Tag Archives: technology

2017 AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards

Now in its seventh year, the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards is one of the most inspiring events of the year. It shows the incredible capacity of technology to improve all our lives. There were over 200 brilliant and life-changing projects to choose from but here are some of my favourites that improve the lives of disabled people:

AbilityNet Accessibility Award winner: Bristol Braille Technology

Bristol Braille Technology is building a revolutionary and radically affordable Braille e-reader called Canute, designed with and by the blind community. The world’s first multiple line Braille e-reader will launch by 2018 and it is hoped will be around 20 times cheaper than existing digital Braille devices.

BT Connected Society Award winner: Sky Badger

Sky Badger logo with animated cape
Sky Badger logo

Sky Badger finds educational, medical, financial and social support for families with disabled children all over the UK. Over the last five years, Sky Badger has supported over one million disabled children and their families. Sky Badger puts the emphasis on having fun.

Digital Health Award winner: Fizzyo

Both of Vicky Coxhead’s sons have Cystic Fibrosis and because of this they have to do an hour’s breathing exercises every day to keep infections at bay. She applied to feature on a BBC2 documentary The Big Life Fix and was introduced to Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge. She enlisted the help of Creative Technologist Greg Saul to create a device that could take the boys’ breaths and turn them into controls for a videogame. Combining gaming with saving lives proves a potent mix – see Fizzyo.

Digital Skills Award winner: FabFarm

FabFarm participants
FabFarm participants

FabFarm is a digital aquaponic farm that is designed, built and operated as a social enterprise by disabled students in Derry, Northern Ireland. Developed by the Nerve Centre, FabLab, it uses new and emerging technologies to help empower, engage and inspire 20 young people with special educational needs to develop new skills which are directly focused upon their employability in the digital marketplace.

There were so many other great projects that were shortlisted and deserve a mention:

AutonoMe is a support system that combines the power of video and mobile technology to help people with learning difficulties through everyday tasks.

Optikey is a new assistive on-screen keyboard, designed to be used with low-cost eye-tracking devices. It brings keyboard control, mouse control and speech to people with motor and speech limitations.

Signvideo  British Sign Language (BSL) video interpreting services can help deaf people communicate easily and professionally over the telephone or face-to-face, with hearing colleagues. Signvideo offers instant access to an experienced, qualified video interpreter within minutes, via PC or Mac, tablet or smartphone.

Read about the 2016 Tech4Good awards.

Read about Scope’s partnership with AbilityNet.

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.

Wildlife photographer shares his top ten snaps

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Oliver Hellowell is a young nature and wildlife photographer who happens to have Down’s syndrome. This Nature Photography Day, Oliver tells us what photography means to him.

I was about 10 years old when I first started taking pictures. I like wildlife, I like birds and I like the landscape and taking pictures of the trees. I like water and I like going for walks out into ‘the wild’ and the countryside.

We once had an exhibition and lots of people came to see my pictures. I gave a speech and we sold lots of pictures and with the money I bought a Chinese takeaway for us on the Sunday night when we finished, and bought a week in a holiday cottage in Wales in the middle of nowhere! I’m very proud when I have an exhibition.

My fans say ‘that’s amazing!’ about my pictures and write messages to me. I like it when we get more places to put on the map!

You should give photography a go. Just do it. Just go out there and do what you want!

As part of 30 Under 30, Oliver shares the top 10 photographs that he has taken.

Canada Geese Flying

This is my all-time favourite image. I have a canvas of it in my bedroom. This is my best one with the three Canada geese flying.

A photograph taken by Oliver Hellowell. 3 Canada geese fly over a field

Clown fish in an anemone

I took this through the thick glass of an aquarium which is very difficult. I got the clown fish just right – it’s a really good picture.

A photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A clown fish hides behind an anemone

Cormorant

I took this one and the cormorant was in the tree and looking out and I got it.

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A cormorant bird sits in a tree.

