Assistive Technology: Changing Perceptions of Disabilities
Assistive technology is becoming increasingly more advanced in the modern day world. This umbrella term is one that is constantly evolving over time to incorporate more technological devices designed to aid those living with a disability. Advances in medical treatments have meant a better prognosis for many conditions associated with certain disabilities. Life expectancy has also risen, meaning there are now more people than ever living with a disability. In fact, estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) state that there are approximately ‘one billion people living with a disability.’ That equates to around ‘one in five people in Europe and America.’ With so many people now looking to adapt their lifestyles to suit their specific needs; the market for assistive technology is becoming increasingly popular as demand for certain products increases.
People are keen to maintain their independence and their standard of living where possible, so depending on the nature of the disability; devices have been created to perform or fulfil a range of different functions.
Braille remains a highly efficient communication system within society for those who are registered blind. In public, Braille can often be found on keyboards, menus, public lifts, bathrooms, and at certain road crossings. Building on the notion of tactile communications; an inventor named Nicholas Caporusso, from southern Italy has developed a specialist glove which can help a deafblind person to communicate effectively.
The device featured in a recent BBC report, which detailed the gloves’ impressive technology; ‘Sensors in dbGLOVE turn these alphabet tracings into computer text, and actuators trace the letters back onto the hand. This will enable deafblind people to operate computers and smartphones.’
‘Deafblind people can communicate using tactical alphabets – pressing or pinching different parts of the hand represents different letters.’
Another recent invention, currently being developed by a team of Oxford University research scientists, are electronic smart glasses or ‘smart specs.’ This visual aid helps those who are registered blind but have some remaining light perception. The glasses utilise a ‘special type of camera that can detect and highlight nearby objects’ and further accentuate the contrast between light and dark surfaces, allowing the person wearing the glasses a better depth perception.
An increasing number of public venues are being adapted to become more accessible thanks to smaller, platform lifts which require less footprint space and less intrusive building works than what is commonly associated with traditional, larger passenger lifts. The MC2000, for example, is described by invalifts.com as being ‘an extremely flexible product.’ It can also ‘be configured to resolve issues with the most awkward building arrangements, whilst at the same time occupying the least space of any Platform Lift complying with the Building Regulations Part M maximum size requirement of a 1400mm x 1100mm platform.
Prosthetic limbs have undergone radical improvements within the last decade. 3D printed bionics that responds to synaptic signals, now allow amputees to operate their prosthetic limb, and its digits, to perform a wide variety of movements with marked accuracy and precision.
X-Y Ceiling Track Hoist Systems
Typically used by carers; an XY ceiling track hoist system provides full room coverage to those who experience restricted mobility. It is ideal for rooms where there are multiple transfer points and can even connect to neighbouring rooms. The design is also very space efficient, taking up no floor space. For some users, it can also offer an enhanced level of independence.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference when it comes to home living. Modern advances in technology now allow for greater ease of living when looking to control devices within our homes, promoting greater independence for people living with disabilities.
Before even entering your home, it is now possible to control aspects of how it runs remotely. Apps have been designed so that you may better control your home’s connectivity, lighting, power and heating all from a uniformed device such as your phone or tablet. Once inside, some products even work through voice command, meaning the user does not require a physical, hand-held device to gain the desired result.
Another invention making daily life that bit easier is electronic, multi-point locks, which allow homeowners to lock and unlock their doors using a remote fob or proximity tag. Many systems can also be programmed to automatically fully unlock the door as the homeowner approaches, allowing for easy, yet secure access to your property.
Numerous smart appliances such as robotic vacuum cleaners or robotic window cleaners can also be pre-programmed to fit around the homeowner’s daily routine, promoting ease of living.
Voice Controlled Showers
An article featured on nocamels.com, reports that ‘the user is given the ability to set the maximum shower temperature, flow rate and even time period, thus allowing them to save water and electricity.’ The system also has a range of other helpful features, claiming to be able to identify potential problems such as water pipes freezing and the build-up of potentially harmful bacteria, so that the issues may be identified and remedied.
Invalifts (http://www.invalifts.com/) are Platform Lift specialists – they offer a range of products suitable for both private homes and commercial spaces. Platform lifts help those with limited mobility access facilities without the need to vacate a wheelchair.
Author: Rachel Holway
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Assistive Technology: Changing Perceptions of Disabilities - 24 Apr 2017
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