Tag Archives: technology

No phone, no social media and no Google maps. Just real life.

In our last post we introduced you to our brand new event which encourages people to raise money for Scope whilst giving up technology for the weekend – Digital Detox is a good old-fashioned weekend without technology.

In the lead-up to her analogue 48 hours, Alice Wilkie started a blog documenting her fears and panic over losing digital.

5 Days to go

I am going 48 hours without digital in aid of Scope, raising money that could potentially provide assisted technologies to those who need it. As of today, the data on my phone has run out. I have a monthly allowance of 1GB but I ALWAYS run out part way through the month and 9 times out of 10 will top it up. This time however, I thought it would be better to dip my toe in the water and leave it, and guess what? ME NO LIKEY.

I think it’s fair to say I’m feeling pretty anxious. I spoke to my Mum on the phone tonight and she said I can’t possibly go without a phone in London. Love you Mum, but it’s happening.

4 days to go

Running out of data is definitely giving me a taste of what the weekend is going to be like. I went to an event about social entrepreneurship yesterday afternoon. It was at a place I’ve never been to before, and my Google maps was not working due to lack of data allowance. So I literally had to (shock-horror!) use street signs and speak to people!

Talking to strangers was actually rather nice. One man even called up his friend to ask him for directions to the place I was looking for as he was unsure. However, part of me has been thinking it would be nice to top up my data and make the most of my apps and stuffs before the weekend.

3 days to go

Today was focus groups training day! Woo! This is a course I’ve been looking forward to going on. It’s basically all about how to run focus groups and get the best out of them – it was extremely interesting! Overall I had a great day – however, no data plus no WiFi meant I was unable to check Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter, Emails… Nothing! ALL. DAY. And again, I had to ask a stranger for directions. This time I opted for a fruit and veg stall man, and rather embarrassingly I was standing outside the hotel I was looking for. I think this made me realise just how dependent I am on my Google maps… So much so that I’m incapable of just looking around me and using a bit of common sense!

2 days to go

So! Really chuffed with how many donations I’ve got – £73 so far! That’s 152% of my £48 target. So thank you so much to all who have donated! All day today my work colleague, Claudia, has suggested that I buy a board game. Lovely idea Claudia… But no. Plus I’m not going to have anyone to play with at this rate. Oooh, in happier news – my data has been renewed! This means I have spent as much time as possible today listening to Spotify.

Camera and photos
Looking forward to using this for 48 hours instead of Instagram

I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to fill my time this weekend… Most prominent ideas include – getting drunk for 48 hours, reading my book, getting the train somewhere and having a mooch, taking pictures with Rupert’s polaroid camera, going to the gym, going for a long walk, going to see Ellie, sleeping all weekend, or rocking up at my Nan’s house as a surprise.

Wonder whether I’ll do any of the above. Other worries include – what am I going to do without speaking to the boyfriend all weekend?! We must literally exchange about 50 texts/ Facebook messages/ Whatsapps/ Youtube clips/ Snapchats per day. Oh… And speak for around an hour most nights on the phone.

Ah well… You know the saying… Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

15 hours and 28 minutes to go…

I’m going into a digital coma. No phone, no internet, no social media, but most importantly NO GOOGLE MAPS. I think that is what I am freaking out about most…

Notebook and post-it notes
Ready for my digital free weekend with my old school notebook and Facebook message post-it notes!

On the way home from work

My phone died.

Boyfriend writingI was freaking out on the bus. I ALWAYS listen to Spotify when I’m on the bus, and I couldn’t. The 20 minute journey seemed like an hour long. Plus, when I got to my front door, I rang and rang the doorbell and nobody answered. Thankfully my phone decided it would turn back on for a quick burst so that I could call my boyfriend to let me in.

Wow, this weekend is going to be harder than I imagined. I knew it was going to be hard, but I was kind of joking about it and not thinking it through too much, but NOW it’s hit me! Eeek.

