Next generation sensory room

SXH system

What is your vision of a sensory room?  A room with a soft mat, bean bags, bubble tubes, fibre optic lighting?  Switch everything on when someone wants to use the room?

Wouldn’t you like to see a little more thought as to how to control the room’s special lighting, music, and objects so that it can be more immersive?  How about a projection of a motorbike on the wall while you feel the vibrations in your cushion? Or a picture of an animal while you hear its name, or its sound? Or even a projection of a beach in a blue-coloured lit environment while you feel a breeze? Well, next-generation sensory rooms are here.

The SHX system developed by BJ Live allows all resources and solutions present in the room to act in coordination to create integral stimulation environments.  A single control system allows integration of all the interactive and multimedia element of the room.

The SHX system supports 2 projections as well as 4 vibroacoustic elements in the room.  There is a range of scenes provided by the SHX  control software, combinations of videos, images, noise, lighting, vibration or effects that can be customised to the user.

The good: The system allows you to control the level of stimulation and the method of interaction to adapt the space for each user.
The not so good: Needs time to set up a sensory room installation.
The verdict: With a range of scenes provided by the SHX control software, combinations of videos, images, noise, lighting, vibration or effects can be customised for any user child or adult.

Further information

Obi

Obi feeding device

Many of us agree that eating is one of life’s pleasures. Sitting down to a delicious meal with cherished friends or family is as about as life-affirming as it gets but what happens if you have a difficulty in eating independently?

Luckily there are a number of products that can assist with eating.  A new product called Obi works by automating the movement of the human arm, allowing the user to select food of their choice and dictate the pace at which the food is fed to them.

Obi allows the caregiver to quickly position the device for optimal use and modify the food delivery location for each user.

The Obi plate consists of 4 individual food compartments. The obi arm is controlled by two switches, one switch controls the compartment Obi picks up from and the other switch then picks up the food. The plate can be easily removed and cleaned and is also microwavable. Weighing just over 3 kilos and being equipped with a built-in rechargeable battery means that it can be taken anywhere

The distributor in Ireland is O’Neill Healthcare Ltd.

The good: Simple for the user to operate and it works really well.

The not so good: At €5,000, it’s a big price tag.

The verdict: If you can source the budget, it will give great independence around mealtimes.

Microsoft announces new Xbox Adaptive Controller for players with disabilities

Xbox controller designed for people with disabilitiesMicrosoft has announced the Xbox Adaptive Controller, an Xbox controller designed for people with disabilities. It has two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. This is an exciting development and has the potential to radically transform the gaming experiences of individuals with different access needs.

More information

Workshops for children with additional needs and their parents

Kildare libraries have been hosting a number free workshops for children with additional needs and their parents.  The list of upcoming workshops are listed below and they look very informative. Workshops are given by experienced Occupational Therapists.

Attendance at all of the events is free of charge and open to everyone.  Please contact the library where the talk is happening to book your place.

Yoga Workshop for Children with Additional Needs and their Parents with Nicola Foxe

Athy Library: Saturday 14th April 2:30 pm

Yoga as a therapeutic process can help children who have a special needs diagnosis gain additional coping skills for day to day life management. Yoga can help the child become strong in mind and in body, helping to build resilience and hone coping skills and mechanisms. Yoga may also help nurture children who have diagnosed with a particular condition, find a place in themselves where they can feel safe and at ease.This interactive workshop will show parents and children some techniques designed to self-calm and regulate which with practice can help children learn to reduce the added anxiety both parents and children may be feeling.

 

Visual Strategies and Self-Management – Audrey Cully, Behavioural Therapist

Athy Library: Tuesday 17th April 7 pm

This talk provides information on the use of visual strategies as a tool used to aid understanding of daily/weekly activities, the sequence of when these activities will occur, and strategies that will promote self-management of the individual’s behavior. Visual aids have been proven to be very effective with individual’s who find the language difficult to understand. The use of visual aids can be very beneficial both in classroom settings and in the home environment, often leading to an increase in positive behavior in both settings.

 

Life Hacks for people with ASD/Asperger’s (Teens and Adults) –  Michael Ryan (Counselling and Mental Health)

Athy Library: Tuesday 24th April 7 pm

This talk will look at the challenges that face people on the Autism spectrum and Michael will suggest some tips, hints, and hacks for people to get through school and everyday life.

