IkeaThisAbles – Accessibility hacks that transform many pieces of Ikea furniture

IkeaThisAbles Accessibility hacks

IkeaThisAbles, is a project dedicated to making Ikea furniture available for everybody, including people with disabilities.

The ThisAbles project was conceived to allow people with special needs to enjoy the quality of life provided by IKEA products.

As part of IKEA’s vision to “create a better everyday life for as many people as possible”, they joined forces with the non-profit organizations Milbat and Access Israel, that specialize in creating special solutions for populations with special needs and disabilities, and developed a new line of products that bridge some of the gaps between existing IKEA products and the special needs of people belonging to these populations.

The project allows anyone to 3D print a range of add-ons that simply and easily convert Ikea furniture and accessories into disability-friendly products.   Now people with disabilities from any corner of the world can print add-ons in their nearest 3D printing shop.

For more information

Website: https://thisables.com/en

The good:   The website offers any user to describe a problem that they have and Ikea will try to find a convenient solution.

The not so good: At the moment there is a limited range of product add-ons

The verdict: Interesting project idea that more manufacturers should adopt

Autism Awareness Day

Today is World Autism Awareness Day (2nd April), and throughout this week and month, there are a number of events and promotions happening to highlight this.  The theme this year is focusing on Assistive Technology and we’ve rounded up some related items below with promotions and discounts that are running to celebrate this week, and hope some prove useful!

Lidl have a range of products on offer this week including sensory toys and gadgets. Two of the most popular items are bound to be noise cancelling ear defenders and a LED nightlight projector, to aid with sensory processing and reducing stressors. In conjunction with their Autism Friendly Quiet Evening, Lidl are leading the way in providing an inclusive environment.  More information can be found at www.lidl.ie/en/special-offers.htm?id=767 .

Assistiveware, a company that specialise in apps for iOS devices are running a 50% off promotion until the 5th April 2019 on all their AAC apps, including the ever popular Proloquo2Go and Pictello. Check out www.assistiveware.com/blog/autism-acceptance-month-discount for more.

Avaz are doing a similar promotion, 50% off the popular Avaz AAC app that is available in a variety of languages, and for iOS as well as Android. Available until the 7th April, click on the link for more: www.avazapp.com/autism-acceptance-month-2019 .

LAMP: Words for Life, from Liberator, is also available at a 50% discount until the 6th April. Using a motor planning approach and utilising the extensive research into semantic compaction vocabulary arrangement, this is a comprehensive communication application. The discount has already been applied to the price in the App store www.itunes.apple.com/gb/developer/liberator-ltd/id580721039

CoughDrop are offering 50% off a lifetime subscription to their communication app, until the 5th April. A|s well as being available for iOS and Android, this open source product can also be used on a web browser or Windows platform.  www.app.mycoughdrop.com?ref=fb

Snap + Core First are offering a 15% discount until the 15th April. For Winsows and iOS platforms, this app uses a core and fringe vocabulary layout to provide access to a wide vocabulary. More information can be found at www.tobiidynavox.com/products/software

Pyramid Education Consultants, the company behind the PECS apps are offering a variety of discounts on their apps, including the PECS III and PECS IV+ for the entire month of April. Visit https://pecs-unitedkingdom.com/apps/ for more information on these and other apps.

Recently launched, the website www.autismservicesireland.com aims to provide families with a one stop shop to find professionals specialising in the area, from home tutors to therapists.

Pen Reader for students with dyslexia

Pen Reader a tool designed with students with dyslexia in mindA few weeks ago, we attended a demonstration of the C-Pen Reader, a tool designed with students with dyslexia in mind. This device, with its pen shape and an OLED screen with text to speech output, assists those with literacy difficulties to read.

It is a simple to use device, whereby the reader runs the tip of the pen over the word or words that they wish to hear spoken aloud.  Using realistic speech synthesiser software, the student can hear the text read aloud by the inbuilt speaker or by using ear phones.

There is also the option, when a single word is scanned, to hear an Oxford English dictionary definition of the word, and to have the word magnified on screen, useful for those who may have visual impairments.

