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How will Driverless Cars help Disabled People?

Google's Lexus RX 450h Self-Driving Car

Google Self-Driving Car

Driverless cars are becoming more and more talked about, with the UK government taking step to put Britain at the forefront of driverless technology and many delivery services from Google to Amazon taking steps to use autonomous delivery vehicles to speed up and offer better services. Stepping away from the commercial world though, there’s the wider discussion of how driverless cars will help people in general and here we’re looking at how driverless cars may improve and benefit the lives of disabled people, improving independence and making access to a wider range of places easier.

First, we’re going to look at the current state of the driverless car technology industry and predictions for the future.

Driverless Car Technology 2015

In February 2015, as mentioned above, the Department for Transport have begun testing autonomous cars, with self-drive pods tested in both in Milton Keynes and Coventry and as this video shows, there is considerable excitement and positive forecasts for the future of driverless car industry in the UK.


Further to this there are a large number of companies and dedicated researchers focusing on driverless technology and have big plans for the future. Mercedes, for example, have plans to launch their Autobahn Pilot in 2016 which will allow for hands-free driving on motorways, with hands-free overtaking, as this video shows:

Nissan too are working on features which allow for autonomous manoeuvres on multilane roads by 2018 and Jaguar expect to release their first driverless vehicle in 2024 with Daimler and Ford following quickly behind in 2025.

It’s clear that driverless technology is very firmly coming to our roads and soon it may be something we can all benefit from, including people with disabilities.  In the long term the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers believe that as many as 75% of all vehicles may be autonomous by 2040.

The Benefits of Driverless Cars for Disabled People

EN-V Laugh (Xiao)

General Motors EN-V Electric Autonomous Concept Car

There are many benefits of driverless cars, some general and some specific to people with disabilities. The more general benefits of driverless vehicles include:

Improved Safety

Human error is a key factor in many road traffic accidents, with driverless vehicles there is no human error and failing to look or not seeing hazards is no longer an issue. Driverless vehicles use a range of sensors placed around the whole car, ensuring they can sense hazards. If safety is improved then there will be less risk of injuries, fatalities and disabilities caused by traffic accidents.

More Free Time

The average driver in England is said to spend around 235 hours driving a year on average, which is equal to six working weeks. With a driverless vehicle you have the choice of driving as well as letting the vehicle drive itself, allowing the driver to take time out to enjoy the ride.

Reducing Emissions

The long-term belief for driverless technology is that it will be able to communicate with pieces of road infrastructure, including traffic lights and therefore avoiding congestion, avoiding traffic jams and taking routes which are quicker and cause less of a risk to the environment.

Looking at driverless technology as a disabled person it could completely revolutionise the lives of many, with the opportunities for people who had been unable to drive especially interesting. Below are some of the key, specific benefits of driverless vehicles for disabled people:

Accessing the World

With access to a vehicle it is easier to travel, easier to get around and means simple things like shopping, attending hospital appointments and work can be reached more easily. The current situation can be very hard for individuals who don’t own or have access to a car as accessible taxis aren’t the norm and the difficulty of access to buses and trains has been well documented. There has even been recent news that some taxi drivers have intentionally overcharged wheelchair users, making navigating public transport not only difficult but expensive too.

Much like the point above, a driverless car can help disabled people get out more often, enjoy a social life and feel safe whilst doing so. Enjoying evenings and nights out safe in the knowledge that getting home will be a simple straightforward journey in your autonomous vehicle, makes it easier to enjoy the night out and not have to worry or feel anxious about getting back, or panic about the cost.

What else do we want from Driverless Cars?

Disruption. The end of the mobility scooter? Driverless Motability Cars for all disabled people?

The advent of driverless technology is extremely exciting but there are still questions. Will the mobility scooter become obsolete? Scooter users will be able to use the “mainstream” driverless cars for short journeys instead?  The government’s Motability scheme would may need to be updated and edited. There would be many people who could suddenly use a car when previously it had been beyond their abilities. This could see a huge number of new people wanting to access the scheme.

Driverless Car Sharing for Community Groups

There is also the possibility that driverless vehicles could be bought and offered by community groups, allowing them to be shared by their members. They could be used as autonomous taxis, returning to a central depot in between drop offs and thereby used by several people during a day.  When it’s your turn to use the vehicle it can drive to your door and pick you up!. This is step forward, especially in environments where people live in supported accommodation or care homes where trips out and excursions can be limited by the staff on the rota and whether or not they’re insured to drive the provided vehicle, if there even is one!

Also in places where regular accessible transport is hard to find like small rural villages for example. A car could be shared by a group of older people living near to each other.

Pre-programmed Wheelchair Journeys?

Where will technology go next? Is there scope that the same technology used for driverless cars can be used in electric wheelchairs? Could they too become autonomous and self-guided? People could have pre-programmed  journeys around the house, school or to local shops.

 

Telecare and health monitoring

Other features which could be useful for disabled people, in the most modern vehicles include health monitoring and telecare possibilities, which could perhaps be built into the cars too. People with epilepsy or heart conditions for instance, could have sensors built into their modes of transport, perhaps even programmed to take them to a safe destination or alerting friends or relatives if difficulties occur?

The Future – Please comment with your ideas

It does seem that the possibilities are almost endless with driverless technology and though there is a lot of testing that still needs to be done, there is real scope for change which could make the world even more accessible and allow even more disabled people to enjoy an improved level of independence. Please comment with any ideas or suggestions you have. If you can think of ways driverless vehicles could help disabled people, please let us know in the comments.

Stay Up Late: Enjoy Gig Life Independently

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

Music with Stay Up Late

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 at Stay Up Late

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.

Video Transcript

The video was created using the NZ Radio interview and the mp3 can be found here http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thiswayup/audio/20152929/stayuplate-org

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.

Geco Hub Flexible Wall Mounted Storage Kickstarter Project

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

Geco Hub

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.

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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:

Geco Hub

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

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!

Visit the Geco Hub Kickstarter page here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/version22design/geco-hub-home-for-things-without-a-home

GecoHub Update

Geco Hub Phone Charging Station

Geco Hub Phone Charging Station

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