 

Supports for Children with Disabilities in their Free Preschool Year – Marie Dowdall (Kildare County Childcare Committee)

Kildare Town Library: Thursday 26th April 7 pm

Leixlip Library: Thursday 10th May 7 pm

In this session, Marie will give an overview of the new Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) that was announced in Budget 2016 to support children with disabilities who are participating in their free preschool year. The aim of the model is to ensure that children with disabilities have access to a preschool service and are actively involved in the preschool curriculum and activities. Marie will talk parents through the different types of supports available and how the parent can avail of these supports. There will also be an opportunity for questions and answers.

 

“Let me do it by myself!” – Using visuals and objects to support independence in daily routines – Caitríona Campbell, Speech, and Language Therapist

Leixlip Library: Thursday 26th April 7 pm

This practical workshop supports parents to use task analysis strategies to support their children and adolescents with disabilities to be more independent in daily routines. Specific materials discussed and demonstrated will include visual schedules, job lists, communication cards etc.

 

Motor Development and your child – Sunflower Clinic, Occupational Therapists

Athy Library: Tuesday 1st May 7 pm

This talk deals with the concept of normal motor development and some of the issues that arise when a child experiences a delay in their development. These issues can appear in such ways as a typically “clumsy” child, problems with handwriting, difficulties playing sports and a number of other physically-related difficulties.

These issues can also be described or diagnosed as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and/or Dyspraxia. The talk will explain the differences and how the equipment available to rent at your local library can help address some of the issues that can affect your child. The talk will cover the following main themes:

  • Early motor milestones
  • Development of motor coordination
  • DCD/Dyspraxia Diagnosis
  • Demonstration of appropriate equipment

This talk will be given by an experienced Occupational Therapist from The Sunflower Clinic who will be available to answer your questions on the night.

 Helping primary school children with issues such as Dyspraxia, Asperger’s, ADHD / ADD prepare to transition to secondary school – Dr. Dorothy Armstrong, Occupational Therapist

Newbridge Library: Tuesday 1st May 7 pm

Athy Library: Tuesday 8th May 7 pm

Transitioning to secondary school is a major milestone in a child’s life and it’s very important to prepare our neuro-diverse children in order to make this transition as smooth as possible.     Dr. Dorothy Armstrong will host an evening that is aimed at parents, teachers and those who work with this population.  It will cover issues such as:

  • The issues that are challenging when transitioning to secondary school
  • The preparation needed to prepare the child for the transition
  • Strategies that will help with organisation and secondary school readiness
  • Strategies to promote inclusion once the student are there

 School Refusers – Children and Teenagers with ASD/Asperger’s –  Michael Ryan (Counselling and Mental Health)

Naas Library: Tuesday 15th May 7 pm

School refusal is a frequent challenge for students with ASD and this talk will cover the strategies around supporting students who refuse to attend school and explore ways to deal with the situation.

What is Dyslexia? – Amy Smyth, Information Officer from Dyslexia Association of Ireland

Athy Library: Tuesday 15th May 7 pm

In this talk, we will discover what Dyslexia is, the causes and what we can do to make life easier for someone with Dyslexia. We will also cover how to get an assessment for a child or adult with Dyslexia, common indicators of Dyslexia, Dyslexia in school and technology that may help dyslexic children in their day to day and school life. There will also be lots of time put aside for participants to ask our Information Officer any questions that they may have about Dyslexia.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (Dyspraxia) in primary school – Dr. Dorothy Armstrong, Occupational Therapist  

Kildare Town Library: Thursday 17th May 7 pm

Five percent of children in primary school have Developmental Coordination Disorder (Dyspraxia).  They can face many challenges such as problems with handwriting, challenges joining in the games and sports, and difficulties organising themselves.  These problems can impact their self-esteem unless strategies are put in place.  Dr. Dorothy Armstrong has a great deal of experience in this area and will help participants understand this condition and discuss methods for helping these children.  She will also give recommendations as to when a student needs to move from handwriting to typing.   This talk is aimed at parents, teachers and those who work with children in primary school with this condition.