There is also the option to scan and save text to the internal storage in the pen and transfer to a PC or Mac computer for use later, a handy option for those who may not have access to a scanner.

While there is a separate version of the pen available, the ExamReader, with limited functionality (i.e. no internal storage or dictionary features) that will meet the criteria for State Exams, the standard pen can be turned into an ExamReader by choosing a locked mode.

The C-Pen also works in French and Spanish, while the ExamReader can read German and Italian in addition. There is also the ability to record voice notes on the C-Pen.

While there are many differing options, both hardware and app based, available for those with literacy difficulties or using English as a second language requiring text to speech functionality, the C-pen has its niche market in the education sector where the use of mobile phone apps or bulky hardware may make the use of text to speech difficult or impossible. The c-pen is a user-friendly option that is easily transportable and can be personalised.

More information can be found at www.readerpen.com, and schools and colleges can arrange for a free trial for their students. The  C-pen costs €225 ex VAT.

Apps for Adults with Autism

mobile phone with icons around the phone

For adults with Autism spectrum disorders/conditions, there are a number of apps available, on iOS, Android and web-based platforms, that can assist with daily life, including work, study etc. Below is a list of some that we have come across, and found to be beneficial.

Developing habits/routines

Name/Icon Description, Link Price
HabitRPG Habit building and productivity app that uses gamification to motivate. Collect points for completing good habits and avoiding bad habits.

iOS and Android

www.habitica.com

Free to download, in app purchases

Routinely

Establish, track, understand, and be more mindful of your daily routine. Set goals for each of the tasks and habits that make up your day, and then track your completion of those goals. Can send you notifications to remind you to complete your goals, and provides a history view to review past days.

iOS only

www.appadvice.com/app/routinely-track-your-daily-routine/1135990298

Free to download
Todoist Acts as a checklist, organiser, calendar, reminder and habit forming app. Can be shared with others for joint projects, integrated with other apps such as Dropbox and Alexa.

iOS and Android

www.todoist.com

Free, premium versions available.
Work Autonomy Designed to assist with person-generated communication with coworkers and supervisors regardless of linguistic or cognitive skill, tracking task analysis and work schedules independently, and allowing access to concrete information about work expectations, production etc.

iOS only

www.ableopps.com/work-autonomy

Paid, app, approximately €190

Mood trackers

MoodPanda Track your moods using graphs and calendars. Community aspect to offer support and advice

iOS, Android and web

www.moodpanda.com

T2 Mood Tracker Designed to help users track their emotions over time. It comes with six pre-installed areas, including Anxiety, Depression, Well-Being, and Stress. Users can also add and customize additional scales.

iOS and Android

www.psyberguide.org

Managing Over Stimulation

Miracle Modus Designed to help with sensory overload, by providing strong visual stimuli that move in predictable patterns.

iOS and Android

www.seebs.net/modus/

Free
Dropophone Create minimalist melodies for relaxation purposes

iOS only

www.lullatone.com/games/dropophone-app/

Free
Sensory apps Range of sensory apps to help with relaxation and overstimulation.

#iOS, Androd, Web, Chrome

www.sensoryapphouse.com

 

Free
Relax Melodies Melody and white noise app.

iOS and Android

www.ipnos.com

 

Free to download, in app purchases

Relaxation/mediation

Headspace A meditation and mindfulness app. Designed to guide the user through narrated sessions to focus on relaxation and help cope with stress and anxiety.

iOS, Android and online

www.mindspace.com

Free

Please do let us know if you have come across others!

Richard keeps it simple

We recently assessed a user “Richard” for an aid to make it easier to directly access his iPad. And in our journey to find a solution, we trialled the Stylus Pack from the National AT library.

 styluses suitable for a wide range of needs

Above photo and description  below are taken from the National AT Library site:

The Stylus Pack is a selection of styluses suitable for a wide range of needs. Each stylus is designed for people who have difficulty interacting with the iPad screen. Users can firmly grasp the styluses in order to use with the iPad. These items are suitable for an individual user, or a range of users with diverse needs. Features/Items Included: iPad Flex Stylus iPad Strap Stylus TBar Stylus Pogo Stylus Ball Top Stylus.

