanted to try something different so I obtained a Lightwriter, operated by a head switch. It was nice and small but I did not like how it scanned. For example, it had a ‘QWERTY’ keyboard and if I wanted a letter at the end of the row, it took ages to scan to it. However with EZ Keys, the rows were shorter which meant it took less time to get to the desired letters.

Finding EyeGaze

Four years ago, I was getting fed up with my typing speed because I was typing about two words a minute, so I contacted someone I know who works in Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC). He told me that he was working for a company called Tobii who makes communication aids which operate with eye gaze software. I had previously had trials with eye gaze technology but he advised me that it had changed since then and that this system accommodated movement of the head. I instantly said I would like to have a go and I had a two week trial of it and I found I was typing quicker. At the end of the trial, I did not want to let it go back.

I definitely wanted one so I approached a charity for some funding and within about a year, I received a Tobii and I was really happy. Tobii has a piece of software called Communicator which has facilities such as mobile phone, email and writing documents; each of these functions has a different page set. A page set consists of pages with buttons on. For instance, a page set for email would have buttons such as “compose email”, “select receiver” and “send email”. I can customise those buttons and where they are on the screen to suit my needs and way of working.

Having Tobii has changed my life because I can talk to whoever I want to and they do not need to have knowledge about how to use my communication aid. Since I have had my Tobii, I find it much easier to conduct my life. Tobii also allows me to text people as well which is great because I can keep in touch with friends and family easily.

The Communicator software is a very adaptable package. People at all levels can use it. People can create vocabulary page sets with symbols on and even whole phrases on. People can be really creative with it.

In conclusion, I have been lucky to have been born at the right time to take advantage of technology – I could not live without it.

Talk to Simon on our online community.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Disability Innovations: Six apps we can’t live without

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology, including guest bloggers, like Sharon. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

In October 2011 I had a serious motorbike accident, 18 broken bones, cardiac arrest (twice), coma for a month and hospital for six months. Diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury amongst other physical conditions, my family and I are like other people living with a neurological condition and slowly coming to terms with a dramatic change in lifestyle.

In October 2014 we released the first issue of Health is Your Wealth magazine. This was created because although we understand there are many neurological conditions they tend to have similar challenges which can affect independence. The magazine is available electronically for free and is particularly suitable for people who have visual or co-ordination issues because they can zoom in on the text and turn pages easily.

The magazine is split into six sections and formatted so it can be easily read, lends itself to audio listening and is colour coded so the publication is easy to navigate. Amongst other articles each issue has a review of mobile phone, tablet and PC applications. The following are our top rated applications which are all free and can aid independence; we hope you will find them useful.

  1. SwiftKey Keyboard

 What does it claim to do?

Allows you to type quicker and easier. Especially good for people with co-ordination issues and impaired speed or performance

How friendly is it?

Easy and quick to install, however you may need to power off your phone and turn it back on

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android, Apple iPhones and tablets

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. One of those pieces of technology you wondered how you did without!

  1. Google calendar

What does it claim to do?

Helps you to remember what to do and when. Gives you reminders and lets you plan your day, week or month. You can see your schedule at a glance with photos and maps of the places you’re going, quickly create events all calendars on your phone in one place.

How friendly is it?

Very easy to use and quick once you know where things are. The interface is simple and straight forward to learn.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. Without this tool we would be unable to function.

  1. Evernote

What does it claim to do?

Allows you to jot notes down and carry them wherever you are. You can also to-do’s and checklists, attach files and search through your notes easily.

How friendly is it?

Easy to get started plus has lots of features that are inherent but the interface is so simple that if you want to use it just as a note taker then it works beautifully.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. If you are unable to write this application combined with Swiftkey keyboard will keep you organised and in control!

  1. Medisafe

What does it claim to do?

Helps make sure you take the right quantity and dosage of medicines at the right time. It also allows you to determine the shape and colour of the pill rather than know them by medical name.

How friendly is it?

Easy to get started and intuitive plus has most medicines already built in!

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. It’s awesome and is appropriate for various age ranges.

  1. Smart Recipes

What does it claim to do?

Gets you eating well balanced food, through existing recipes and a meal mixer option. Encourages you to follow simple instructions and has a shopping list function.