My lovely boyfriend wrote me a little note for the weekend 🙂

I’ve had some wine and I’m feeling pretty sad now.

Who’d have thought turning your phone and internet off for 48 hours would be so emotional?!

Only 33 minutes to go…

Saturday 23 November

So, on Saturday I literally woke up with clammy hands from DREAMING about the Internet?! I lay in bed for about an hour resisting the urge to check my phone before getting up like I usually would. After having a coffee and showering, I thought I might as well brave the outdoors and see how I get on.

At 11am I got the tube to Piccadilly Circus and walked to Oxford Street. I had a mooch around and found the camera shop Lomography on Carnaby Street. I’d never been to Carnaby Street before- it’s so cute! I was pretty surprised how easy it was to get around without Google maps. Admittedly it probably took me 5-10 minutes longer than it normally would – but I got there.

I then walked to Regent’s Park to experiment with the camera (Just going started now – I didn’t quite work the camera out over the weekend… You’ll see this from my photos! Out of 20 Polaroids you can only see something resembling a picture in about 4).

I found I was really aware of myself without having my phone or my headphones. Particularly on public transport where I always have my headphones on or am chatting away on my phone. I also noticed that I kept tapping my right coat pocket to check my phone was in there- which I normally do out of habit every 10 mins or so it seemed!

When I got back I called Gaz on the landline. Was so nice to chat, but really strange talking on the phone and not being able to move (old school landline)! Sounds silly but it was really weird putting the phone down and not being able to send a text or anything?! As normally we’d get off the phone and send a text goodnight or something. Gaz said he’d found the day difficult too, particularly not being able to send me funny Youtube clips!

Overall, the day was hard, but I did feel kind of liberated. One day down, one to go.

Sunday 24 November

Felt a bit better on Sunday! Think that’s because I knew I only had 24 hours left!

I woke up, had breakfast, watched a bit of Titchmarsh and then got ready to meet Ellie. I’d written directions to Ellie’s down on Friday so I was looking forward to seeing if I’d be able to find my way there without getting lost!

Got to Ellie’s about 20 minutes early so decided to walk around Vauxhall park and failed to take photos that were any good YET AGAIN. After roaming around for a bit I could hear “ALIIIIIICE!!!” And Ellie was hanging out of her top floor flat like Rapunzel!

Was slightly worried on the way back because I’d told Gaz I’d ring him on the landline around 5pm-ish and it was now nearly 8.30pm. Called him when I got in and he had been a bit worried about where I was! But it was nice to chat and remind ourselves that we’d be back to our obsessive-texting-selves by Monday.

Monday 25 November

Woke up this morning and couldn’t wait to turn on my phone to find:

  • 10 Facebook notifications
  • 5 texts
  • 8 Snapchats
  • 16 emails
  • 3 Instagram likes

Got ready for work in my usual way… Checking my phone in bed, checking it after having a shower, drying my hair and putting my make-up on whilst texting/Facebooking, getting on the bus with my headphones on listening to Spotify (whilst browsing the web) and only taking them off when I stepped into the office. Yay, back to the 21st century!

Despite slipping straight back into my usual ways I think I have learned a lot this weekend. Such as:

  • I CAN find my way from A to B without Google maps
  • I don’t need to be in constant contact with people, and it feels much nicer and more special when the contact is more sparse and deliberate.
  • I can go to the gym without my phone, and I think I will from now on.
  • I feel very self-conscious and more self-aware when I am without my phone and headphones- particularly on public transport.
  • I obsessively tap my right pocket to check my phone’s in there – I CAN sit on my own and not flick through my phone. People are on their phones SO MUCH.
  • I need to learn how to use a Polaroid camera

Polaroid photos

It seems like the weekend had a long-lasting effect on Alice as she soon updated her blog.

Guess what…

I went to the gym this morning WITHOUT my phone. And I traveled to work WITHOUT my headphones on. WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ME!?!”