But let me begin at the beginning

Richard is non-verbal and uses the Allora communication aid daily. It is mounted onto his powered wheelchair. Richard drives his powered wheelchair with his right hand and also accesses the keyboard on the Allora with his right index finger. He has a limited range of movement of his right upper limb, but it is also his only means of access. Richard’s wheelchair does not have blue tooth capability.

Photos below by the author with consent by Richard.

Person using an Allora communication machinePerson holding onto power wheelchair joystick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard is also a writer and accesses a PC by using the standard keyboard (positioned in a specific way on a height adjustable desk) and using mouse keys instead of an external mouse or joystick.

So this gives you an idea already that Richard has more than one way of accessing technology with his right hand. So why does he struggle with direct access on the iPad? Richard’s fingernail bed is very long. And even when his nails are at the shortest it can be it sticks over the top of his fingers. Therefore when he taps onto the screen, his nail makes contact and not his skin. This, along with very limited finger extension (he has strong flexor patterns in his wrist, metacarpal phalangeal joint and distal phalangeal joint) makes activating a touch screen very difficult/impossible.

But we wanted to try and find a solution as he has a (very old) iPad that he would love to use more as it is portable, as opposed to a PC.

Due to Richard’s limited hand function, unfortunately, none of the items in the Stylus Pack proved to be successful. The standard type pen stylus aids looked promising and the stylus we received as a freebie from the CSO in Cork is up to now the most successful. When I returned the Stylus Pack to the National AT Library I also added a CSO stylus into the pack.

standard type pen stylus

It takes great effort from Richard to maintain grip of the stylus and when it slips out of his hand he is not able to pick it up again and adjust his grip independently. Not shown on the Stylus Pack photo is also conductive thread. I did embroider his winter glove’s right index fingertip with the conductive thread but I am yet to see if this is successful. Past trials have shown limited success.

 

Richard loves his Allora and of course wants to continue to use it. It is a real workhorse. The battery lasts for long periods, it is at hand, no wifi needed and no access issues on that keyboard! But, he really longs for a more portable way and quick access to word processing, the internet and social media participation.

 

In the meantime, we have assessed Richard for a new moulded seat and powered wheelchair frame. This controls on the frame will also have blue tooth capability. I chatted to Richard about this and reminded him that he will be able to access a PC or laptop/tablet via the new powered wheelchair’s joystick. And as it is, he is toying with the idea of buying a new computer/tablet to replace the old iPad anyway.

 

So, at this stage:

* Richard continuous to use his Allora for communication.

* Uses a PC with an external keyboard to access word processing software, the internet and social media.

* Uses the CSO stylus for accessing the iPad mounted off a removable mount. This for now, it the alternative for when he is not close to a PC. Having to hold onto a stylus remains a frustrating way of access.

 

What is up next?

*Once Richard’s new powered wheelchair has been funded and issued, Richard will get used to the new joystick for driving, but also for accessing computers.

*He will continue to use his beloved Allora and PC as always.

*And after investing in a new tablet computer he will have the added bonus of accessing it via the powered wheelchair’s Bluetooth function.

The Stylus Pack is a great option to have on loan and it gives us a variety of ways to try and access a touchscreen. Unfortunately, in this case, it did not help us to come up with a solution. BUT:

We are on the right track and without having been able to trial the options, we would never have known.

Therefore the National AT Library remains a great resource!

 

Gerlene Kennedy, Senior Occupational Therapist

Enable Ireland Adult Services, Little Island

Co. Cork

 

 

Soundscape

A line drawing representing a user using directional cue guiding towards a set destination

Microsoft Soundscape is an app providing directional information and description of surroundings to Blind/Vision Impaired users through spatial 3D sound.

 

 

Link to Microsoft Soundscape webpage 

Using Open Street Mapping, a number of customisable features facilitate discovery and interaction with surroundings.

