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How Accessible Technology is Empowering Users & Facilitating Independence

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How Accessible Technology is Empowering Users & Facilitating Independence
By Wealden Rehab 19 September 2016 959 Views

The European Seating Symposium is the premier event on seating and assistive technology. This was the fifth year, and we met an interesting mix of healthcare professionals, manufacturers and users as we discussed the innovations and legislative changes.

This is the first of 2 blog posts talking about the highlights of the 3-day event. In this post, we give you a recap on accessibility-related technological advances.

The future is in inclusive technology, not assistive technology

That’s a quote from Christopher Hills, who spoke about advances in switch control.

Christopher has cerebral palsy and quadriplegia and only has control over his neck muscles. He moves his head to operate a switch that controls his wheelchair.

Christopher is just 19 years old and is an Accessibility Ambassador. His mission is to get us thinking in terms of inclusive technology, not assistive technology – which he described as an out-dated term.

His own experience is the perfect example. Christopher runs his own video editing business and uses his head switch to control all keyboard and mouse functions. He customises his technology using Switch Control, an accessibility programme Apple integrates into its devices.

As a result of these innovations, Christopher is succeeding in a job he loves – and a job that normally requires fine motor skills from able-bodied users.

(Read more about Christopher and switch control in this interview. Follow him on Twitter at @iAmMaccing.)

Let’s design for everyone, ok?

Robin Christopherson is Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet, a UK charity that helps disabled people use computers and the internet. And he’s seeing innovations that are promoting a new level of independence.

His talk was called From AI to Robots, from Apps to Wearables – Let’s Design for Everyone, OK?

One technology he discussed was Talking Goggles, which he held up as an example of accessible technology design. It’s an app that describes itself as a camera with speech. It uses the in-built smartphone camera to scan images (anything from buildings to products to text) and then speaks a description.

Apps like these, which are powerful and inexpensive (Talking Goggles is just £0.79 in the iTunes store), mean it’s easier than ever for users to harness technology to improve their quality of life.

(Follow AbilityNet on Twitter at @AbilityNet.)

We need to treat the whole patient

As care industry professionals, it’s easy for us to focus on the equipment we prescribe (OTs) and provide (suppliers).

These sessions at the European Seating Symposium were fascinating because they remind us to focus on the whole patient, showing us how innovations in switches and apps open up new opportunities.

The next post in this series focuses on pressure care, and the tips and advances the experts discussed at the Symposium.