Grey Squirrel

I was on a day out with my friend Adrian and I got this picture of a squirrel. I got it straight on and he’s got his paws up eating and everything it’s brilliant. 

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A grey squirrel eats a nut with its front paws.

Red Kite

I took this at the International Centre for Birds of Prey in Newent. I love the sharpness of this one and the brightness of the eye. It’s just very cool!

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A red kite bird of prey looks menacing.

River Dart in Devon

This is a long shutter speed shot which I’m very pleased with. It takes a bit of effort and you have to keep the camera dead still or on a tripod. I love the colours in the water.

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A shot of a still river shaded by trees. The trees are being reflected in the water,

Single swan

I waited as all the swans bobbed their heads up and down in and out of the water to pick up the food which had just been given out and sunk to the bottom. I waited to catch a shot with just one head and beak showing.

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A group of swans huddle. One swan has his head poking up out of the group.

Tulips

I said to my mum, “Mum you know those red flowers outside in the corner? Well, look! I really got them!”

A close up shot of a bunch of red tulips

From the ground

When I’d just taken this, I called my mum over to where I was standing, pointed to the ground and said, “see that bit of ground there? I’ve just got it just right! See the little green leaves and the light? I got that perfect!”

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A close up shot of the forest floor. A number of small plants are growing through the the soil.

Watersmeet in Devon

I was very pleased with this long shutter-speed shot. I got it by standing my camera on a rock.

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A small waterfall in a river. Trees surround the banks.

Oliver is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

You can visit Oliver’s website to see and purchase his photographs as prints or greetings cards. You can also like Oliver’s Facebook page and get up to date news from his sightings in your newsfeed. 

Staying in mainstream education with a visual impairment

A guest blog from Lucy Driver, a visually impaired student that decided to stay in mainstream education. She knows the benefits and disadvantages of access to education outside of specialist education for visually impaired students.

When my vision began to deteriorate, I found it difficult to access the relevant information about my sight loss and what impact it might have on my education.

I’m hoping that this blog about my experiences might aid those who find themselves in my situation, or are currently supporting someone facing a similar circumstance. I aim to do this by explaining what I did to enable me to stay within mainstream education.

Registering with the Local VI Authority

Registering with the local authority’s visual impairment (VI) education advisory service provides better access to the curriculum for students with a visual impairment. The process itself was relatively straightforward.

The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco) at my school initiated my application. After the administrative side of things was complete, a specialist advisory teacher with the visual impairment team met with me at school for an informal assessment to establish my access needs.

I have since continued to meet with the same VI advisory teacher once or so a term. It can be of great benefit to be able to talk to an individual regarding what is and isn’t being done to support you as a student. It also provides you with some perspective, as you are able to discuss any concerns you may have with someone who has a bit more experience in bridging the gap between special educational needs and education itself.

Exam Modifications

A good exams officer is a blessing!

Visual impairment and academic achievement are not directly related to one another; sight loss does not have to mean worsening academic performance.

Exam modifications are put in place to ensure students that require additional support are at the same starting point as students who do not. These can come in a variety of formats from enlarged font size to additional time allocation.

Prior to the submission of the application, everyone involved (the student, their parent’s, the school’s SENco etc.) will meet to discuss what modifications (if any) would be of benefit to the student. Once these arrangements have been agreed upon, the school’s examination’s officer will apply for the modifications to be made

Technology

The uses of modern technology to secure better access to the curriculum are endless. I use the following to enable me to work independently at school:

  • iPad – This allows me to read text books as ebooks, enlarge imagery and have PowerPoints emailed to me by class-teachers to eliminate the issue of whiteboard glare.
  • iZoom Software – This is a USB containing magnifying software that enlarges the screen format on computers. It can also re-colour the screen if needed.
  • Electronic Video Magnifier – I use this during my exams in order to further enlarge my exam paper manually. This means that I don’t need a reader, which enables me to work independently and at my own pace.