Self-Acceptance for Children and Teenagers with ASD/Asperger’s/ADHD/Dyslexia (and other hidden disabilities) –  Michael Ryan (Counselling and Mental Health)

Newbridge Library: Tuesday 22nd May 7 pm

“Labels are for jars not people” – but the school system requires “labels” in order to provide services. This talk will explore the ways in which Children/Teenagers can be informed about their diagnoses. We will look at ways to boost their self-esteem and confidence and allow them to come to a place of acceptance of their diagnoses – while ensuring that they do not define themselves by their “labels”.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (Dyspraxia) in secondary school – Dr. Dorothy Armstrong, Occupational Therapist

Naas Library: Tuesday 22nd May 7 pm

Secondary school presents many new challenges for young people with Developmental Coordination Disorder (Dyspraxia). There is a greater need to be self-directed and organised which can highlight some of the difficulties encountered by this population.  There are also new physical challenges in subjects such as woodwork or Home Economics and the PE syllabus becomes more complex.   The young person can become more aware of being ‘different’ from their peers so it is important to be mindful of their self-esteem.  Dr. Armstrong will discuss strategies to help students with this condition.  She will also explain the reasonable accommodations to the state exams (RACE).

Nutrition for Children with Special Needs with Rina Whyte, Nutritional Therapist

Leixlip Library: Thursday 24th May 7 pm

A presentation of researched based nutritional information for parents, guardians, and carers of children with specific needs. This seminar looks at food as more than ‘fuel’ and the benefits of nutrition on attention span, concentration, emotional response, and mood. The seminar will look at foods and nutrients that are particularly beneficial and those that may not be.

“Say that again?!” – Using clarification strategies – Caitríona Campbell, Speech and Language Therapist

Kildare Town Library: Thursday 24th May 7 pm

This interactive workshop is aimed at parents of teenagers with disabilities who need support to find different ways to communicate when their message is not understood.  Catríona will discuss ways to support teenagers to be flexible in their communication, strategies to fall back on when the spoken message is not working, and managing frustration that can arise when communication breaks down.

“Let’s talk about Parenting” series of talks for Summer 2018

The “Let’s talk about Parenting” programme is a series of talks organised by Kildare Library Service to help support the parents in the Kildare. The programme is broken into four groups Baby/Toddler, Children, Teenagers and Parents to cater for every family type and need. These talks are spread throughout the seven main library branches within Kildare library service.

Attendance at all of the events is free of charge and open to everyone but advance booking is required. Please contact the library where the talk is happening to book your place.

 

See below for talks in Summer 2018

 Co-Parenting Presented By Kildare Youth Services

 Celbridge Library: Thursday 3rd May 7 pm

Co-parenting (often referred to as parenting when separated) is a reality for many of the parents of the young people seen for counseling in the Kildare Youth Service’s Youth counseling service. Finding strategies for coping with the challenges of agreeing on parenting styles, ways of exchanging information about the needs of and priorities of/for the young person, agreeing on shared concerns and finding ways to become solution focused are key fundamentals of embracing the task successfully. This talk, by KYS Counsellors who have supported many separated parents, will reflect the experience and valued insight of parents moving from a condemning or compensatory approach to a more balanced and realistic approach to their shared care.

Childhood Worries and Anxieties

Presented by Dr. Mary O’Kane

 Maynooth Library: Thursday 3rd May 7 pm

 All children worry at times, but for some children, it can be a real challenge to manage their anxieties. As parents, when your child is anxious it can be difficult to know how best to support them. However, parents play an important role in helping their child to both understand and to manage their anxiety. You don’t want to belittle the child’s feelings, but you also don’t want to amplify them. In this talk Dr. Mary O’Kane explains anxiety in children and offers parents practical advice on how to support their children during difficult times, helping them to manage their fears and gain confidence.

Exam Stress – tips for supporting your teenager at this challenging time

Presented by Deirdre O’Shea

 

Athy Library: Thursday 3rd May 7 pm

Maynooth Library: Thursday 24th May 7 pm

 Facing exams can lead to considerable stress for teenagers and their families. There can be an increase in anxiety and worry which can affect their overall well-being, especially their confidence as well as their concentration and performance in exams. This talk will provide tips for helping those facing exams with a particular focus on:

  • Strategies for coping with stress and worry in the run-up to exams
  • Tips to make study time more effective
  • Coping with the exam itself.

 The transition from Primary to Secondary School

Presented by Dr Mary O’Kane

 Athy Library: 10th May 7 pm

The move from primary to secondary school can result in both anxiety and excitement, and that is just for the parents! This is one of the most significant transitions our young teens face. The changes are social, emotional, and academic, as they move from being the ‘seniors’ in their primary school to the ‘juniors’ in this new educational environment. Most teens are more resilient than parents expect, however, preparation for this transition can definitely make it smoother. In this talk, Dr. Mary O’Kane outlines some of the challenges faced during this transition and offers very practical advice on how we can support students on this new educational journey.

