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Assistive Technology Now and the Future.


Our Knowledge of Assistive Technology Grows

As we continue to develop our knowledge of Assistive Technology and the contribution it can make to independent living, a number of assessments have taken place with the support of our fantastic team at Claro Road, which has been working with the Barnsley NHS Assistive Technology Team in finding solutions for a number of our customers.

One of the devices used as a solution is a Grid Pad by Smartbox, and I was fortunate enough to speak to some representatives from the organisation at the recent AAATE Conference in Sheffield. As they explained the different ways the technology could be used to communicate with and control the world, I began to see how this technology could be used for some customers at Claro Road to access social media, control their environment and even change the TV channels if required. In addition, the demo I received had an area where you could program key phrases that you may struggle with communicating, thus acting as a significant support for some people. They also had a ‘grid’ which could activate the Amazon Alexa by shouting “Alexa” followed by a relevant command. I have seen some people struggle to articulate the word “Alexa,” so this levels the playing field for everyone by using voice-controlled technology.

Another interesting function of the technology is the ability to hook small appliances up, like a food processor, so even if someone struggles with those fiddly buttons on kitchen devices, they can simply press a screen to control the function and make some great meals! Unfortunately, a kettle is still quite challenging to control, but I believe something called the ikettle is bridging that gap.

It was also interesting to see at the conference how robots are taking shape in health and social care. We often think of robots with humanoid features; however, there was a slightly different spin on them at the conference. It was suggested that perhaps, in the future, there may be something like a robotic kitchen; the kitchen would clean itself, and your plate disappear after you have eating then reappears clean, ready for another meal. You could even order food through voice controls, which would then be served to you. On reflection, the independent home for disabled people struck a strong vision for me, and it was exciting to see what these leading innovators were doing to change the market completely.

As a disability charity we often speak to disabled people, who want to live independently, at times certain anxieties present themselves, such as the fear of no support in the night and concerns about falling. It was encouraging for me to listen to a discussion about devices that can contribute towards reducing such anxieties. One example that was discussed was that of smart clothing, for protection against and the detection of falls. The product that was showcased was underwear made of Armourgel, which is commonly used in motorcycle helmets. This material has the ability to detect changes in tension when it hits another surface. It changes its state from flexible to rigid, which can significantly reduce the risk of fractures. Not only that, but the technology also contains sensors and when an impact is recognised, it can also send a signal to emergency services or next of kin.

In addition, I was also interested to hear about the development of transfer-assist robots in Japan which, with the support of a caregiver, can assist someone, easily manoeuvring a disabled person from one position to another. The example that was discussed was a robot that can transfer someone to a bathroom from a laying position. I began to link all the information to people we have spoken to who have concerns about accessing a bathroom through the night and have asked about what they can do if human support is not available.  Although this particular piece of technology requires a caregiver, it doesn’t feel like we are far from seeing something that does not require human support, which will mean that we can all go to bed in the evening knowing that we can maintain our independence through the night

I hope you have enjoyed reading this update. We are always interested in hearing about how technology has supported a disabled person, so please feel free to contact me if you would like to contribute anything.