People with learning disabilities have the same interests, passions and hobbies as anybody else, accessing them however, is sometimes a lot harder than it should be. Music lovers may miss out on the opportunity to enjoy live music, simply due to their care plan or no one willing to go along to see their favourite band. Going out in the evening to listen to music, enjoy a show or a sports match should be accessible to everyone and the charity Stay Up Late promotes the rights of people with learning disabilities to enjoy a lifestyle of their choosing.
Stay Up Late Gig Buddies
Enjoying Music with Stay Up Late
Stay Up Late relies on volunteers who want to enjoy live music and are happy to go along with someone with learning disabilities to ensure they get to enjoy the same experiences as everybody else. Stay Up Late clients are matched with volunteer gig buddies with common interest so they can attend gigs together which might mean live music concerts but could also be football matches, church services and festivals.
Many people with learning disabilities live independently of their families but they are supported in their daily life by staff. This makes late night events difficult as many staff are tied down to rotas and therefore, if they finish their shift at 10pm, staying on at a gig until 11pm is very unlikely and the individual in question may need support in getting home and therefore would have to leave too.
Leaving events at around 9pm has become the norm for many people with learning disabilities according to Stay Up Late and this is clearly an example of the unfairness and inequality people are living with, simply due to their additional needs.
Live your Independent Life
Stay Up Late wants all its clients to know they can stay up late however they wish. Their Facebook page shows a wide range of events which have attracted people with learning disabilities across the country as well as those local to the charity’s base in Brighton.
Stay Up Late also assert that in addition to their voluntary scheme, support workers should be employed flexibly and be able to work different hours to allow late night events, going out in the evening and therefore ensuring people with learning disabilities can live the lifestyle they choose. Many support workers are happy to work different hours as long as they know in advance but red tape issues often stop companies from allowing this and this is something Stay Up Late want to change.
Share Passions and Interests
Music crowd with Stay Up Late
In a radio interview the man behind Stay Up Late, Paul Richards, explained the importance of the shared passions in the success of his charity. Discussing events he had attended purely because someone was needed to go, he realised just how important it was to attend events with likeminded individuals rather than just someone who’s available. Gig buddies are chosen because of their close matching interests to the clients and therefore long-term friendships are formed as well as simply someone to take along to events.
It’s also important to note that all individuals who are selected as volunteer buddies are fully checked and vetted to ensure they are safe to accompany with vulnerable adults and Stay Up Late ensure safeguarding practices are followed to the letter.
Stay Up Late and Do What You Want
Stay Up Late exists to further independence. In the interview again Paul explains how rarely you see a person with learning disabilities out at night and how Gig Buddies was setup to try and create a natural and organic process of forming friendships through shared interests and push forward the message that people with learning disabilities have every right to be out enjoying an active social life of their choosing, integrating into their chosen communities.
We think the work at Stay Up Late are doing is commendable and think their efforts should be spread nationwide to allow even more people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle they wish, unconfined by rotas and management.
All photographs courtesy of the Stay Up Late website.
A transcript of the video is available below but has also been added as captions to the you-tube video.
Simon: Stay up late is a charity in the UK that promotes the rights of people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle of their choice. They match clients and volunteers with common interests and then they attend gigs together everything from musical concerts to sporting events and church services. Paul Richards is the man that set up Stay Up Late and Gig Buddies.
Paul: I don’t know what the situation is like in New Zealand, but the UK there is lots of people with learning disabilities and autism who don’t get huge amount of funded support. So what happens is they end up spending a lot of time at home in social isolation. Loneness leads to all sorts of things around you know poor mental and physical health and it’s bad for communities to have people who are you know, lonely. And so, gig buddies is basically trying to deal with that problem by hooking social isolated people with learning disabilities up with a volunteer who loves the same music so they can go out to main stream gigs or whatever tickles their fancy together. For some people that is to go play sports, watch sport, somebody wants to go to church; doesn’t really matter. Say what your gig is and we’ll find someone later to go. But, generally it’s around about music.
