Promoting independent living

One of the dangers for people with disabilities living independently are the risks associated with cooking which can result in a fire.  However, there are a number of devices we can use to reduce or even eliminate this danger in cooking.  These devices can promote independent living when using the cooker is risky due to old age, memory disorders, disability, or learning difficulties. These devices aim to protect the area of a home most at risk of catching fire, the kitchen.

lnnohome Stove Guard

Innohome stove guard kit

The lnnohome Stove Guard is a cooker safety device that monitors the hob use and registers when the user is not present. If the cooker has been left on the Timer turns it off.  The Stove Guard will also identify a dangerously high temperature or steep temperature rise, and recognizes the alarm signals of fire, gas and carbon monoxide alarms. An Automatic Safety Lock ‘locks’ the cooker so that it cannot be turned on accidentally.

Stove Guard SGK510

 

Video

lnnohome Stove Alarm

Innohome stove alarm

The Stove Alarm is a more affordable solution than the Stove Guard that will improve the kitchen’s fire safety significantly.  The Intelligent Heat Sensor, attached underneath the cooker hood, signals an alarm, that alerts the user to a hazardous situation happening on the cooker before it produces toxic gases or starts a fire.  The alarm also sounds if it is removed from its location.

More information

The distributor in the UK is Safelincs Fire and safety solutions.

 

The good: The lnnohome Stove Guard prevents a fire starting in the kitchen

The not so good: Requires installation by an electrician

The verdict: Promotes living independently for people with disabilities by decreasing the risks associated with cooking.

Interesting in reading more about Assistive Technology in Old Age?

 

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

Accessible Phone for Christmas?

We are frequently contacted in Enable Ireland AT service by people asking us to recommend accessible phones. It might be for a grandparent or parent, someone with cognitive or access difficulties or just people who like their technology simple and functional. The brand we usually recommend for simple accessible phones is Doro http://www.doro.ie. They have a range of phones on their website (pictured below) mostly standard or feature phones (rather than smartphones) based on the classic clam-shell and candy bar designs. Most mobile providers (I can confirm Vodafone and 3Mobile) offer at least one Doro as a prepay option however to get access to the full range you may need to buy an unlocked sim free device from an online retailer like Amazon. The smartphone in the picture below is not listed on the Irish Doro website but can be purchased unlocked online.

Doro phone range

Customise an Android

Another option would be to customise an Android phone. There are a range of sub €100 smartphones available from all mobile carriers and while it is a truism that you get what you pay for with smartphones the quality gap between budget and premium has never been smaller. Use Google to search for reviews and lists of the best smartphones in your price range and check spec and reviews on GSMArena for the model you are interested in (don’t get too put off by user submitted comments on this site, almost always negative). Finally and most importantly go into a bricks and mortar shop and get a hands on.

Many older people (and younger people too!) have difficulty with touchscreens but to make them easier to use you can install a launcher app on Android phones. A launcher app will sit over the normal Android user interface, hiding as much of the complexity as you think appropriate. As your Granddad (or whoever the user is) gets used to the device you can give him other options like Internet or the Camera. Below are some Android launchers available on the Google Play store, many are specifically designed for older users and users with low vision. There are often free version available that are either supported by advertising or have limited functionality. It’s great to be able to test an app like this out before parting with money but be wary that those supported by advertising may lead to confusion, inappropriate content or even malware if the ad is clicked and so may not be appropriate for some users.

Launchers

Wiser – Simple Launcher

Wiser - Simple Android launcher screen shots

Wiser – Simple Launcher (pictured above) looks like a very nicely designed interface that is simple yet manages to avoid the fisher-price type design trap that some others fall into.

Wiser available on Google Play here:

Crescendo Launcher

phone with Crescendo launcher installed

Crescendo Launcher (pictured above) is a similar idea to Wiser and offers usability combined with a nice mainstream design.

Crescendo available on Google Play here: Free version is supported by advertising. Premium version also available.

Big Launcher

big launcher home screen

Big Launcher may not be a good option for the more image conscious user but it was one of the originals in this area and seems to be well supported.

Big Launcher available on Google Play here:

Phonotto

Phonotto-Screenshots

Phonotto – Is similar to Big Launcher in terms of design although in my (often misguided) opinion much nicer.

Phonotto available on Google Play here:

Windows Phone User Interface (UI)

microsoft lumia phone

Microsoft Windows Phone offers a very user friendly and customisable home screen. The tiles of the interface can be easily removed or enlarged offering easy access to only what is required. The main reason the Windows platform is less popular on mobile devices is the lack of apps available (this is changing) but this may not be an issue for this user group. If you want to take advantage of the nice Windows UI yet still use an Android based phone you could try Launcher 8. Of course you could just get the real thing and go for a Microsoft Lumia phone (pictured above).

Accessible Keyboard

Another difficulty faced by some users of touchscreen smartphones is using the on-screen keyboard. Fortunately there are a number of Android keyboard apps that offer assistance in this regard also.

ThickButtons

If the user is a “hunt and peck” style typist Thick Buttons might work best. It enlarges the keys it thinks will most probably be used next. This makes the keyboard easier to use while at the same time offering subtle assistance to those who are unfamiliar with the QWERTY layout or with literacy difficulties.

Thickbuttons available on Google Play here:

Big Button Keyboard is another option and available on Google Play here:

Swiftkey – Very popular keyboard with one of the most accurate word prediction systems which might make text production a bit easier.

Swiftkey available on Google Play here:

Use a Stylus

Many users who find touchscreens difficult find using a stylus helps a great deal. If you are going to try this, choose a device with a large screen like a Galaxy Note or less expensive Asus. These large phones are often referred to as… wait for it… Phablets https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phablet (just to prove I didn’t make that up).

Voice Commands and Speech Recognition

Speech Recognition may not be an option for all users or it might be a bridge too far for some technophobes. If the initial fear is overcome however it is a very natural way of interacting with your device and is becoming more accurate every day. Android, iOS and Windows all offer digital personal assistants (Google Now, Siri and Cortana) that will allow you access many phone functions with voice alone. There are also apps that offer increased functionality in this area. Do a search for speech recognition on your app store of choice but stick with popular downloads and have a read through user comments before installing.

Cognitive Web Accessibility

More and more, the Internet and the Web have become the main way people stay informed and current on news and health information; keep in touch with friends and family; and provide independence such as convenient shopping etc. Furthermore everyday physical objects are being connected to the Internet and have Web interfaces. People who cannot use these interfaces will have an increased feeling of having a disability and of being alienated from society. (W3C 2015)

At the moment, even people with only a mild cognitive disability or decline may find standard applications impossible to use. As our population is aging it’s important to the economy and society that people with mild and moderate levels of disability stay as active as possible, and participate in society for as long as possible.

The First Public Working Draft of Cognitive Accessibility User Research is available at: http://www.w3.org/TR/coga-user-research

This planned W3C Working Group Note describes the challenges of using web technologies for people with learning disabilities or cognitive disabilities. This document provides a basis for subsequent work to identify gaps in current technologies, suggest strategies to improve accessibility for these user groups, and develop guidance and techniques for web authors.

Anyone with an interest, is invited to review this draft for accuracy and completeness, as well as understandability and comment and consider how your technologies and work may be affected by these issues.

Comments are welcome via e-mail or GitHub *by 13 February 2015*.
Publicly-archived e-mail list: public-coga-comments@w3.org
GitHub repository: https://github.com/w3c/coga