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!
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.
World Toilet Day takes place on November 19th and focuses mainly on the sanitation needs in developing countries. It highlights how important toilets can be and how they can truly make all the difference in the battle against disease and widespread infection. However, we’re looking at a campaign closer to home and one which has a huge impact on the lives of people living with disabilities in the UK. The Changing Places campaign is staging an event as part of a worldwide awareness raising efforts called ‘The Big Squat’.
Changing Places is a campaign which is pushing for the installation of accessible changing rooms in a range of public places across the UK. There are many reason why properly accessible changing rooms are essential and many people living with different disabilities need more support and space to be able to toilet in public places comfortably.
Currently standard disabled toilets do not meet the needs of all people living with disabilities and their carers or support staff. People living with profound and multiple disabilities including learning disabilities, spinal damage and acquired brain injury often find themselves needing additional facilities to be able to comfortably utilise public toilets.
Changing Places toilets are different and provide initial facilities and apparatus to allow for easier usage.
Changing Places Toilets
Changing Places toilets provide the right equipment, enough space and a safe and clean changing environment. The equipment provides will either be a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench and a fully functional tracking hoist system or mobile hoist where this isn’t possible.
The changing areas will also have enough space for the disabled person as well as up to two carers and the toilet will be centrally placed to allow for support from carers on either side. Curtains or screens are also fitted so the disabled person and carer can have some privacy during the change.
The safety and cleanliness is provided by tear off paper roll to cover the bench before use and a large waste bin to allow for the disposal of pads. The floors are all non-slip to avoid any other accidents or risks.
Where do we want them?
The Changing Places campaign want to see their unique and potentially life changing toilets installed in all large public places. Their list of places includes:
• city centres
• shopping centres
• arts venues
• motorway service stations
• leisure complexes
• large railway stations
They also highlight that these new changing facilities should be installed in addition to pre-existing accessible toilets and not as a replacement. We definitely agree and think accessibility to comfortable toilets should be a basic right for all. Below is a case study looking at one mother and daughter who definitely see the need for accessible Changing Places toilets in every possible location.
Bethan and Lowri – A Case Study
Bethan is the mother of two daughters, Elin and Lowri, and the youngest, Lowri, lives with Retts Syndrome. Retts Syndrome means Lowri needs support with all her daily activities as she has no independent mobility. She uses continence pads for comfort and Bethan, Elin and Lowri were all pleased to have the chance to enjoy a happy family day out thanks to a Changing Places toilet.
The mum and daughters were able to enjoy a day out in Nottingham City Centre including shopping, lunch and a show at the local theatre. Nottingham City Council had the initiative to install a Changing Places toilet which allows for Bethan to help her daughter with her toileting needs without stress or difficulty, utilising the specialist hoist and changing equipment.
Bethan highlighted that without the Changing Places toilet there days out were very different as they had to plan their days out around specific times, ensuring to be home for mealtimes as Lowri would need to go to the toilet and they simply wouldn’t be able to change her comfortably in regular disabled toilets, as it would involve lying her on the floor. My own son Joe, has Dravet Syndrome and cannot be changed in most toilets. We had our vehicle specially adapted with a bench, curtains and a small hoist because of this issue.
Changing Places have taken Bethan and Lowri’s story as a great positive and use them regularly in their campaigns to show the importance of their toilets for whole families as well as individuals. This video tells a little more about their story:
(Full Transcript Below)
Take Part In the BIG SQUAT for World Toilet Day
The Big Squat event will be at 12 noon on 19 November
The squatting exercise is highly symbolic of the problems faced by many people in the developing world, where a lack of toilets forces people to squat in fields, in the bush, along train tracks, or in other open places. Open defecation is a major problems: it spreads disease, resulting in over 1.8 million deaths from diarrhoeal disease every year. It also affects women’s wellbeing and safety: in many developing countries, women are forced to relieve themselves either before sunrise or after sunset, causing them immense discomfort and inconvenience as well as putting them at risk of rape and other attacks.
In the UK the Changing Places campaign will be using the Big Squat to help highlight the need for Changing Places toilets in public spaces in order to meet the needs of the 230,000 people who need additional support and appropriate facilities in order to use the toilet.
Some of their campaigners in London will be heading to the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park in Stratford to do a very public mass squat. We also think this is a great opportunity to celebrate the availability of Changing Places facilities at the park and the accessibility legacy left behind by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralymplic games.
One of our favourite products comes from Uriwell as they cater for every member of the family and can be a great aid to keep to hand if you often find yourself in situations where your bladder gives you little warning. It’s also very valuable for helping young children who are learning to use the toilet.
On the theme of toilet training for younger children we also rate the Game of Pee which adds a bit of fun to the process. The game includes a Happy Pee and the game comes with different faces for the Uriwell as well as an educational booklet that can be coloured in. A wall chart allows you to mark your child’s progress and help them feel a sense of achievement as they move up the steps. The range has even expanded to include the Happy Poo and so toilet training really can be simpler than you thought.