 

The Affordable Childcare Subsidy and other childcare support

Presented by Emily Moore, Kildare County Childcare Committee

 

Kildare Library: Thursday 10th May 7 pm

Leixlip Library: Tuesday 15th May 7 pm

 

Join Kildare County Childcare Committee for a talk on the universal Affordable Childcare Scheme (for children from 6 months to 3 years) and other targeted government childcare schemes. If you have children

and would like to know more or are a prospective parent please come along. If you believe you may be entitled to childcare support, for example, if you hold a medical card or are taking part in a Solas/ETB training course and would like to know more Emily can answer your questions.

Emily will also discuss the ECCE preschool scheme, which has been extended in the budget. The AIM programme will also be explained, this allows children with disabilities or who need support in their preschool years to access the ECCE scheme. If you have questions about any of the above Emily will be available afterward to answer your questions. Professionals who work with parents and have questions about these schemes/ would like to understand them further are also welcome to attend. www.kccc.ie

Finding Balance: Self Care Workshop for Parents

Presented by Sarah Murphy

 Athy Library: 17th May 10:30 am-12.00 pm

Parenting is a demanding job which often leaves parents burnt out, guilt-ridden or feeling like a failure. Discover how placing importance on your own needs leads to benefits in all areas of your life. Join life coach Sarah Murphy for this important workshop which introduces you to effective self-care practices which nourish the mind, body, and soul, increase emotional well-being, alleviate anxiety and lead to more satisfying personal relationships. Learn how to implement self-care practices and follow through by designing your own self-care plan. This workshop features meditation, journaling, experiential exercises and more.

 How families survive the teenage years

Presented by Michael Ryan

 Kildare Library: Thursday 31st May 7 pm

 

A look at the realities facing parents when their children reach their teenage years. Michael will talk about what to expect, what are the challenges for everyone at this stage and give practical tips on how to survive the change in family dynamics.

There will be plenty of time for questions.

 

The importance of play to child development and their right to play

Presented by Dr. Carol Barron

 

Leixlip Library: Thursday 31st May 7 pm

Carol will speak about the importance of play to child development and children and young people’s right to play enshrined in UNCRC. Carol will also speak about her work with Kildare County Council and ‘Play concerns’ as viewed by Kildare children and young people.

 

 Young People and Substance Misuse

Presented by Padraig O’Donovan

 Athy Library: Thursday 7th June 7-9pm

 

In this 2 hour workshop, Parents will gain an insight into what substances are out there for young people including cannabis. Padraig will focus on some practical skills that parents can do to reduce the possibility of their young people engaging in substance misuse. Parents will also consider some signs and symptoms of substance misuse along with where to access support and further information.

 

Family Finance Advice with MABS

Presented by MABS

 

Athy Library: Thursday 14th June 7 pm

 

These talks will give an overview of the service provided by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service and for a family, group would look a basic budget showing how to budget for weekly monthly yearly bills and offer some advice tips around the area of debt management.

 

For up to date details of future talks and events relating to the TTT Project please email us and ask to join our mailing list at leixliplib@kildarecoco.ie

Attendance at all of the events is free of charge and open to everyone but advance booking is required. Please contact the library where the talk is happening to book your place.

Sign up for our email service through your local library to receive monthly mailing information on these and all library events.

Athy Library : Tel 059 8631144 Email athylib@kildarecoco.ie

Celbridge Library : Tel 01 6272207 Email: celbridgelib@kildarecoco.ie

Kildare Town Library: Tel 045 530235 Email: kildarelib@kildarecoco.ie

Leixlip Library: Tel: 01 6060050 Email: leixliplib@kildarecoco.ie

Maynooth Library : Tel 01 6285530 Email: maynoothlib@kildarecoco.ie

Naas Library: Tel 045 879111 Email: naaslib@kildarecoco.ie

Newbridge Library: Tel 045 448353 Email: newbridgelib@kildarecoco.ie

 

 

Smart Homes making life easier

Smart homes may make life easier and more convenient. Who wouldn’t love being able to control lighting, entertainment and temperature from the comfort of their own sofa?

Today, our homes are getting smarter and more efficient, accelerated by smartphones and tablets interacting with connected devices. From basic security monitoring to smart appliances, lighting, window coverings, entertainment systems and more. Mainstream IT companies including Apple, Google and Philips are playing a key role in bringing smart home technologies to the masses, at an affordable cost.

We’ve tried to summarise the main smart home options here, beginning with mainstream options and then providing details of more specialist solutions.