Simon: And the critical bit here is having some sort of shared interest in that type of music because I guess you’ve got so many genres of live music happening that matching that up it would be problematic. There would be nothing worse than I guess one music fan having to go and sit for 2 hours through some other type of music performance that they actually hated and wouldn’t’ come back for more.
Paul: Exactly! Last year some of our advisory group and they are made up of people with learning disabilities, they decided that they’d like to go see the dancing on ice extravaganza at the Brighton Center [00:02:01] and I said to our project manager ‘oh do I have to go? I absolutely hate that kind of thing”. Because, I know that if you love that kind of thing the energy rubs off and if you don’t you just sort of sit there zapping everyone else’s energy away from them. So I would go and I would try to be professional and I would try to be enthusiastic, but isn’t it better to go with somebody who truly shares you passion whatever that is? And your right, that’s the hook. It’s about a shared interest but also from that it’s also finding new experiences as well. So if you think about the sort of thing you sit in a pub and you are sort of chatting with a mate and you tell him to check out an artist I’ve never heard of, you know, and it’s that stuff that you go back and you buy the record and you listen to it and it expands your horizon and so that’s part of it as well, but within what people are comfortable with.
Simon: So how do you find the volunteers, the buddies that are taking people out to these gigs because as I mentioned you have to be I wouldn’t say careful, but there must be some sort of selection criteria?
Paul: Yeah absolutely. We advertise in a variety of different places so, universities, venues themselves, a lot of word of mouth, we sort of go to events you know sort of around social care and things like that and put the word out, but also people like social workers sort of spread the word as well, but everybody gets interviewed and find out more about them. Then we do, well we are required by law to do criminal background checks on everyone, and we also give them some training. During that process some people do drop out and they realize it’s not for them or they come back with a colorful police record, and if you’ve got a police record it doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved; it does depend on what it was and when it was for to be honest.
Simon: I am sure, I am sure. Now the Gig buddies is part of a broader charity that you set up called Stay Up Late which is essentially about reclaiming the night isn’t it? For I guess as you say this community of people that are a large proportion of them don’t tend to get out at night.
Paul: There is so much stuff going on you know but I sort of sit at the pub every evening, and still where we live very few people with learning disabilities out in the evening and you know the pub is where you, well I met my mates and watch music or chat the night away and those sort of things; those natural sort of things. So that’s what we through Gig Buddies are trying to create is natural friendships so they sort of go on in their informal and hopefully they last for a long time. But yeah, stay up late started because we were frustrated, I was in a band with 3 guys with learning disabilities in a punk band it’s called Heavy Load, and we were frustrated that people were leaving our gigs just as we got on stage and it was classic spinal tap because we never ever thought that was a reflection on the quality of our performances which were an acquired taste and quite chaotic and hilarious. It was because typically people do have support, have staff who are this ridged router systems that finish at 10 o’clock at night so everybody leaves at 9 so they can be home tucked up in bed with their cup of cocoa and the staff go home, and we started challenging that saying ‘look people with learning disabilities have every right to be active social lives that we all enjoy and the stuff that defines us and makes us part of a community and they are being denied it.’ So that’s why we started it and it sort of all grown from there.
Simon: So as a Gig buddy I would join the organization and I would go through the vetting process and then I fill out some form and say ‘hey look I am really into Reggae’ or I like a bit of this or that and you would then say ‘okay look we’ve got someone over here who is interested that.’ What do I then go and pick that person up and then I am responsible for them for the evening?
