• How Technology is Transforming Disabilities into Super Abilities Dec 20, 2017
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    One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population is suffering from some form of disability - WHO

    According to a WHO report in 2016, it was found that 360 million people are hearing impaired, 285 million people are visually impaired and 75 million are mobility impaired, require wheelchair assistance.

    But technologies such as assistive, rehabilitative, haptic, virtual reality and AI are providing opportunities to transform disabilities into super abilities.

    Differently abled individuals are often dependent on their family for their day to day activities. But these new gadgets and technologies are aiming to help such individuals take care of themselves, perform better at work, go for higher education, enjoy music, take part in sports, travel and contribute to their community as well.

    With the help of assistive tech gadgets, differently abled people can enjoy life to the fullest. For example – A speech impaired person can speak, partially vision impaired individual can see the world better and a mobility impaired person can walk. Gadgets such as autonomous vehicles, assistive devices for hearing impaired, movement control gadgets, smart glasses for the blind are some of the technologies in use today.

    Let us explore some of the new technologies:

    Assistive devices for people with hearing, voice, speech or language disorders:

    As per WHO hearing impairment is a major disability. Any device that helps hearing impaired, voice, speech or language disorder to communicate is referred to as an assistive device. Assistive devices and technologies help individuals to communicate meaningfully and perform daily activities without hindrance. Gadgets may perform differently as per the required purposes. Some of the gadgets are assistive listening devices (ALD), augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC), and alerting devices.

    Let’s take a look at some gadgets/apps available in the market:

    UNI- It is a two-way communication device that detects sign language by using its camera and converts it into speech. It also converts speech into text.

    TTS Reader- It is an app, available on Google Play, which can read out loud any text entered or on any wanted website address in natural sound.

    Dragon Dictation App- This iOS app can performs similar to the TTs reader.

    Blee Watch- A smartwatch for the hearing impaired that converts sound waves into vibrations and color codes to alert users to emergency sounds, ringing doorbells, and even helps them feel the rhythm of music.


    Tech gadgets for visually impaired:

    Many devices and apps are available, designed to assist the visually impaired by using haptic technology, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. Few examples are:

    Iris Vision- Iris Vision redefines support for low vision people in the most effective way by combining virtual reality with multiple innovative software. The company offers a smartphone which possess 1a 2-megapixel camera with Snapdragon processor, and it can be mounted on a lightweight headset. This VR headset empowers partially vision impaired to see the faces of people they meet, watch television, read books and more. Also, it offers them the independence to explore the world without using any bulky and expensive device.

    Eye Stick – Visually impaired people often find it difficult to cross the streets or climb the stairs. The Eye Stick has a lens attached at the bottom which can sense traffic lights, stairs or busy streets and send signals through vibrations. It helps people with visual impairments to avoid dangerous situations and locate their destinations easily.

    Braille Device - For years, Braille technology has been used in various devices such as displays, printers and note makers. In 1824, the Braille keyboard was invented by Louis braille which could perform similarly to a normal keyboard. Today, the keyboard can connect with any tablet, PC or smartphone, allowing vision impaired individuals to use the gadgets easily. It can be easily connected via Bluetooth or USB cable and converts the text on the device display into braille. It also has built-in apps such as alarm, notepad, calculator, clock, stopwatch and timer. Additionally, it offers support for a 32GB card to store documents and books and that are read in braille.

    Be My Eyes App- This is an app which connects sighted people with blind people via video call and uses the rear and front cameras of phone to provide assistance to visually impaired persons while they are crossing the roads or reading something. Except blind people anyone can download this app and help them.

    Assistive Devices for Mobility Impaired:

    Mobility impairments may happen due to orthopaedic or neuromuscular impairments such as amputation, paralysis, cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy or spinal cord injury. So far, a few tech gadgets have been designed that can help provide great mobility and independence for mobility impaired individuals:

    Sesame Phone - People having limited mobility due to paralysis or spinal cord injury may find it difficult to manage a smartphone. A modified version of Google Nexus 5 device, known as the Sesame Phone, is a hands-free smartphone and tracks user’s head movement. The head works as finger and allows the user to swipe, tap, gesture and more. Users also can download apps and use them with their head motion.

    Stabilizing Handle- People having motion disorders such as Parkinson’s disease often depend on family members for eating food. The stabilizing handle helps them to eat without assistance. It can attach to any eating utensil including fork, spoon and soup spoon and is capable of reducing hand tremors up to 70%.

    Eyegaze Edge - Around 4,00,000 people suffer from motor neuron diseases worldwide, making communication and working on PCs or tablets difficult for them. LC technologies from US has invented a product named Eyegaze Edge which enables users to control their computers using their eyes. It is an eye-operated communication and control system that lets people with disabilities to communicate with the world. Users do so by looking at control keys on the tablet screen to generate speech, either by selecting from pre-programmed phrases or typing a message.

    Role of Mobility Management Solutions

    One of the important points to note is that most users are not very tech savvy. They are mostly elders or persons with disabilities that makes use of technology difficult for them. Companies offering these solutions can greatly enhance their effectiveness by bundling their technology along with a UEM (Unified Endpoint Management) solution. It will help in the remote support of the devices, push updates and prevent unintentional or accidental tampering of device settings. For e.g. Iris vision is offering a VR headset for partially visually impaired people, which are managed and secured using 42Gears Mobile Device Management solution to offer a complete package.

    Conclusion

    There is abundance of assistive devices in the market, few of which have been discussed in this article. These gadgets have been designed to allow differently abled individuals to live life normally and independently. A lot of companies are invested in discovering new advanced technologies to convert the term disability into super abilities.
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