For your chance to get to grips with using a Polaroid camera, sign up for your own 48 hour detox. Digital Detox will be returning the first weekend in March. To meet previous detoxers find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Using Windows-based tablets as assistive technology

Guest post from Trevor Mobbs, Assistive Technologist at Beaumont College. 

Scope’s Beaumont College offers both residential and non-residential programmes for young disabled people, all of whom are between the ages of 19-25 years.

Hand selecting a TV channel to watch on a touch screen

In recent years, the College has attracted an increasing number of learners with complex needs and those on the autistic spectrum.  As an Assistive Technologist, it is my role to provide bespoke solutions for individual students to access IT and communication technology. This includes assessment, provision, training and on-going support for students, tutors and support staff.

Over recent years, the use of mainstream tablet computers as assistive technology has increased significantly and many of our learners are now benefitted from this mobile technology.  The solutions which we provide are tailored for the individual, and so therefore we do not standardise on one particular operating system.  We have many students using iPads (in similar ways to those described in Margie Woodward’s excellent blog post), but they are not necessarily the most suitable devices for everyone.  Here I will attempt to illustrate why Windows based tablets can be a better alternative for some.

Choice of input methods

Hand using a special keyboard

The standard USB port on a Windows tablet enables any kind of input device to be used.  This includes head mouse, eye gaze, switch, joystick, rollerball, high contrast keyboard etc etc.  Most of these are either not possible or have severe limitations on an iPad.  Having this full range of access methods available is a key benefit of a Windows based device.

Special access software

Screenshot of Grid 2 - special communication software

Having access to software packages like the industry leading Grid 2 software on a Windows tablet means that individual solutions can be created for communication, environmental control, social networking, office productivity etc.  The software available is more powerful and fully featured than the cut down or ‘lite’ versions which are available as apps (e.g. GridPlayer, Clicker Docs).

Accessibility of the operating system

Screenshot of access features in Windows

Even without any additional software, Windows has many in-built accessibility features via the “Ease of Access Center” such as a magnifier, voice recognition, on screen keyboard, high contrast colour schemes, text to speech etc.


A Windows tablet can be joined to an enterprise network, and thus configured and managed in exactly the same way as any other computer.  This means that our students can access their documents and email on the device, and more importantly all their customised settings will be applied whether they log on to their tablet or a desktop computer.  They thus have a unified user experience, irrespective of which device they are using at a given time.

Computing power

With recent advances in hardware, Windows tablets such as the Microsoft Surface Pro are now available which have as much computing power as their desktop counterparts.  This means that multitasking or more demanding applications such as games or video editing are now possible.

“Instant On”

Waiting for a Windows computer to boot up used to be a frustration, and perhaps an argument for using an alternative such as an iPad.  However with a combination of the software improvements in Windows 8 and the speed boost brought by solid state hard drives (SSDs), the time taken to start up a Windows tablet can now be measured in seconds rather than minutes.

Case study: Dominique

Dominque using a computer attached to her wheelchair

Dominique has moved from using a specialised dedicated communication aid which was very costly and somewhat limited in computing power, to a wheelchair mounted mainstream tablet (or “Wheeltop” as we like to call them!).  The tablet is a £700 Microsoft Surface Pro which meets her needs for communication (using Grid 2 software), web browsing, listening to music, social networking, Skype, environmental controls or anything else she fancies.  The next step is for her to trial an “iPortal” controller which will allow her to control the tablet with her wheelchair controller and eliminate the need for an additional joystick.

A question of confidence

A guest blog from a volunteer at Scope’s Our Generation project. 

After two bouts of illness earlier in the year, I found I had lost my confidence and was struggling with anxiety and depression. The Health and Wellbeing visitor called and referred me to Our Generation Mentoring and Befriending Service. I hadn’t heard of the service and to be honest, I didn’t know what mentoring was. The Scope Co-ordinator called and explained everything. They matched me with my Mentor and we met at the office, which felt safe for our first meeting.