Mainstream Smart Home Solutions

Virtual assistants

A Virtual assistant is a computer program that can perform tasks or services for an individual which are accessed by online chat.  These services are developing and now provide support for home automation which enables control of home appliances by voice control.

Google Home

Google Home speakers enable users to speak and interact with services through Google’s intelligent personal assistant called Google Assistant. A large number of services, both in-house and third-party, are integrated, allowing users to listen to music, control playback of videos or photos, or receive news updates entirely by voice. Google Home devices also have integrated support for home automation.

https://www.maplin.ie/google-home

Amazon Alexa

The Amazon Alexa is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real-time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system.

http://www.atandme.com/?tag=alexa

Apple home kit

HomeKit enables users to set up their iPhone or other Apple device to control smart-home appliances. Users can enable automatic actions in the house through a simple voice dictation to Siri or through apps.

What can be controlled

As mentioned typical devices include entertainment (tv, music system), security, lighting and heating controls.

Other items include

Door opener

A door opener can be fitted to a standard door so that it can be automatically controlled by the user.  Control of the door can be accessed by an alternative remote control, a switch, an infrared signal or controlled via a door intercom unit.  Door openers are available for both internal and external doors.  It is advisable that door openers should be battery backed-up so that the door can be opened in an emergency situation.  Settings such as: how fast the door shuts, closing force, and opening times are adjustable on the door opener.

Window opener

If a person has difficultly opening and closing windows within their home, window openers can be fitted to the windows.  Control of the window can then be made from a well-positioned switch panel for the user to access or can be controlled by a remote transmitter.  Windows can be opened, closed or stopped in any position.  In the closed position window openers are as secure as standard window locks.  They also feature quick release catches for use in the event of emergency evacuation.

Mains socket

When inserting plugs is difficult for a person, appliances modules can be fitted into a standard mains socket.  This will enable sockets to be remotely switched on and off.  For example appliances such as TVs, electric blankets, lamps etc., can be powered on or off.  Appliance modules can be controlled by remote radio control transmitter or by smart home app on tablet.

Curtain and Blind opener

Curtain and Blinds can also be easily controlled remotely.  Motor controlled curtain rails and blind poles are mainstream products.  Similar to window openers they can be opened, closed or stopped in any position.  Control of the motors can be via a mounted switch panel or via a remote transmitter.

Door intercoms

Other more mainstream items include door intercoms.  These allow remote communication with a door station positioned at an external door.  The unlocking and opening of the doors is also possible.  Door intercoms are available where all functions can be operated by infrared control or by large external switches connected to the unit.  A door indicator may also be able to indicate to the user whether the door is open or closed.

DuoCom is a door-entry system

DuoCom is a door-entry system

Telephone

For controlling the home telephone a specialist telephone is required.  Remote controlled, loud speaking telephones are available. These telephones allow a user to remotely answered or hand up a call without using the handset.  The caller’s voice can be heard through the loudspeaker.  Other features that may be available in these phones are basic communication aid functions. Recordable phrases can be stored on the phone and allow someone with partial or no voice to communicate crucial messages over the telephone.  Also the telephone may utilise caller I.D. services and speak the name of the person calling.

Transmitters

The transmitter used by the individual is probably the most important aspect of the smart homes installation.

Seki Grande

seki grande learnable remote

SeKi Grande remote is the big sister of smaller SeKi Medium and features an additional numeric keypad for choosing channels directly.  All buttons of SeKi Grande remote control can be programmed twice.  This means that, when using both programming levels, it is possible to replace two different remote controls.

TwoXTen

TwoXTen InfraRed remote control with auditory feedback

TwoXTen is a compact InfraRed remote control with auditory feedback using recorded speech.

It has two jack sockets for single switch and two switch scanning. Learnable InfraRed transmitter that can record up to 20 signals and macros from other remote controls.

Pico16 IR-transmitter

16 key transmitter with scanning

IR-transmitter with scanning, built in IR-signals and able to learn other IR-signals.  The Pico16 has 18 keys. 16 keys with 2 levels, 1 level independent key for door and 1 key for page-select.

Ablenet relax

Relax is an accessible infrared (IR) learning remote

The Ablenet Relax is an accessible infrared (IR) learning remote that provides simplified control of almost any IR device. With a light touch or with the use of one switch, an individual can control up to eight functions on their favorite IR device.

The devices above shows a sample of dedicated transmitters.  They are all transmitters that can learn infrared signals from other remotes.  This is accomplished by placing the original remote beside the learnable transmitter and coping the required infrared signals into a selected position on the learnable transmitter.

