For a young disabled person growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s, just as the personal computer was launching its invasion of homes, schools and workplaces; technological development offered a tantalising glimpse of future liberations from restrictions imposed by my impairment. I have cerebral palsy which means that my condition is unlikely to change very much but, from early on, the running presumption was that technological progress would alleviate some of the resulting disadvantages.
During my teenage years, I could see how word processing, email, instant messaging, web browsing and any number of other software applications might revolutionise the way I worked and played. Yet, at the same time, I was frustrated that my lack of fine motor control meant that I was unable to use a mouse and keyboard.
Continue reading “Comment from Clive: Microsoft’s Eye Control feature heralds a new era in computer accessibility”
Would you entrust a robot with your care? According to a poll conducted by YouGov last year, around half of us would like robots to perform domestic tasks for disabled and older people.
The UK is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to building autonomous systems for the home. Dyson’s 360 robot vacuum cleaner is heavily influenced by the company’s collaboration with Imperial College London which has produced world leading research on robot vision. The University of Edinburgh is studying how a robot might be able to decipher their owner’s instructions to learn to carry out a daily living task by interpreting their verbal communications, eye movements and hand gestures. Perhaps the most ambitious project is Middlesex University and the University of Bedfordshire’s three-year project to design social humanoid robots with capabilities ranging from giving medication and connecting to household appliances, to providing companionship and facilitating communication with loved ones and health care professionals.
Continue reading “Comment from Clive: Can robots put the social back into social care?”
‘My GP agreed I should get a wheelchair and this would help me. It should have been the hardest part, but actually, it got worse.’ The story of junior doctor Hannah Barham-Brown’s struggles with the NHS wheelchair service in England which produced an unusable wheelchair after a six-month wait will resonate with many who have had similar experiences at the hands of the country’s largest provider of wheelchairs.
Dr Barham-Brown’s speech to the British Medical Association’s recent conference paved the way for a unanimous vote for the association to adopt ensuring patients have timely access to suitable wheelchairs as a priority in its work with NHS England and other bodies.
Continue reading “Comment from Clive: How to bring NHS England’s wheelchair service up to speed”
Of all the social problems confronting Britain today, the housing shortage is one of the most vexing. Estimates suggest that the gap between the number of new homes needed in England and those available is 100,000 per year.
While outdated planning laws and political controversy conspire to slow construction to a trickle, a generational divide continues to widen between younger people who can barely afford to rent and the swelling ranks of older home owners living in oversized properties which are not suited to the practicalities of daily life as an older person.
Continue reading “Comment from Clive: Smarter neighbourhoods of the future will require more than technological wizardry”
Older people have many advantages over the young. The accumulation of years brings experience, wisdom and contentment. Older age can also be a time of discovery, when the commitments of family and working life recede and give way to personal interests and pursuits.
While older people have far more opportunities for self fulfilment in later life than ever before, they are still less likely to be able to enjoy the benefits of the digital age. The latest figures show that people aged 65 and over are less likely to have access to the internet or own a smartphone and tend to value the postal system as a means of regular communication more than others.
Continue reading “Comment from Clive: The digital divide between older and young people represents a wasted opportunity for the technology industry”
Research tells us that most assistive technology equipment is abandoned, often within the first year. Products frequently fail to match consumer expectations for effectiveness, durability, comfort and ease of use.
Continue reading “Comment from Clive: We need more transparency about the pros and cons of technologies”
Since the dawn of mainstream personal computing in the 1980s, the mouse and keyboard have become such an integral part of our daily routines that it might seem hard to imagine how or why we would consider life without them. And yet, technologists are always seeking breakthroughs that will herald the next big thing to revolutionise our increasingly digitised world.
Continue reading “Comment from Clive: Voice recognition comes of age”
Hanna McFadden, Children’s Physiotherapist, works for Honeylands, a Specialist Children’s Centre based in Devon. She has also been working with us at Designability to help develop Dynamic Seating for young children with dystonic cerebral palsy.
Hanna is currently on sabbatical over in St Lucia and has just shared her first account of how different medical treatment is there, along with some of the stories of the fascinating people she has met.
Continue reading “Life without the NHS: working as a therapist in St Lucia”
Alex Leach, Commercial Manager at Designability, leads all of the commercial and financial aspects of our work which includes negotiating contracts with partner organisations and ensuring our products can reach as many people as possible. Here she explores the debate around assistive devices in sport and the teams behind our incredible athletes.
Continue reading “Technological heroes: The teams helping Paralympians and ‘ordinary’ people to take on the world”
We are pleased to introduce a guest blogger for our special post for World Cerebral Palsy Day. Clive Gilbert was born with profound cerebral palsy and is an extensive user of assistive technology. Here he looks back on his childhood and how much of an important part technology played in his development into a becoming an independent young man.
Continue reading “Assistive technology and me: living an independent life with cerebral palsy”