The meeting went very well and my Mentor really made me feel at ease. One of the things which we discussed was that I should like help to become more computer literate as my daughter is living overseas and it would help us to keep in touch. I made such good progress I surprised myself and have even bought an i-pad! My confidence in using it increases with each meeting. I have found that this increased confidence has permeated other areas of my life and I am now able to meet my Mentor in town.

Every two years I visit my daughter. I am due to go next year but the anxiety and depression I have experienced has made the lone journey seem incredibly daunting. However, since working with the Our Generation Mentor I can feel my confidence returning and I’m beginning to really look forward to this years visit.

I recently attended the Our Generation Xmas party which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have believed that I could have the confidence to go along on my own.

The Co-ordinator has suggested I attend the Mentoring Skills Training Course at the office as my next challenge and I surprised myself by saying that I’ll think about it!

A day in the life of an iPad

Guest blog by Margie Woodward, Scope Empowerment Officer

As part of my consultation work with users of Scope services, I have been using an iPad with disabled people who have had little access to technology before.

New technology has the power, literally, to open doors. I believe it can enable disabled people to exercise more choice and control in their daily lives.

To show what I mean, here are some examples of how an iPad can be tailor-made to an individual’s abilities and interests across a normal day…

7.00am The iPad’s alarm call wakes you up.

7.05am A light bulb moment…

It’s possible to use the iPad to control your light switches using the Wemo app.

8.00am Communicate with your support worker

Grid player is a very exciting application that enables disabled people to use symbols to get the app to speak what has been entered. By personalising the grid player, this has the potential to be a low-cost communication tool.

Speech therapists are enthusiastic about using iPads and have been assisting service users to create boards for their preferences. One person at Drummonds abandoned his much more expensive communications aid for an iPad, which he uses to communicate both in person and on Facebook!

9.00am With assisted technology from Perrero switch open door for support worker

One of our biggest breakthroughs was the discovery of a scanning switch to operate the iPad apps that uses voice over. Quite a lot of apps including music and media are accessible using the device. It is called the Perrero developed by RSL Steeper. The device is used with a single switch button.

11.00am Study

12 people at Drummonds are using the iPad to search the internet for history about Scope’s service and the artist John Constable’s relationship with the old rectory.

12.00pm Play chess

A game like Pool offers the chance to play a game that might be inaccessible otherwise. One person is playing chess independently in his own room and doesn’t need to go to the computer room to do this now!Man using iPad

1.00pm Order a taxi to go into town for shopping, a trip to the cinema or a doctor’s appointment

Someone used the Pages app to read GP’s handouts and prepare for a medical appointment. It also helped them create a one-page profile detailing their support needs and preferences.

2.00pm Shop online

The ladies at Laverneo needed new curtains for their bungalow and have been able to see what is available and what it looks like in the room. It would not be possible for all the ladies to go out together to choose but by using the iPad they are all involved in the decision of what to have.

4.00pm Skype family or friends

People in Scope services are now able to stay in touch with friends using Skype. Being able to see each other’s faces really helps those with speech impairments and people who use signing like Makaton.

5.00pm Bake a cake

An iPad can help with sequencing a task such as baking a cake. You can use switches to operate food processors too (very messy but quite fun!)

6.00pm Play Catchphrase!

At Sully day service, people are using the iPad and Apple TV for group activities like playing Catchphrase in teams. They are also experimenting with blue tooth technology for switches.

7.00pm Catch up on the news

The news group at Chester Skills Development Centre used a HDMI to IPad cable to view what was on the IPad on a TV.

Apps used by the news group are:

  • BBC Sport app
  • Coronation Street Spoiler
  • BBC Weather app
  • BBC News app
  • Stock Tracker
  • BBC Radio 1 app
  • Trading 212

9.00pm Watch a film

People can choose from a variety of online movie and TV services.