These transmitters have various special features that extend the access range for a diverse range of users.  Features of some of these transmitters may include control of the device using a single switch, joystick, or via speech command and may also include auditory feedback.

Also the size, screen quality, tactile buttons, ease of use, battery life, and the number of stored infrared signals will vary.

Another aspect that needs to consider is whether the transmitter should be a standalone device or should it be ideally integrated into other assistive technology items that the user has.  Other items that a user may use is a power wheelchair, communication device, computer, tablet or mobile phone.  All these other devices have the capability to integrate environmental controls within the device.

As with all assistive technology devices, it must fit the individual’s needs and their preferences.

Mobile devices

Housemate mobile

The housemate app uses symbols to represent the appliances in your house.

Control +

The control + controls any device you want at home from your Android or iOS tablet or smartphone

Qwayo Possum

Possum Qwayo Environmental Control

Smartboxat Servus tablet

Servus tablet environmentatl control

Gewa Connect

GEWA_Connect+Multibox environmental control

Evoassist RSL Steeper

Evoassist RSL Steeper

This pictures above a sample of the various mobile device with smart home apps installed.  These apps provide many of the same features of the previous dedicated controllers.  I.e. they can learn the infrared signals from remotes and can be customise around the user’s needs. They have interfaces that enable switch access to the tablet.  This is a growing area as there is an increasing number of suppliers providing similar solutions.

Installer

It may be easy to find a smart home supplier who can provide a service of integrating the latest smart technology into your home.  However, their focus may be more on only entertainment, security, lighting and heating control.  Although these are typical components of most smart homes, they may not fulfill all the needs of an individual with sensory, mobility or dexterity issues.  Luckily, there are installers/suppliers (details below) in Ireland who supply and install smart homes equipment and take into account all the user’s needs.  So if it’s gaining access into a room via a door opener or opening a hard-to-reach window via a window opener, then this can also be integrated as part of the smart home control.

Guidance

Although suppliers can provide valuable input, for someone with sensory or mobility issues then getting advice and guidance on smart home equipment is essential to ensure all the needs are met for the user.  This help can typically be provided by an experienced Occupational Therapist or Assistive Technology specialist who will look at the devices that the user needs to control and the appropriate user interface to control the home devices.

Manufactures and suppliers

A sample of supplier based in the UK an Ireland.

Possumhttps://youtu.be/FqaqPCXrc3g

Housemate:  https://youtu.be/7JPFnWMqzbc

BJLive:  https://youtu.be/MCnYrLhtvaw

Abilia: https://youtu.be/B8qz88eS9w0

Smartbox: https://vimeo.com/131427465

Homebotshttps://youtu.be/ajklDCaOGwY

Irish Installers

Accessibility self-driving shuttle

Olli is an all-electric autonomous vehicle, packed with features to help people with disabilities

Olli by Local Motors (PRNewsfoto/Local Motors)

The future of autonomous vehicles where transport becomes more flexible, seamless and shareable between people and businesses for a variety of uses is getting closer.

There have been a number of concept autonomous vehicles that went on display at the latest CES tech show which is the global stage in Las Vegas where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.  Toyota unveiled its e-Palette autonomous shuttle, while the French company Navya demonstrated the Arma shuttle.

Accessible Olli was designed from the ground up to help people with disabilities get where they need to go.

Olli is an all-electric autonomous vehicle, packed with features to help people with disabilities and older people to get around.  There’s a retractable wheelchair ramp, software that can process sign language, and displays inside offering simplified information and reminders for people with cognitive disabilities like memory loss.

Accessible Olli will be road tested in a few months in places including Copenhagen and Buffalo, New York, and will offer a new approach to mass transit, in which a driverless shuttle could someday pick you up at any hour of the day.

The days of owning your own car could soon be over!

Technology to help people with dementia maintain independence

Dementia is a term which describes a range of conditions which cause damage to our brain. This damage affects memory, thinking, language and our ability to perform everyday tasks.  Although technology may not fix someone’s deficits, it will give them a better quality of life and peace of mind for their family. Assistive technology can help support and enable people with conditions such as dementia to live more independently.