  • My Location – explore current location and direction of travel, nearby points of interest, street names and intersections.
  • Audio Beacon – a directional cue guiding towards a set destination.
  • Markers – tagging customisable locations, and allowing users to orient in relation to previously saved markers.
  • Additional function buttons to explore multiple points of interest “Around Me” or “Ahead of Me”.

Although not a Wayfinding app itself, Soundscape can be used in tandem with a navigational app, giving additional layers of information while still providing walking directions.

Personalisations within the app include an option to toggle between male or female voice and either metric or imperial units of distance measurement.

It must be noted that as the app relies on 3D sound, usage of stereo headphones is imperative.

My usage preference would be a Bluetooth Bone Conducting headset, ensuring that ambient sounds are not obstructed. The control buttons on the headset would also allow for hands-free access to toggle functions within the app. Potentially a useful tool to aid navigation for independent travel, Soundscape could allow me to reach frequently visited locations with better accuracy while informing me of surroundings in unfamiliar spaces.

Unfortunately, Microsoft Soundscape is not currently available to the Irish market, however, I eagerly await the release date.

Ever thought about using your wheelchair joystick to send an e mail or turn on your lights?

BJlive BJoy ring controlling a mobile phone

It is easy for someone to assume that their wheelchair can only be used for driving.  However, wheelchair manufacturers have developed their products in recent years and considered the needs of the user such as the need to also interact with their mobile phone, PC or even a TV.  As well as the basic chair functions such as driving or controlling the actuators these electronic systems can also enable control of a computer or portable devices and so the integration of environmental controls is possible on most power wheelchairs. The same controls that the user drives the power wheelchair with, typically a joystick, can also be used to control an appliance within their environment.  Another benefit of integrating control of other devices within the wheelchair joystick is that it may help to ensure the user maintains a good posture while operating other devices.

All of the main wheelchair controller manufacturers have Bluetooth mouse options, including Dynamics Controls with their Linx controller, Curtis instrument’s quantum q-logic controller, and Curtiss-Wright – Rnet controls.

CJSM2 bluetooth power wheelchair JoystickFor example for chairs with R-net controls you can replace the old joystick with a CJSM2 –BT as seen in the picture here.  This R-net Joystick Module has Infra-Red (IR) capabilities included. IR technology is widely used to remotely control household devices such as TVs, DVD players, and multi-media systems, as well as some home-automation equipment. Individual IR commands can be learned from an appliance’s remote handset and stored in the CJSM2.  Also Integrated Bluetooth technology is an option, to enable control of computers, Android tablets, iPads, iPhones and other smart devices from a powered wheelchair. To switch between the devices, the user simply navigates the menu and selects the device they wish to control.  The R-net’s CJSM2 can easily replace the existing rnet joystick module, with no system re-configuration or programming required.

Although not all power wheelchairs can be fitted with Bluetooth mouse-enabled joysticks, there are some good alternatives that may still work.  The BJoy ring is a sensor that can be fitted to most wheelchair joysticks where deflections of the joystick can be translated to mouse movements picked up on a Bluetooth mouse receiver placed on a tablet or PC.

  • The good: Users can do many daily tasks using one device
  • The not so good: This capability is only available on high spec wheelchair systems.
  • The verdict: Using a wheelchair joystick that is Bluetooth enabled will ensure the user maintains a good posture while operating their other devices.

Window Opener

ACK4 Window Opener on a PVC window

Automatic window openers were design to meet the need of inaccessible windows that are out of reach such as skylights on roofs.  Using a wireless remote to activate the window opener we can open and close the window at ease.  For people with a mobility restriction window openers can give independence to control ventilation in their living space. The ACK4 Window Opener is suitable for aluminium and timber windows.  It has an anti-crush control board to prevent trapped fingers.  To control the window, you can either use a wall switch, an infrared remote control or a 433 Mhz radio control transmitter. The window actuator with remote costs about £240.

Using a Broadlink RM Pro could make a window opener become part of your smart home setup and hence then possibly voice controlled.