Paul: Yes, well what we do is we have sort of a matching process. Our project manager she’ll be thinking when she meets people, she’ll be looking at their musical interests also where they live because a lot of the areas we work outside of Bright and it is quite rural and we pull public transport link. So it’s looking at do people live in the next village or town along and do they have a car and that sort of thing. And then, then it might sometimes be around sex or sexuality, age, it’s a whole range of things go into the mix in time which work out as well as their musical tastes which is quite a complicated thing. But then we’ll always go and support the first night out so that they get to meet at first. And then we’ll go support the first night out. So it’s sort of set up in that gentle way, and then they can go on and develop their friendship, but we sort of, we guide people through that because we are fully aware that people have anxiety around going out with somebody with a learning disability and most of our volunteers are new to supporting people with learning disabilities. So you know we talk through maybe a few of the potential support issues. There might be that someone is anxious in crowds and noisy situations and things like that and what you do in situations where somebody’s experiencing anxiety and different things like that. Yeah, so we don’t just leave them to it we sort of… – and then we offer them ongoing support as well so if they are having some doubts or problems we’ll meet with them and chat through things with them.
Simon: Paul Richards is the founder of Stay Up Late and there is more information on our website right now.
S’Up Spoon Supporting Inclusive and Independent Dining
S’Up Spoon is a new and innovative assistive eating aid to help people with a movement disorder. Check out their Kickstarter campaign!
Comparing S’Up Spoon to a regular spoon
Inclusive and design for all practices are at the heart of everything we do and we like to support products that offer the same. S’Up Spoon is an innovative new product which provides a safe and convenient utensil, specifically designed for people with cerebral palsy as well as anyone suffering from hand tremors, such as essential tremor. S’Up Spoon helps to ensure independence and dignity to many and their Kickstarter Campaign is currently gaining momentum and we want to help push them along their way!
Eat More, Chat More, Spill Less
With the above slogan opening the campaign, S’Up Spoon is introduced as a spoon for shaky hands and the campaign is looking to raise £33,000 and have provided the below valuable flowchart of exactly how their funding will be spent:
What is S’Up Spoon
S’Up Spoon in Action
The video below explains S’up Spoon very well. The spoon was developed after the inventors met Grant who was frustrated by the limited nature of regular utensils as well as those specifically designed for assistive purposes. The spoon was designed to allow grant the freedom he needed to eat out with friends and from his fantastic feedback, the company went on to further hone the spoon for a wider user group.
The current S’Up Spoon has been developed to suit a wider audience including people with essential tremor as mentioned above as well as Parkinson’s disease. The spoon is on the verge of reaching market and there’s hope that the Kickstarter campaign will help launch them and ensure their product is available for a much wider audience. They’re currently about £20,000 away from their target and have 10 days to go. We’re hoping a final push can get them the funding they need and bring S’Up Spoon to market.
Assistive Utensils Market
The assistive utensils market is a growing area of interest for many inventors and designers. Products such as the Knork, Handsteady and other drinking and eating aids, provide assistance in some ways but not others and it’s clear S’Up Spoon feels a definite gap in the market and could even be used alongside other utensils and products.
We also reckon this is a good time to mention how valuable your Trabasack can be when out and about, providing a sturdy and stable surface to dine from, perhaps when you’re in a busy area or the table height isn’t quite right for dining comfortably.
S’Up Spoon Kickstarter
As with all Kickstarter campaigns, S’Up Spoon offer a range of incentives to their backers to get them on board and thank them for their kind pledges, the S’Up Spoon pledge incentives are as follows:
£2 or more: the feeling that you’ve supported a great cause
£15 or more: £3 off the estimate RRP for your S’Up Spoon and delivery by Christmas
£18 or more: A special S’Up Spoon supporters’ t-shirt (for those who don’t need the spoon but want to back the scheme)
£18 or more: A black/dark grey S’Up Spoon from the first production line for delivery in December 2014
£18 or more: A black/dark grey S’Up Spoon from the second production line for delivery in February 2015
£20 or more: A limited edition Kickstarter S’Up Spoon in green, never to be produced again.