Pendant alarm

One of the most common technologies that can enable people with dementia to live more independently is a Pendant Alarm.  The aim of the pendant alarm is to support an individual living independently by ensuring they are safe while alone.  For example if they have a fall or any other major concern they can press the pendant to beckon help.  The pendant is typically worn around the neck as a necklace or around the wrist as a watch. The pendant alarm can also signal the presence of a hazard requiring urgent attention, such as high smoke or a carbon monoxide levels, as various sensors can be linked to the pendent alarm system.  These devices can be further linked to a Monitoring Centre that operates 24 hours a day seven days a week.  If a personal alarm or accompanying sensor is activated, a call is immediately alerted to the 24 hour Monitoring Centre where it will be answered by a trained telecare operator. The internal speaker and microphone on the Pendant Alarm will allow the operator to speak hands free with someone until help arrives. The operator will remain on the line until the situation has been resolved and they are satisfied that the person is back in good hands.  In Ireland the cost of a Pendant alarm package is covered by a grant available under the Seniors Alert Scheme. This is open to those over the age of 65, and covers the cost of having a socially monitored alarm installed at home.

Pendant alarm for assisted living

A Pendant to activate the alarm is worn around the neck or the wrist.  Pendants can be subtle such as the Minute Watch which is discreet high quality watch that incorporates a personal alarm.

Once alarm is activated the centre is contacted which will allow the operator to speak hands free to the client.

Minuet Watch from Tunstall Emergency pendant alarm

Prompts and reminders

An individual with dementia over time may have a decrease in their ability to think and remember, they may need reminders to help them with their daily activities, such as making meals, feeding pets or taking their medication.  There are various gadgets currently available which can provide prompts and reminders and generally, make their life a bit easier.

It's Done app provides a checklist for life's everyday critical tasks

As most people are rarely without their mobile phone, setting up a reminder app could be a useful way to help them remember important things. Some apps worth trying include Wunderlist (free) which lets you create different lists for different topics.  Another app which is also useful is called It’s Done!  It’s Done is essentially an app that provides a checklist for life’s everyday critical tasks such as locking doors, feeding pets, taking medication, and turning off the stove.   This allows you to go back and check your routine everyday tasks if you have forgotten.

Pill dispenser

If apps are not sufficient for an individual to remember to take their medication then there is the option of a Pill dispenser.  Pills can be divided up into days, morning and evening and fitted into their own compartments. An alarm will sound when s/he need to take his pills. Some dispensers can be programmed to only release the set number of pills each time, locking away the rest until they’re needed.

Pill dispensers can be programmed to only release the set number of pills each time, locking away the rest until they’re needed.

Useful apps

If an individual struggles to remember people’s names, an app called Knome (free) can help by setting up profiles for people the person meets, including pictures and explanations of how they know them.

For those who occasionally misplaces items such as wallet or keys around the home, a key finder will help reduce frustration and disappointment.

The Object Locator is a gadget that offers a simplistic solution. The beepers can be attached to items with the key rings or with Velcro to handbags, or a glasses case.   You just press the labelled remote control to activate a beeper.

key finder for those who occasionally misplaces items such as wallet or keys

Maintaining cognitive abilities

Studies have found that playing games which challenge people on reasoning and problem solving can help people over 60 to get on better with their daily activities.  In 2006, the ACTIVE Study, funded by National Institute of Health, demonstrated that older adults could improve their brain abilities with the correct training. Certain mental exercises can partially offset the expected decline in older adults’ thinking skills and show promise for maintaining cognitive abilities needed to do everyday tasks.

There a number of brain trainer sites such as Lumosity and Fit brains.

brain trainer for maintaining cognitive abilities

Both sites feature a combination of cognitive games that are aimed at “exercising” the brain. The games challenge memory and attention by engaging the user in common cognitive and neuropsychological tasks.

Out and about

For individuals who may become lost in familiar places such as their own neighbourhood or village, the installation of a suitable route planner on a Smart Phone may be good idea.  It will pick out the best way to get somewhere, or back home again.

route planner on a Smart Phone. It will pick out the best way to get somewhere, or back home again.

Many people may still want to enjoy the freedom of taking their dog out for a walk.  Pendant alarms do not typically work outside the range of the home.  However an individual’s condition becomes worse an emergency phone such as a Pushphone OK may provide valuable support.  This is an emergency phone with GPS for location, Fall monitoring and GEO-fencing.

Pushphone OK, this is an emergency phone with GPS for location, Fall monitoring and GEO-fencing.

With the Pushphone OK you can call the number you have stored on the upper two buttons (red and green handset) by pressing the respective button for a longer time.  The person who is called can also receive an SMS with the link of the position data.

On the upper right side there is the little red button. This button should be configured for the worst case. The button can be connected to the local ambulance 112.

With the Geofencing (entering a certain radius.) If the person moves out of the given area, a message is sent to the smartphone.)