How friendly is it?

Extremely friendly.  The recipes are well explained. Detailing which ingredients you need, how long you will need to prepare and cook for plus what utensils are required.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Available on Apple Store and Google Play

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. It’s very good, simple to use and fun.

  1. Block Puzzle

What does it claim to do?

Helps to maintain or improve your logic and problem solving skills plus it’s fun! You have to fill the board by dragging different shaped blocks into the correct place to make a single larger shape, there are different modes and difficulty levels to try.

How friendly is it?

Block Puzzle is incredibly intuitive and fun for all ages and skill levels. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked!

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Available on Apple Store and Google Play

What does it cost?

Block Puzzle is amazing value, packed with over 6000 free mind-bending levels of increasing difficulty that’ll keep you busy for hours.

Review of application and rating

We give this a 5 star rating. It’s very good, simple to use and fun.

The magazine is released bi-monthly, starting in February and is distributed to major hospitals. To get the next issue free! go to the Health is your wealth website. Please note Health is Your Wealth magazine magazine is now formatted to work with the Adobe read aloud feature.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Got a question about technology? Join our Q&A about assistive technology

Disability innovation: Introducing tech fortnight with eye gazes and music

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier.

We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology and hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field. In this post we hear from Chris, director of The Apogee Project, who tells us which assistive technology he thinks is making a difference to disabled people.  

I work with disabled people all over the UK.  Most of these people are unable to express their feelings, emotions, wants and needs. They can’t tell us when and if they are happy or sad. It is usually impossible for them to initiate a conversation – or even get involved in the conversation – without a huge amount of support and facilitation.

Every day I travel the country meeting people who have a whole range of abilities and diagnoses – from Rett Syndrome to Cerebral palsy. My job is all about creating opportunities for people, with the help of assistive technology: from switches to eye gaze and head trackers  to sensory rooms. My small team and I work with individuals, their families and support networks to integrate technology into their lives and help them to communicate, experience and express themselves.

Which technologies work the best?

That is a huge question. Working predominately with disabled people who have profound and multiple disabilities, I have found the most exciting developments and opportunities coming from the fantastic leap forward in Eyegaze technology and the resources developed around that technology.

Eyegaze technology has enabled us as professionals, support workers and family members to gain an insight into what someone is thinking and understanding, by being able to track and tangibly observe their reaction to stimuli and what captures their attention on a screen. There are,  of course,  a wide variety of variables and, in some cases, large obstacles to overcome – and if that’s the case, then that is the starting point for our journey.

We have seen young people start off by moving lights around a screen with no demonstrable signs that they understand they are causing a reaction and then with the right support and teaching strategies move on to use Eyegaze with a computer as a communication aid. I hear so many similar stories as this scenario plays out more and more in schools and homes across the world.

So, what have I learnt?

The biggest learning curve has been around our expectations when working with someone and the power of motivation. Quite often people are not given the opportunity to use certain technology or explore certain activities because they haven’t demonstrated an understanding of what we might think should be a prerequisite skill to that activity. If someone hasn’t demonstrated an understanding of cause and effect, for example, then people often don’t try out choice-making activities.

What would I recommend?

At The Apogee Project, we often use a fantastic piece of music software called Beamz with our eyegaze users. It requires a relatively accurate manipulation of the mouse pointer across four purple lines to activate a musical sound. There are also small buttons to control certain functions, such as turning on the background music. Which helps disabled people with limited communication to interact and communicate.

People who we have struggled to engage in any kind of activity will work for an hour or more moving a mouse pointer for music! Another huge motivator can be social interaction with peers. Playing simple switch games and introducing an element of competition creates a fantastic energy and just seems to motivate people into achieving things outside their assessed level of understanding.

I believe technology really does have the opportunity to unlock potential for disabled people. The important thing is not to give up. It’s all about spotting the little things – those seemingly insignificant details that can send you exploring in a new and fresh direction with someone. It’s always worth presuming that someone understands more than they are able to demonstrate. That’s what keeps us pushing the boundaries for them.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Chris is running a technology question and answer session on our community about assistive technology. If you have any questions, then get involved.