Coming to terms with sight loss

A diagnosis of sight loss is incredibly daunting on its own. Adding that to being a teenager trying to keep up with your peers whilst being conscious of the sight you have lost makes it a very difficult concept to explain to anyone that hasn’t experienced it themselves.Lucy strokes a dog under its chin

I do feel that it’s incredibly important to change attitudes towards people with sight loss, especially when everyone you’ve ever met starts a conversation with, “How many fingers am I holding up?”

Having these conversations sooner rather than later, enables the wheels to be set in motion. This provides peace of mind to both the student themselves and their family. It establishes the knowledge that not everything is changing and that going to school and obtaining the same qualifications whilst aiming for the same future as you would have previously, is not an impossible concept.

Our online community has a whole range of different tips. Visit our online community today and join the discussion.

#HackOnWheels – Help us build the wheelchairs of the future

Help disrupt disability! #HackOnWheels is the movement to inspire a community of wheelchair users, hackers, designers and makers to create the world’s first open source, fully customisable wheelchair.

#HackOnWheels are hosting their first UK event event on Wednesday 18 May at Here East, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – Register on the #HackOnWheels website to attend

In this blog post, #HackOnWheels founder and Scope’s Vice Chair Rachael Wallach tells us more about the event, and how and why you should get involved.

Rachael Wallach smiling for the camera
#HackOnWheels founder Rachael Wallach

In order to give freedom and independence, a wheelchair must be fully customised to the body, the lifestyle and environment of its user. With traditional design, manufacturing and distribution this can be very expensive. Digital fabrication, open hardware and the maker movement offer a radically new way of creating affordable customised wheelchairs.

The story behind #HackOnWheels

The story behind #HackOnWheels starts a few years ago when I was backpacking around South East Asia and India. As a wheelchair user I realised I was hardly seeing any other wheelchair users and virtually no independent ones. So I started to connect with NGOs on my journey to try and find out why. They told me that the reason why my wheelchair gives me independence is because every length, angle, contour has been tailored to meet my individual needs; it has literally been made for me.

A 3D model of a wheelchair user
3D printing in action

With traditional manufacturing techniques being fully customised to my body, to my lifestyle and to the environment that I live in comes at a very high price. My wheelchair costs about £3,000, which is at the low end of the spectrum. But in a country like Laos, that’s more than six times the average annual salary, so it’s just not affordable.

A year later, I happened to read an article about 3D printing, which explained that digital fabrication is a way to manufacture customisable items more cheaply. Based on my experiences backpacking, I wondered whether it might be a way to reduce the cost of making fully customised wheelchairs. At first there were stumbling blocks because it was right at the start of the digital fabrication revolution and equipment was still very expensive.

In December I was on holiday in Jordan and by coincidence I came across Refugee Open Ware who use digital fabrication to support refugees. They showed me a 3D printed functional prosthetic hand that had cost them just $39 to make. Thinking it was impossible I asked about the design costs and they said there were hardly any because they had used an open source design shared online by an organisation called e-NABLE. They had just spent a bit of time adapting it so it looked like Ben Ten’s hand, the favourite cartoon character of its 5-year-old owner! This idea of combining digital fabrication with open source design really excited me prompting the question; could we do the same for wheelchairs?

3 men looking at a projector with some designs on
Some of the hackers get to work

Let’s get hacking

In February I organised a hackathon to explore the idea with BeeTwo, a lab for social innovation backed by the Erste Bank Group, the Technical University Wien and open knowledge Austria. It was held in the Happylab Vienna, which is a local ‘maker-space’. The challenge was to develop design concepts for a fully customisable wheelchair that could be made in a publicly accessible maker-space from off the shelf materials.

The 30 participants included wheelchair users, students, coders, artists, engineers, makers, product designers, management consultants and bike makers and they created four design concepts.

The first was for a wheelchair frame for adults. It was fully customizable because it was made out of off the shelf carbon fibre tubes that could be cut to any length with joints that were 3D printed so each angle could also be customized to the user’s specific needs.

The second was for a children’s wheelchair frame with parametric joints that could be adjusted so the chair could grow with the child.