Accessible Apps, Games and Toys

a range of toys

Enable Ireland’s National Assistive Technology Service has gathered together information on a range of accessible toys. It includes a variety of accessible games, apps, and toys. These are not recommendations but simply a selection of items which may be of interest, particularly at times such as Christmas and birthdays, when presents are high on the list of priorities.

Available here as Accessible-Apps-Games-and-Toys   (pdf) and Accessible-Apps-Games-and-Toys (Word document)

First National FreedomTech Assembly, Aviva Stadium, November 16th 2017

Freedomtech a passport to inclusion

Our vision for Assistive Technology; A society where everyone with a disability or disabling condition, and older people, has access to affordable, up to date and appropriate technology that suits their needs. Technology may be mainstream or specialised, it supports the individual to exercise their human right to self-determination, freedom of movement and participation in society

Assistive Technology can support us here in Ireland to realise the ambition that we have to include people with disabilities in all aspects of living, in line with the ambition of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

freedomtech.ie

RTE NEWS – Disability campaigners have called for the introduction of a system to enable disabled and older people to access appropriate technology to help them in their daily life.

Click here to read the full story and view the video on rte.ie 

Listen to Newstalk Interview by Jess Kelly with Siobhan Long.

Podcasts

New Windows 10 accessible updates

Microsoft has been making huge strides in the realm of accessibility with each successive update to Windows and have invested in updates to improve the user experience for people with disabilities.  The improvements in their Ease of Access features include eye tracking, the narrator, low vision features, and reading and writing improvements.

 

Eye Control

Eye Control delivers new exciting updates and new tools.  For users who can’t use a mouse or keyboard to control their computer, Eye Control presents a convenient entry point to a windows computer using eye-tracking technology. Having access to your computer via Eye Control gives individuals a way to communicate, the ability to stay in the workforce, and so much more!

What began as a hack project during a One Week Hackathon, has become a product concept for the Windows team.  Microsoft has introduced Eye Control, which empowers people with disabilities to use a compatible eye tracker, such as a Tobii Eye Tracker, to operate an on-screen mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech in Windows 10 using only their eyes.

demo of shap writing on Eye Control - works like swiping on a touch keyboard. dwell on the first letter of a word, glance at subsequent letters and dwell on last letter. word is entered

 

Microsoft Learning Tools

The New Learning Tools capabilities within Microsoft Edge Microsoft Learning Tools are a set of features designed to make it easier for people with learning differences like dyslexia to read. In this update, a user can mow simultaneously highlight and listen to text in web pages and PDF documents to read and increase focus.

Now with the addition of the Immersive Reader functionality of Learning Tools you can photograph a document, export it to immersive reader and immediately use the tools to support your understanding of the text.

https://youtu.be/L1vq4Ma0lt4

 

Narrator

Narrator will include the ability to use artificial intelligence to generate descriptions for images that lack alternative text. For websites or apps that don’t have alt-text built in, this feature will provide descriptions of an image.  Narrator will now also include the ability to send commands from a keyboard, touch or braille display and get feedback about what the command does without invoking the command.  Also, there will be some Braille improvements – Narrator users can type and read using different braille translations. Users can now perform braille input for application shortcuts and modifier keys.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-ie/help/22798

Desktop Magnifier

Desktop Magnifier is also getting an option to smooth fonts and images, along with mouse wheel scrolling to zoom in and out. It is now possible to use Magnifier with Narrator, so you can zoom in on text and have it read aloud.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-ie/help/11542/windows-use-magnifier

 

Dictation on the Desktop

This feature already allowed people to speak into their microphone, and convert using Windows Speech Recognition into text that appears on the screen. In the Windows 10 Update, a person can now use dictation to convert spoken words into text anywhere on your PC

To start dictating, select a text field and press the Windows logo key  + H to open the dictation toolbar. Then say whatever’s on your mind.

As well as dictating text, you can also use voice commands to do basic editing or to input punctuation. (English only)

 

Colour filters

If it’s hard to see what’s on the screen, you can apply a color filter. Color filters change the color palette on the screen and can help you distinguish between things that differ only by color.

To change your color filter, select Start  > Settings  > Ease of Access  > Color & high contrast . Under Choose a filter, select a color filter from the menu. Try each filter to see which one suits you best.

 

Read the full Microsoft blog on the accessibility updates in Windows 10 Fall Creator.

Fair play to Microsoft for investing so heavily in developing their Ease of Access features.