As intelligent technologies, they can change the lives of people with disabilities

As intelligent technologies, they can change the lives of people with disabilities

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Within the generation, technology has radically changed the way people live.

Smartphones and other devices are another layer of comfort for many people – but they can create innovations that could change the day-to-day experience of people with disabilities.

“The possibilities are enormous,” said Robin Spinks, senior innovation manager at RNIB.

It focuses on how technology can be deployed to improve the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

A key change for many disabled users was the introduction of alternatives to entering information into the device.

“We are withdrawing from a society where people assume that screen entry – using a keyboard or smartphone – is the norm,” says Robin.

“Very, very fast, we are moving toward a world where voice input – a smart speaker or personal assistant on a wearable device or smartphone, or even telly – is the entry point for a number of digital services.”

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Gavin Neate

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Gavin Neate worked as a guide dog trainer

Giants of the technological world have often created platforms for innovation, but finding ways for people with disabilities to use them can be the work of smaller businesses.

Gavin Neate, based in Edinburgh, was inspired after noticing how blind people use technology while working as a guide dog trainer.

One of the first products he developed was a system that allows people with disabilities to control the pedestrian crossing from the phone.

Finally, Gavin founded Neatebox to come up with more innovations.

The company has recently developed an application that allows people to communicate about any special needs they have before they arrive at the business, such as a store.

About 2,000 people have started using the Welcome app, most of them in the east of Scotland. There are hopes that its use may extend to other countries.

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Gavin said he developed the app after people with disabilities told him how difficult it could be to explain their needs.

“When you entered the store, there was no consistency in how well the person in the store interacted with that person,” he explained.

Gavin believes that the best use of technology is about social interaction as much as removing practical obstacles.

“Many people are lonely or difficult to communicate, or difficult to communicate with,” says Gavin.

“They feel worried about doing things that others might take for granted.”

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The idea of ​​some technologies is in principle quite simple, for example to enable disabled people to use pedestrian crossings

Overcoming this isolation can benefit businesses as well as individuals.

“The door gets more people. They get better help. The aid they provide is more efficient.

“They have more loyalty to people who come through the door because they want to get back through the door.”

Robin Spinks believes that we can be at the beginning of the process when it comes to improving the lives of people with disabilities through technological change.

“You are starting to implement a variety of applications. For example, autonomous vehicles using 5G to navigate the environment and send signals to other vehicles and pedestrians.

“There really are huge opportunities for these people.”

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Robin Spinks says technology could change the way people with disabilities get access to information and communicate with others

All of this, however, implies extended access to the communication infrastructure.

“When thinking about rural areas, there is almost a tendency to think of technologies that bring about solutions to all barriers, but we have to take into account geographical factors.

“I’m talking about 5G at a time when there are large pieces of the UK that actually don’t have access to 4G.”

Building on accessibility from the earliest stages of development is the key to making the most of potential technology offers.

“In our view, it is absolutely critical that people with disabilities are part of the process of designing these technologies, they are part of evaluation testing, and that the product ultimately takes into account the needs of people with disabilities at every stage – not in any check box. where “we created the product, we can now do some testing with disabled users”.

“We must move away from this kind of thinking.”