The third was for a castor fork (the bit that holds the front wheels together) that could be made without welding, which was challenging because the castor fork needs to be super robust as well as being able to hold differently sized wheels because some sizes more suitable than others for different types of terrain. The last was for a backrest and seat that fit the exact contours of the user. It used a 3D body scan of their back and bottom and sent this information to a CNC mill, which cut a piece of high density foam into an impression of their body.

The next hackathons

We want to establish a community of wheelchair users, hackers and makers to create, refine, adapt and share designs and make fully customized wheelchairs.

In terms of what’s next, we need more hackathons to grow the community and develop more design concepts. Then we need challenge prizes and competitions to support people to refine the designs and prototype them. Once we have our first makeable open source designs we can start sharing them online and developing a library of designs.

If that’s got you excited and inspired then join our event on 18 May at Here East in the Olympic Park to help create the first open source fully customizable wheelchair!

Visit www.hackonwheels.org to find out more about how you can get involved.  

 

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 Innovation: Citizen-led design that’s giving people more independence

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 hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

In 2015, a new design challenge called Design Together, Live Better launched in the West of England. The challenge was run by the West of England Academic Health Science Network (WEAHSN), who asked designers at National charity Designability to deliver their human-centred design approach in order to engage people and work with them to develop new product ideas.

Gaining insights and generating new ideas

Over 100 people took part in the challenge, sharing their personal accounts of living with a disability or health problem, or caring for someone who needed regular help. Many of these people came to public workshops held across the West of England to participate in the challenge.

The workshops were a hive of activity and the result was a number of great ideas covering areas such as; mobility, personal hygiene, food preparation, travel and medication management.

Selecting ideas with potential to make an impact

Unfortunately only a few ideas could be developed within the challenge time frame and Designability along with WEAHSN had a tough job deciding which ideas showed the potential to have the greatest impact on independence.

When shortlisting product ideas, the following criteria was used:

  • Are there any products that already exist to solve this problem?
  • Does the idea have the potential to impact a number of people’s lives?
  • How much impact will the idea have on somebody’s independence?
  • Is the idea a potential, workable solution?

Taking three ideas further

The Design Together, Live Better team took on board all of the feedback and chose three ideas to be developed further and made into prototypes over the course of only two months. The people the products could help had regular input into the design and testing to provide insight into how they should look, function and fit into their lifestyle.

One of the three ideas was Pura; a convenient, portable bidet to promote dignity and independence

The team heard from a gentleman living with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair. He spoke of how he requires help from a friend or carer to clean himself after toileting whilst out and about. The need for this kind of support can be uncomfortable and undignified for both parties.

From this insight, Designability came up with the idea for a portable bidet that can be used with ease in public toilets without the need for assistance in cleaning.

Key features include:

  • Ease of transportation – Pura is a sleek, compact product that can be carried with you wherever you go
  • Contemporary – the designers ensured that Pura looks good with a simple, smooth appearance that is easy to clean
  • Simple to use – Pura has been created with easy-to-use clamps to secure it to the toilet, and a large button to activate the wash facility without difficulty
  • Safe and secure – Pura’s size means that it fits the majority of standard toilets and sits securely in place when used

The two other ideas developed to a prototype stage during this challenge were a companion walker trolley for use at home and a child seat harness, which can be fastened with just one hand.

What next?

We are hopeful that these three products will move further towards being available on the open market, and we are working hard with the people that would use them and commercial partners and manufacturers to ensure this.

Designability are always happy to hear about your ideas for a product or solution that may help to transform someone’s life. If you have something in mind which may enable you or someone you know to gain more independence, please get in touch:

Web: www.designability.org.uk

Email: info@designability.org.uk

Tel: 01225 824103

To find out more about the prototypes and the design challenge, please visit the Design Together, Live Better website: http://designtogetherlivebetter.org/

Designability invited people to share their daily living experiences and ideas for potential new products that could improve their quality of life and enhance their independence.

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: So, what do you think?