More information

The good: Can be fitted to any window and there are various options to control the window actuator.

The not so good:  Complicated installation and will require an electrician.

The verdict: Will give increased independence to control ventilation for people with a mobility restriction.

Smart blinds

Motorised blinds and curtains have been around for many years, providing easy access to control blinds and curtain rails.  Control of these motorised devices was usually with the use of a radio remote control, which made such devices particularly of interest for people with mobility issues.  Internet of Things (IoT) has now extended its internet connectivity to these everyday objects. Embedded with technology, these devices can communicate and interact over the internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled.

An example of this is Somfy motorization systems.  These systems consist of a range of motorised blinds, curtains and roller shutters.  The Somfy myLink™ is a device that turns your smartphone or tablet into a remote control for motorized products featuring Somfy Radio Technology.  For voice control, Alexa now works with myLink!

Somfy mylink app for Smart blinds

Purchasing new blinds or curtains rails could work out to be quite expensive, and possible wasteful if you already have good blinds in place, however, there are a number of options available to retrofit existing blinds to also consider.  They are able to transform your standard home blinds into smart electric blinds and do so at an affordable price.  Like the Somfy blinds, they also provide a way to raise, lower and choose an intermediate position of the blind.

Blind Engine

Blind Engine smart blind

The Brunt Blind Engine can motorize your existing blinds and connect to your smartphone, allowing remote control and scheduling of your blinds anywhere, anytime.

It is designed to be compatible with most roll-type blinds available on the market,
allowing blinds of all different shapes and sizes to be successfully fitted.

The Blind Engine comes with two different gears designed to accommodate string cords and ball chains.  With the Brunt App, you can raise and lower multiple blinds at the same time. (No extra monthly charge for the Brunt application)
You can use the Brunt Blind Engine with various voice recognition speakers.
Cost online $129

Axis Gear

Axis gear smart blinds

AXIS Gear is an affordable and easy way to motorize your window shades. Gear is a smart device that lets you easily control and schedule when your shades open and close.  Axis say the install and setup of Gear takes minutes and guarantees to fit your shades or your money back.

Included are a solar panel and backup AA batteries. The App allows the creation of schedules and smart home integration.

Cost online $250

My Smart Blinds (only tilts shade)

My smart blinds kit

The MySmartBlinds Automation Kit controls only the tilting of your horizontal blinds on a schedule and on demand from your smartphone.

Automation Kit includes:

  • Motor box
  • Battery pack
  • Manual switch
  • Rod adapters for all tilt rod shapes
  • Solar panel/charging cable optional extra.

Cost online        $129

Soma Smart Shades

Soma Smart Shade

The SOMA Smart Shades is designed to fit your existing shades and curtains with a continuous-cord. Continuous-cord shades have one looped string or beaded chain that allows you to raise and lower the bottom of the shades. Attach the device to your shades or blinds with a beaded chain or string, download the mobile app, follow the instructions and you’re ready to go. Automated schedules can be created and it is possible to control multiple windows from one mobile app. It is Android & iOS supported. Smart Shades are solar powered with a built-in lithium battery. By installing the SOMA Connect, you can control your shades with your voice, as it works with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit.

Cost online  $149

Video doorbells

Video door bell user commmunication on their phone to a group outside at the door
Video doorbells bring both convenience and security to your home by streaming a live view of the doorstep to your smartphone, whether you are on the other side of the door or the other side of the world. For someone with a disability, these could be quite useful products as they let you check who is there before answering. Your smartphone is notified the moment motion is detected or the doorbell is pressed. You can speak to visitors through the doorbell’s microphone and speaker.
Used in combination with a smart lock they could replace older technologies such as a video door intercom for door entry. There are now a number of smart video doorbells products available, as can be seen below.

Ring video doorbell

Nest video doorbell

Blink Video Doorbell

The good: You wont miss another call on the door whether you are on the other side of the door, or the other side of the world.

The not so good: If your home Wi-Fi stops working so does your doorbell.

The verdict: Promotes living independently for people with disabilities by providing a secure door entry system.

See our smart door lock post