£25 or more: Two black/dark grey S’Up Spoons for delivery between Jan-Feb 2015
£40 or more: Ultimate Package – both a black and special edition green spoon and a t-shirt for delivery in December 2014
£375 or more: A special edition silver anodised aluminium spoon, hand finished with a name etched onto the handle for delivery in February 2015
£2,500 or more: Lunch in Glasgow with a tour of the 4c Design office and a demonstration of the design processes used to develop the product. Whilst in Glasgow the backer will be able to get involved in ideas and planning for future developments of S’Up Spoon and will become a feature on the website alongside the rest of the team involves in the spoon’s design and development.
There are lots of fantastic incentives there to make that final push to back up S’Up Spoon and ensure it’s available to buy for anyone who wants it. Our main hope for the development of the product is that a stainless steel version is eventually created, allowing the S’Up Spoon to blend in more naturally in all dining environments.
Good luck to the 4c Design team and S’Up Spoon. We will keep this page updated with news as the project progresses.
Scroll to the bottom for the latest updates on Geco Hub and their Kickstarter campaign!
At Living with Disability we are constantly on the lookout for new innovations and inventions which could be used to make living with a disability easier. We support universal and design for all ideas that can be used freely or may be particularly useful for disabled people. Geco Hub is an innovative storage system solution which is currently looking for funding through Kickstarter. We are supporting Geco Hub and it’s creator Simon Lyons as we think it is a fantastic looking design .
What is Geco Hub? “A home for things without a home”
This video is the best place to start to give you an idea of what Geco Hub is and what it can offer:
It is the brainchild of Simon Lyons and his company Version 22 and they’re looking for £35,000 through Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. The Kickstarter is due to end on 24th April 2014.
Geco Hub up Close
A range of Geco Hub elements
Geco Hub is extremely easy to use and fit into your home in any way you see fit. It can be simply mounted to any surface using screws or adhesive pads and you can even fit it in places where drilling is impossible.
It can be assembled by hand in a few short minutes and the flexible components used to hold your items in place can be bought in a number of bright and innovative colours, one of the key things which makes them an ideal option for people living with visual impairments.
The Geco Hub system also benefits from being easily expandable. Each standard unit is 5×5 but other units of the same size can be added to create a larger storage space. Each unit uses its own elements to hold things in place with no need pins reducing the risk of stab injuries as well as damage to paper items.
This handy GIF shows off some of the different variations of Geco Hub you could try.
As the photo below shows the Geco Hub isn’t just for light, paper items though and it can hold a huge amount despite its seemingly small size:
The Geco Hub holds a range of heavy items
Geco Hub for Disabilities
The Geco Hub has a wide range of different uses for people living with disabilities. The bright design is ideal for people who have visual impairments but equally its wall positioning makes it easier for finding things which can be a problem when they’re laid flat on a table surface.
It’s also a great option for people who have joint pain or problems and find bending down difficult. Storing all important items at eye level means they can be reached for without needing to bend or stretch uncomfortably.
The Geco Hub is also an easy to position storage device which could be perfect for wheelchair users keeping all those key items within easy reach. Rather than standing eye level the Geco Hub could be easily placed at reach-level whilst seated.
British Design and Production
Geco Hub – Made in Britain
As supporters of British design above all we are pleased to see that Geco Hub is committed to using high quality suppliers in the UK which we definitely see as a hugely positive commitment for British industry.
The Geco Hub idea has been brewing away in the mind of its inventor since 2010. During Simon’s time at university and on graduation he has been dedicated almost solely to preparing the product to be ready for a launch on Kickstarter and we wish him every success with achieving the total need to fund the project.
Geco Hub interview on BBC Radio
Simon had a really interesting interview on the radio that gives some more background and information about the product.
The many benefits of this item means we simply had to support it. We hope it goes on to be as successful as the Sensory Stories project we backed last year. We hope our involvement may go some way in pushing Geco Hub closer to its target. So if you want to be part of this exciting project, dig deep and get on board and be one of the first people to own a Geco Hub!
