January Round-Up Assistive Technology
By David Ashton-Jones
A month has gone by quickly in my new role as Operations Manager at Disability Action Yorkshire, and I am beginning to understand a lot more about the organisation’s values and their determination to raise aspirations and create solutions for disabled people. By speaking to customers, employees, and stakeholders, the vision, although not penned, is clear in that we want to be a charity that finds solutions where limits do not exist, which seems quite fitting, as a service we are pushing is called ‘No Limits’.
I have spent a lot of time this month looking at how we can provide solutions using assistive technology and have already set up some meetings that I hope will grow our relationships with innovators to ensure that we can dig deep in the solutions we provide for disabled people and create success in supporting any ambition.
We hope to select a partner in the coming weeks who will begin building and developing a website that will be flexible to grow with our solution finding service and provide a significant resource for disabled people and the wider audience who require further knowledge around disability.
As well as innovation and products that are not yet in the market, there are also pieces of technology that currently exist, and I would like to use the end of this update to create some awareness around possibilities that are available right now.
I came across an organisation called nfchelpsme.com. They have a selection of videos that use NFC Technology and Android mobile devices to provide people, who have special needs, with a range of instructional videos, enabling them to live more independently. For example, an NFC sticker is placed on a washing machine, and an app can scan the NFC sticker, which will then provide a video on how to use the washing machine. You can find out more about nfchelpsme.com by clicking here.
I was excited when one of our trustees advised me that something called the Flexstep existed. The Flexstep is defined as a solution to conquer spirit levels for all Wheelchair users and walking impaired persons in minimal space. I think you have to watch the video to truly appreciate and understand this product. It essentially looks like a regular set of steps, but these have the ability to change form, turning into a flat surface which allows a wheelchair user to be lifted to another level easily; once lifted, the Flexstep morphs back to a neat-looking set of stairs.
The next one is not a product as such, but more something that is happening right now, and it opens new possibilities relating to assistive technology; it is 3D printing. Companies now exist that can co-create products with people who have disabilities. Teams of industrial designers can design customised solutions that are specific to each person’s needs. When I researched adaptations for wheelchairs, it was suggested that many can cost £1000+, and with 3D printing that cost can be dramatically reduced. Take a look at this website for some examples: http://www.instructables.com/id/Joystick-attachment/
My favourite so far this month, and something with many possibilities is Amazon Echo. One of our staff members uses Echo now and we managed to have a brief discussion about this product and it is quite clear how this could assist a person with disabilities to live more independently. Reports suggest that Echo will make you feel like you are on the Starship Enterprise, with commands that order your groceries and play your favourite music, or by using third party apps, can send an SMS message; which I thought would be highly beneficial for someone who had a fall and was not near a phone or was not able to press a personal alarm. Sadly, we are not at the stage of “Beam me up Scottie” and the realms of teleportation, but this device is surely something that can be developed further into an extremely useful piece of assistive technology?
I hope the roundup of Assistive Technology products has helped provoke some thoughts in understanding what technology is available. I feel we are just scratching the surface and am excited about what we can do as a charity to encourage the endless uses of assistive technology.
We are attending Naidex on March 28 and hope to see all sorts of innovations and existing technology, and we will, of course, report our findings.
We are interested in hearing from you if you are looking for a particular solution and any ideas or suggestions you may have regarding assistive technology that can develop our knowledge further at Disability Action Yorkshire.