11.00pm Time for sleep…

At Rosewarne in Cornwall one person has been using the Sleep Easily meditation app, which enables her to have a restful night’s sleep.

• As part of BT’s Connected Society programme Scope, BT and the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Inclusive Design wrote a report, Enabling Technology. The report found that the key to creating enabling technology is, wherever possible, to support disabled people to create their own solutions.

Making technology work for disabled people

New technologies aren’t always up to scratch for disabled people.

Mainstream devices can be highly adaptable but don’t do a great job of meeting disabled people’s needs. Technology designed especially for disabled people can be very good at meeting needs, but is often expensive and doesn’t do everything a mainstream device can.

So as part of BT’s Connected Society programme Scope, BT and the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Inclusive Design explored how we can start to close this gap between mainstream and disability-specific technology.

Our report Enabling Technology (PDF document) found that the key to creating enabling technology is, wherever possible, to support disabled people to create their own solutions.

This means focusing on the person, not the system  – on adaptability and flexibility rather than rigid codes and standards.

It can be a difficult shift to make for manufacturers and service providers, but creating ways to bring disabled people ‘closer’ to technology can have real benefits, bringing down costs and increasing independence.

Here’s three key ways we think this can happen:

1. Adapt mainstream technology

By far the best way to use technology to support disabled people to live more independently is to adapt already existing mainstream devices.

Sheni using the pop-up readerAn example is the ‘Pop-up Reader’, an innovative prototype inspired by Sheni – a visually impaired singer who needed a better way to read written lyrics.

Sheni already had a smartphone, so the team built a cheap, easy-to-make stand to hold her phone – and the page – in the right place. Crucially, it also folds up and fits into her handbag.

Crucially, this simple, easy-to-make stand costs a few pounds to make – compared with between £500 and £2000 for a specially made device.

Find out more about the Pop-up Reader, or even try making your own.

2. Build easy-to-tailor products

To make technology work for every disabled person, it makes sense to tailor devices as much as possible to suit individuals. Building this approach into product design is often the best way to achieve this.

To show what we mean by this, we created a new approach to computer hardware called ‘Tailored Touch’.

Using cardboard, a cheap circuit board and paint that conducts electricity, Tailored Touch can be used to build a range of things like keyboards or a computer mouse.

Lyn, a musician from the Paraorchestra, had a number of challenges using her instrument through a touch screen device. She struggled to control the instrument accurately enough to play live with the rest of the orchestra.

So the project team worked with Lyn to build a new musical keyboard, using only cardboard, paint that conducts electricity, and a cheap circuit board. Christened the Lynstrument, this approach completely changed the way she plays live through her computer.

Lyn using the Lynstrument

This approach can also be used to enable anyone who struggles to use traditional interfaces – such as  a mouse or keyboard – to get online.

Learn more about ‘Tailored Touch’ and the Lynstrument, and make your own device.

3. Measure accessibility using timed task completion

Online services such as shopping or banking can be really helpful for disabled people – but they aren’t always fully accessible.

Although most sites now meet accessibility standards, our research found that some disabled people still struggle to use these services.

This is because there are so many different technologies disabled people use to go online  that it’s difficult to continue updating rigid codes and standards. This means that even if designers tick all the boxes, they may still end up with a website that isn’t completely accessible.

So our report argues that we need more responsive ways of measuring the accessibility of digital services, focusing on the person not the system.

One way to do this is to time how long it takes a disabled person to complete tasks online compared with non-disabled users of the same site. If it takes longer for a disabled person to finish a task, the site just isn’t accessible enough.

Our report sets out a clear philosophy for involving disabled people far more in the way technology is designed, used and evaluated by supporting disabled people to create their own solutions.

We’ll be doing more on the theme of technology over the coming months, so watch this space and get in touch if you want to find out more. We’d also love to see your videos and photos of building these ideas – so get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.