Unfortunately the first attempt by Version 22 and Geco Hub on Kickstarter wasn’t a success but this hasn’t got them down – in fact they’re back for more and relaunching their Kickstarter attempt today: 29th July 2014!
The product has been updated, there have been changes and new developments but the core principles of the product remain the same, as they say themselves:
A lot has changed since the first time around but Geco Hub’s core benefits aren’t among them. Every step of the way along the path from the last campaign to this one I have taken the utmost care to ensure that Geco Hub is just as easy to assemble, install and use as it ever was and that only the best materials for the job are used. In fact, through doing all of this Geco Hub is now better than ever!
At Living with Disability we are still 100% behind Geco Hub and are very hopeful that this time they’ll receive everything they need to produce their versatile storage system. It is such a versatile development that can benefit people from people of all walks of life and we want it to be out there for sale for anyone who wants it! There’s even a new video showing off its perks:
We hope you get behind the campaign and to find out more visit their brand new Kickstarter campaign page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/version22design/geco-hub-stop-losing-in-style
Touch Screen Feedback Technology has Huge Potential for Visually Impaired People
Disney are creating a tablet screen with tactile feedback that will help visually impaired people.
Disney create an innovation in touchscreen technology
Touchscreens get better all the time but researchers at Disney have thrown another innovation into the mix. The research team at the American mass media corporation have discovered an amazing way to generate tactile feedback on a smooth glass display. With Google already making leaps and bound with their Google Glass it’s exciting to see other companies making headway too.
This new technology offers huge potential for people living with visual impairments. It turns a touchscreen into a physically accessible and tactile object. It gives huge functionality – imagine a touchscreen keyboard that you can physically feel each key. This research could be truly revolutionary.
Electrovibration and Haptic Technology
Who knows where this will lead next! The research team discovered that the sensation of feeling any bump on any surface came mainly from the skin on the fingertip being pulled and stretched out of shape as it passed over the bump. They have then been able to replicate this exact sensation on a perfectly flat surface and this is achieved through electrovibration.
Electrovibration can be used to create electrostatic forces which then create friction against the finger creating that touch sensation. This is just one half of the research however.
The other half of this exciting development is a unique algorithm the Disney research team developed which generates these frictional forces dependent upon whatever is on any given screen. They have created an algorithm which will show stairs as a series of rigid steps whilst a ball would have a gradually curving surface. The technique is little more than a very clever trick but as far as anyone can see it works!
Haptic Technology and Visual Impairments
The initial thoughts when considering how this new development can be used have led people to think about gaming, interactive touchable story books and most importantly revolutionising touchscreen devices for people living with visual impairments. The display of a touchscreen tablet or phone could have all the tactile functionality of physical items around the home without any additional bulk.
Mobile devices are more popular than ever before and those living with disabilities may find themselves more reliant on them than others. This technology could truly take the usefulness of smartphones for people with disabilities to another level and there is scope for helping people with visual impairments navigating their environment with more understanding and comfort.
This is research Disney have been working on for many years and it seems they’ve finally cracked it. We’re excited to see where this technology goes next and whether it’s long before it’s available to be tried and tested. For now we’ve got this video which shows the technology in action:
If you have any ideas of how this technology may help you, please leave a comment below.
For the Disney Research page about this technology – click here
Google Glass is a game changing technology that we will look back to and wonder how we did without it, like we do with mobile phones and WiFi!
New developments design for mainstream usage are in fact becoming more inclusive and giving more options for people living with disabilities. Google Glass is one such piece of equipment.
What is Google Glass?
Google Glass is a wearable computer which comes with an optical head-mounted display which is working towards the full development of a ubiquitous computer. Google Glass is being developed as part of the larger Project Glass research and development project. It takes smartphone technology and makes it even more accessible. It displays information just like a smartphone in a hands free format which allows for communication with the internet through natural voice commands.