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 hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

From the outset we’ve been hoping that by showcasing ideas and innovative products, this blog will help inspire and encourage other people in this field. We are passionate about how we can help share the news about innovative products, to allow all you lovely people to hear about, and hopefully benefit from them.

Since starting this blog series we have received emails from a number of people who are involved in making innovative products for disabled people. They are often looking for direct feedback to help them design the most exciting and useful product possible.

That’s where you come in! We’d love to present a couple of new ideas that have been sent our way to get your feedback. Whether you are disabled, or are interested in this area, your feedback (positive and negative!) is really valuable and could help in designing and perfecting the next great product.

We’d also like to hear what you have thought of other things featured in our blogs so far. We’ll do a round-up of some of them at the end and we’d love to know what you think and if you have any personal experience of any of the products. Have a read of the ideas below and get in touch either by commenting on this post or emailing us at innovation@scope.org.uk.

  1. Accessible, 3D printed products

We recently heard from Luca Parmegiani, an Italian product designer based in London working for Myminifactory. He is focused on creating products that offer solutions for a range of daily challenges that are linked to mobility or dexterity.

collage of 3D products

He has designed 3D printed items so that people who own a 3D printer can download and print them freely. They include key holders, bottle openers, and cup holders. He wants to work with individuals to make products as tailored as possible to the individual.

Luca is looking for constructive criticism, advice and suggestions around his products and idea. Check out his Facebook page to see more about what he is working on.

  1. Brunel University and Blue Badge Style winners

Fiona Jarvis got in touch with us from Blue Badge Style. They asked students at Brunel University to design accessories that would make a standard wheelchair more stylish. Fiona is looking for feedback on two of the three winning ideas.

Backback Pack

The first is the BackBack Pack, which fulfilled the criteria of being universally desirable, not just by wheelchair users. They are currently investigating production of the bag. The aim is that it will be a high quality, well designed item that is remarkable for its superior quality and design.

Cup Holder

The second is the cup holder that attaches to a wheelchair and is suitable for a number of different sizes and styles of glass or cup. Like the BackBack Pack it is also in prototype stage. Check out this video of how it works.

Image of an accessible cup holder

Fiona would love feedback on both of these ideas, what you think of their design and whether you think you might use any of these products. She would also more specifically like to know how much realistically you would be willing to pay for these items and why.

  1. Featured Innovations

Since we started this blog series we have featured 14 different innovations. We’d like to hear about whether you have followed up on any of the things you have read about, and what experience you have with these products. Some of them were still in the test phase and aren’t widely available, but we’d love to know what you think of them. Here is a quick rundown of six of the most popular ideas featured:

Talkitt – a voice to voice app which aims to enable people with motor, speech, and language conditions to communicate freely and easily using their own voice. We liked how it is based fully on the user’s own voice, enabling more natural communication.

RogerVoice – an App that enables people with hearing impairments to have conversations on the phone, by converting speech to subtitles in real time. What interested us was how it aims to make mainstream technology even more inclusive.

Una Tickets a new primary ticketing service that hopes to develop the most accessible ticket system out there. Una’s approach is hoping to improve accessibility at all stages of the ticketing experience, from purchasing a ticket, to accessing the venue. This is a mainstream service that wants to put a real emphasis on accessibility, which made it stand out for us.

Be My Eyesan iPhone app that connects visually impaired people with volunteer helpers from around the world via live video chat, to allow sighted volunteers to ‘lend’ their eyes and assist with tasks such navigating surroundings and identifying food labels. We love the sense of community and the simple pleasure of helping someone out that this app creates.

Andiamo a startup creating healthcare solutions for disabled children, with a mission to see no child ever having to wait more than one week to receive medical device. Their first venture is looking to 3D print orthotic supports, from back braces and wrist braces, to open foot orthoses. We like how this project is driven by parents of a disabled child who are using their first hand experience to find innovative solutions to real problems.

