THE BLOG

Hacking Disability: This Technology Could Change Lives

03/07/2015 11:07 BST | Updated 02/07/2016 10:59 BST

We all know that tech has the potential to change lives for millions of people living with a disability. In recent years we have seen a couple of big breakthroughs that have opened up the arena for designers and developers. Namely 3D printing, the Internet of Things and Big Data are all huge areas of potential aid that hasn't yet been fully unlocked.

While many people rely on assisted living technologies to support them in everyday life - such as fall detectors and chairlifts - the development of new ideas has not kept pace with that of new technologies, materials, design and manufacturing processes. By harnessing these technological advancements the lives of the of 12.2million people who live with a long term illness or disability in the UK could be vastly improved.

That's why it is incredibly exciting to see the finalists competing for the 'Inclusive Technology Prize' - a competition intended to help unearth new products, technologies and systems for people living with a disability. Run by Nesta, in partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability, the designs in the shortlist illustrate how assistive technology could aid disabled people in their everyday lives. From apps that play instructional videos, to affordable 3D printing these simple, well thought through ideas, should all brought to market:

  • How do I? from Swiss Cottage School, Development and Research Centre: Uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to teach independent living skills to those with learning difficulties. An application links instructional videos to NFC stickers attached to household objects. When you hold your tablet or smartphone over a sticker, the app will launch a video for that object, e.g. How do I make a cup of tea? on the kettle. How do I get dressed? on the wardrobe.
  • Affordable Hands by Open Bionics: 3D printing of bionic hands that will be sold to amputees for £1,000 directly and helping to promote independence, including, picking up forks, getting dressed, or going to the bathroom.
  • Hearing Loop Listening App - Action on Hearing Loss (RNID): The Hearing Loop Listening App would allow people without hearing aids, who have mild to moderate hearing loss, hear speech and music more clearly at locations and venues where a hearing loop is installed. The app would allow users to listen to the loop via headphones connected to a smartphone or tablet. Service providers will also benefit from this app, using it as a quick and easy way to check that their hearing loop is working.
  • HandyClix from National Star: Wheelchair lap belts require two hands to connect them but many users are impaired in the use of their hands. HandyClix is a one handed lap belt designed to allow the user to attach and tighten it themselves.

Prototypes of all the finalists are currently being made and the winner, who will be announced in a year's time, will be awarded £50,000 to help bring their product to market.