The Google Glass
Google Glass is fitted with a touchpad on its side and it allows users to control it by swiping thorough its interface on the screen. The interface is much like the standard timeline we’ve come to be familiar with and this swiping motion is the only physical action needed to operate the Glass.
Voice actions are the main way of controlling the device and activating the Glass is as simple as tilting the head upwards (to approximately 30° or a preferred angle that can be altered) or tap the touchpad and say ‘OK Glass.’ Once the Glass is activated only voice actions are required and you can access the range of different facilities offered by the product. Everything from ‘Send a message to Mum’ to ‘get directions to the nearest ATM’ can be found. Search results will be filtered and then read back to the user so they can choose the most fitting one.
Google use innovative bond conduction through a transducer in the product which renders the sound virtually inaudible to others around you, allowing for a private yet interactive computing experience.
The Google Glass headset can be simply connected to your smartphone and the display is a small information screen which hovers in front of one eye. Experts in the field are describing this as the first development in what will be the next big trend – wearable technology. Rather than slipping your smartphone into your pocket you could find you’re utilising glasses, watches and other wearable devices in the near future. Prospective analytics suggest that wearable tech has the potential to be big business with sales projections for the Glass reaching 9.6 million by the end of 2016.
Google Glass for Disability
For disabled people living Google Glass presents an even bigger opportunity. An opportunity to make their environment more accessible through information. The Glass is much more than a new toy, it can be life affirming or even life changing. Technologists suggest that speech recognition is reaching new levels of precision. They’re actually working towards profoundly deaf people being able to see real-time transcripts of what friends are saying to them in the Glass’ prism. It really could revolutionise communication for many.
Equally the Glass could also be extremely useful for people with visual impairments – with suggestions that it may be possible to take walking directions from the Glass further opening up the world for them.
Below we’re looking at two of the early Google Glass adopters, both of whom are disabled and have had their stories well publicised. How the Glass has helped their lives is truly inspirational and is a positive example of how they can be instrumental for other people living with disabilities in the future.
Tammie Lou Van Sant
Tammie Lou Van Sant -Google Glass User
Tammie Lou Van Sant was a keen photographer before a car accident left her living with permanent paralysis. The Google Glass headset has given Van Sant the chance to point and shoot again as she can simply give voice commands. It has allowed her to once again enjoy one of her favourite past times as well as its other functionalities being highly useful such as answering her own phone calls, replying to texts and making small, solo trips out thanks to Google Maps.
Alex Blaszczuk is another individual living with permanent paralysis. She submitted her story to the #ifihadaglass competition and was awarded her glass this way. She highlighted how the glass would help her to ‘thrive with physical limitations’. On receiving her Glass she was able to find a new form of self-expression and the video below shows exactly how much of a positive impact it has had upon her life.
Getting Google Glass
Google Glass doesn’t have an official launch date although recent queries to Google on November 8th suggest it may be out by early 2014. There are no official announcements now so rather than thinking about when you’ll get your own it may be worth beginning to save up!
Google Glass has the potential to revolutionise the lives of millions of disabled people. Some may be able to recapture hobbies and interests that they remember before the effects of an accidents whilst others may enjoy completely new experiences, that they have never had the opportunity to participate in.
Google Glass for Disability Updates
We intend to update this post with people’s personal experiences and applications of the Glass as they develop. Please leave a comment if you have something for us to add.
We like to find new gadgets or uses of existing products that help people with disabilities. We don't like clinical or stigmatising looking ugly products that make your home look like a hospital ward!
Please leave a comment if you would like to submit a review or suggest a product. You can always talk to us on twitter @lwdisability or facebook. We love to be offered guest posts and happily include your bio with blog link or for a chosen cause or charity.
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Good luck Louis, who has set up a “lifestyle marketplace” for disabled people, which will be community led and ethical. Check it out at ethosdisability.com they launched today! Random fact about Louis: he is currently the Men’s European record holder at 100m-800m in his T33 class for wheelchair racing.