Top digital devices to assist elderly and disabled stay independent
A staggering 20% of the UK population describe themselves as having some form of disability which limits their ability to carry out the daily activities that most of us would take for granted.
And while this significant proportion of the population is far from well-represented in society, it is at least heartening to see that there we are developing more and more smart tech devices for disabled and elderly that help them remain independent and expand their workplace opportunities.
What are some assistive technology devices?
Technology has the power to transform all our lives; from the television to the smart phone, and from a video camera to a 3-D printer. Technology can promote improvements in efficiency, reliability, and speed, and can reach across boundaries of class, gender and geography to deliver the benefits to all.
And while much of this technology is accessible and valuable to people of all ages and ability, it is in the world of assisted technology where we can find global organisations such as Google, Apple and Microsoft at the forefront of developing new devices, equipment and apps that will enhance the day-to-day lives of the elderly and the disabled and can open-up opportunities in the workplace.
Why is disability inclusion important?
Particularly with people of disability but also of the elderly, the adoption and use of different assistive technologies will lead to a greater engagement in everyday activities and the recognition that neither age nor disability need be a barrier to full inclusion.
This principal is increasingly being recognised in the commercial world and has led to initiatives such as Google’s Central Accessibility Programme that has so far resulted in innovations such as ChromeVox , Lookout and Voice Access.
Apple is addressing disability diversity with the release of a series of disability emojis later this year. Each has been designed to address a range of disabilities and will include a guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, a person in a wheelchair, a prosthetic arm and a prosthetic leg.
And since 2018 Microsoft have provided development grants to tech companies working on AI (Artificial Intelligence) projects with the disabled and elderly in mind. With the ambition to “empower people with disabilities with tools that support independence and productivity” it has so far produced products such as ReadAble Storiez, Counting Zoo, and SuperVision Goggles.
Some Examples of Assistive Technology Devices
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it provides a sense of the range and scope of products currently out there and able to make a substantial impact on a person’s day-to-day living.
Ava is the fastest & easiest way for deaf/hard-of-hearing people to understand and participate in any conversation. It is a speech-to-text app that gives people with hearing issues an easy way to stay on top of a conversation. Everybody in the conversation logs into the app then speaks normally near their phone and the talk is transcribed into text allowing the deaf or hearing impaired person to have a visual record of the conversation in front of them.
Aira connects people who are blind or low vision to a trained professional agent who is dedicated to further enhancing their everyday experience – completely hands-free assistance at the touch of a button. It is a new service using technology to give blind or partially sighted people the freedom to carry out many tasks unaccompanied and at any time and It works by using a smartphone and glasses with a camera to connect a visually impaired person to a sighted professional who then becomes their eyes – able to guide, describe events and even read on their behalf.
A free app for Apple’s iPhone that is designed for the blind and partially sighted community. The app harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text and objects. It uses the device’s camera to perform a number of useful functions including reading documents, identifying a product based on its barcode and recognising people based on their face.
A symbol-based AAC app apps for iPad and iPhone. The user taps on or uses an adaptive switch to select a symbol that represents a word or phrase. The app then converts the input to natural-sounding voices. … In addition, Proloquo2Go grows with each individual user as he or she develops language skills.
Enables physically challenged users to maintain communication, control their environment and improve their quality of life via a computer. Users learn to use their eyes for interaction, to use symbols or text communication to participate in everyday life, to manage certain automated household functions and to even drive a wheelchair.
A hands-free voice recognition app that enables face-to-face, real-time communication with friends, family, and strangers. The technology is designed to recognize non-standard speech patterns of people with mild to very severe speech disabilities. The goal is for a mobile application that enables human to human spontaneous communication; and secondly, integration of the technology in a smart home context, enabling accessibility of voice-driven technologies to people with motor, cognitive and speech-related challenges, thus enabling independence, autonomy, inclusion, and quality of life for these individuals.
Over 100 languages are available in this app which delivers a real-time transcript of an ongoing phone conversation. It is helpful for people with hearing loss or speech difficulties.
For a small monthly charge this app is also designed to convert a person’s speech into a text or translates a voice message into an email. Again, suited to people who are deaf or have hearing loss.
An app that provides a simple device to allow a deaf person or a person with diminished hearing to communicate with the emergency services. It is a visual system that allows the user to select options from a series of screen options. TapSOS will hold an individual’s medical history/personal information, which can be available to the emergency services. Its GPS feature also allows those services to accurately locate the user.
Braci Sound Alert
Record key sounds within your home such as alarms, doorbells, and cooker timers to this app and set your smartphone to alert you when it registers that sound.
It is not necessarily the case that a deaf person is most successfully communicated with through the written word. Learning to read requires you to associate the appearance of a word with how it sounds when spoken, which may not be achievable if deaf. So this app displays pre-recorded sign language videos on a user’s mobile, enabling better access to written content. This app also has an audio layer which is useful for people with sight loss.
Your local cinema app
Open the app and check for what’s showing at your local cinema where an audio description or sub-titles option is being made available.
Subtitles Viewer/ Sub
Using your phone microphone, the Subtitles Viewer app enables you to view subtitles in various languages on your iOS device. The app synchronises with television or movies on your TV or at the cinema. There are other similar options on Android available.
Next generation text service app
Helping people with hearing and speech difficulties communicate with anyone over the phone, using the relay service. You speak your conversation. The Relay Assistant will type back anything the hearing person says.
Speech-to-text reporters (STTRs)
Help people with hearing loss to access spoken information via a laptop or computer screen. Uses a special keyboard to type phonetically enabling English translations to be provided in real time onto your screen. There are several options including Amazon Polly
Intelligent Voice Assistants
- Amazon Echo
- Google Home
- Apple Siri
- Samsung’s Bixby
- Microsoft’s Cortana
- Google Assistant
- Amazon Electra
Lastly, for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis there are a number of aids to help people use a computer, tablet or smartphone more easily and with less discomfort. These range from alternatives to a mouse, to small, light keyboards, and touchpad and diction options.
The importance of assistive technology
Assistive technology promotes inclusion and leads to increased participation in all aspects of living for the elderly, people with a disability and/or restricted mobility. And while much, much more remains to be achieved, it is undeniably the case that the developments we already see around us can only be to the benefit of individuals and the wider society.