World Toilet Day and the UK Changing Places campaign needs your support and we’re hoping after reading this you might take part in the Big Squat! (#BigSquat or contact @CP_consortium on Twitter)
00:06 Speaker 1: My name is Bethan, and this is Lowri who is my 10-year-old daughter. Lowri is profoundly disabled. She has a condition called Rett syndrome. And she is completely dependent on us for all her activities of daily living. Lowri wears incontinence pads or nappies and so obviously, we have to change her during the day and in an ordinary disabled toilet that involves putting her on the floor because she is getting a big girl, and it’s no joke to manhandle that. You’ve got to keep her hands off the dirty floor ’cause the next place they’ll go is to her mouth. So, that’s why we need Changing Places toilets. We’ve got to get her onto this height adjustable table, so that’s either lift but ideally you want some kind of an equipment to help you with that because really you do far too much lifting. So, a ceiling track hoist is really ideal. It’s changed our life in the sense that coming to Nottingham for a day out, we can come here, we know it’s here, we can plan our whole day.
01:06 S1: When there’s a Changing Places toilet, it just increases the length of time that you can spend somewhere, and it means you are not time limited, you haven’t got that worry about how long am I going to be out? Where do I go next? If you know that there is a decent facility, then you can build that into your day, and it just takes the pressure off you. The Changing Places campaign is really important for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their family. I see it as being the next step. We’ve got standard accessible disabled toilets everywhere these days, everybody expects them. We’ve got baby changing everywhere and it’s expected. I think that having Changing Places toilets is the next step.
3D printing is a revolutionary new development which has unfortunately been in the news for the wrong reasons. However when it’s looked at critically it can only be a positive move for the world’s technological and even medical industries. 3D printing can revolutionise the lives of millions of disabled people through some of its many applications.
3D: Printing the Future
The Science Museum, London has an ongoing exhibition – 3D: printing the future which looks at all the innovative ways of utilising this technology for the benefit of mankind. It showcases the power and versatility offered by 3D printing equipment and the collection includes over 600 printed objects. Some are little more than a bit of fun whilst others could genuinely be life changing.
This exhibition shows how innovative technologists and medical technicians are able to turn data into 3D printed objects which could have life changing impact. The exhibition focuses mainly on the future of modern industry, medicine and how 3D shopping could change your everyday shopping experience. Here we’re looking at some of the ways 3D printing is already being used for the benefit of people around the world.
3D Printing for Disabled People
Hundreds of disabled people have already been helped by 3D printed products. It has the potential to make the clinical, ugly assistive equipment more personalised and part of the person rather than an unmatched addition. This is only the beginning however and below we’re looking at the practical applications of 3D printing for disabled people.
3D Printed Prosthetics
The Nemours Biomedical Research facility at the Alfred duPoint Hospital for Children in Wilmington researched and developed a unique durable exoskeleton. This exoskeleton was made through 3D printing and it was able to be fitted to a child, Emma Lavelle, who had previously been unable to raise her arms or use her legs. As this video shows the WREX exoskeleton has revolutionised her life:
Further examples of the 3D printing of prosthetics can be found in Europe. An elderly woman was able to have her jaw replaced, based upon a 3D printed model of her lower mandible. The woman had unfortunately had her jaw removed due to an infection and was considered very high risk due to her age and related factors. The researchers from Belgium and Holland were able to utilise 3D printing to develop a unique jaw replacement for this lucky patient, who was able to speak and swallow normally within a single day of the operation.
3D Printed Organs
There are recorded cases where 3D printing has been used to print organs built from the patient’s own body cells. There is scope that this could revolutionise the organ donation network and whilst there are thousands of people waiting for donations another method of replacing organs really is much needed.
Using 3D printing a doctor at Wake Forest’s Regenerative Medicine Department (North Carolina) was able to develop artificial scaffolds in the shape of an organ with living cells. The department is now working towards developing printing equipment that can print these scaffolds and living cells simultaneously. The doctor in question, Dr Anthony Atala, has presented a TED Talk on the subject.
3D Printing for Facial Reconstruction
The benefits of 3D Printing for disabled people doesn’t necessarily have to be medical. There have been developments of an educational and entertainment based nature which strive towards inclusion. There have been developments of 3D printer equipment for mathematics and science study for the partially sighted, with graphs and data being accessible in a way that has never been possible before.
Equally others have been able to utilise 3D printing to build custom game controllers to support people living with physical disabilities and enhance their gaming experiences. Many different people have shown their home-developed game controllers simply through utilising 3D printing equipment and this is something which really could revolutionise people’s daily life.
There are 3D printed utensils designed to help people with fine motor difficulties and 3D printing is also allowing people who may not have been able to afford a prosthetic to build their own with the support of their families and friends.
Technology can be harnessed to work towards inclusivity and with 3D printing gaining steam on a daily basis it’s clear it’s something everybody should take note of.
The Science Museum London’s insightful exhibition is accessible between 10am and 6pm every day, except over Christmas, until 15th June 2014. It gives you the chance to see this astounding technology in action and take a closer look at some of its applications.
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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