HandSteadya cup designed especially for people with arthritis, tremors, muscle weakness or limited dexterity, to help reduce spills when drinking and increase independence. It’s a simple design, and a nice reminder that innovation isn’t always ground breaking new technologies, but sometimes small tweaks that make a big difference.

Over to you!

So there you go. We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about these ideas and products. Please send us your comments and feedback and together we can be part of creating innovative products that are centered around the user.

As with all our blogs, this 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.

To give us feedback on these products, or to tell us about another disability innovation you have seen, please either comment on the blog or email us at innovation@scope.org.uk.

Disability Innovations: App enables people with hearing impairments to use the phone

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 hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

What is RogerVoice?

RogerVoice is an App that enables people with hearing impairments to have conversations on the phone, by converting speech to subtitles in real time. This innovative use of existing technology has already allowed deaf people to make their first ever phone calls, and has the potential to include millions of people in an activity which most of us take for granted. It has already received much positive media attention, so last week I excitedly tested it out with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder Olivier Jeannel to understand how it works and what the potential for it is.

What’s the story behind it?

Olivier grew up in the US where he experienced the phone relay service that was available for free. He moved to France in his early 20s to work for telecom company Orange, while also helping friends on a communication project for deaf people in France. He became aware that the relay system which was so important to deaf people in the US was not available in France or worldwide. What was on offer relied on expensive human translators. His experience and perspective of both the telecom system and working for the deaf came together, and inspired him to want to work towards a system that allowed people with hearing impairments to communicate on the phone.

After seeing technology like voice recognition and Siri being introduced in the mainstream, Olivier felt it had huge potential beyond being a fun (but often useless) gadget for people.  Being young and impatient, and himself hearing impaired, he explains that all he wanted was for technology to do amazing things for people, so he started working on RogerVoice.

How does it work?

The App uses existing technology, including a standard telecoms system and a voice recognition system. If you are hearing impaired, you download the app and make a phone call. When the recipient of the call speaks to you, their voice is intercepted, transcribed, and can be read on your phone’s screen in real time. When you respond, your voice can be heard on the other end just like a standard phone call. The recipient doesn’t need to download the App, making it more seamless to make a phone call.

Currently people with hearing impairments either use message based systems to communicate, or the expensive relay system which uses human transcribers. The App works for people who can speak orally, but Olivier is also working on a function for people who can’t communicate orally so that messages they write can be read out over the phone via text-to-speech recognition.

What is the potential for the App?

Olivier describes two main possibilities that can be achieved through RogerVoice. The first is a practical aspect; using the phone for booking doctor’s appointments to organising taxis and meetings. But he has been most excited by the emotional aspect, where deaf people can now use the phone to talk to family and friends and can be included in an activity that is so important and so ingrained in day to day life.

Olivier expresses that even if he doesn’t need to use the phone a lot, the most important thing is that he can. He has been excited by the feedback so far from users and families testing the App who have had their first ever phone conversations. It’s this feedback which inspires him to keep working so hard on the technology, to make it available as fast as possible.

Is it available now?

Currently the app is undergoing beta-testing on Android so that the team behind RogerVoice can ensure that the tech is working smoothly and is bug-free. The App is compatible in many languages, and works particularly well with those that already have a lot of data around voice recognition. It is due to be available for the iPhone in August and the public launch will be in September this year.

Olivier wants to ensure that the tech is ready, but crucially that people are ready to use it and understand what it’s meant for. The technology is not meant to exclude any groups, but to make sure as many people as possible are included in everyday technology. He stresses that RogerVoice is not out there to compete with existing systems such as the relay system, but to be a complementary offer. Human transcribers offer a superior level of quality and accuracy which should still be relied upon for business or conference calls.

What we like about it

This seems like such an exciting development which uses widely available technology to make a real and dramatic difference to a huge number of lives. We often hear feedback from disabled people around how they don’t want niche services or websites that cater solely to their needs. They just want mainstream services to be accessible.

RogerVoice could offer a way for existing and accepted technologies to be inclusive for a new audience, and we will be watching their progress over the next few months with great anticipation.

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.

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