The Assistive Technology Helping Disabled People Work, Rest and Play


The Law Of... improving lives through assistive technology

As the current Paralympics prove, being disabled doesn't necessarily prohibit you from taking part in sports and activities the able-bodied take for granted. But whatever our abilities, we can't all be finely-tuned athletes, so assistive technology is playing a key role in levelling the playing field, offering new, cutting edge ways by which disabled people can get involved.

The Law Of... improving lives through assistive technology

David Erwin, a Serious Personal Injury Partner at Simpson Millar, looks at how technology is creating new opportunities and improving lives.

Assistive Technology Leads the Way

We've previously looked at how virtual reality is revolutionising the recovery process for those suffering paraplegia as a result of a spinal cord injury. But the rehabilitation process isn't the only area in which assistive technology is having an impact on how people with disabilities can take part.

Feel the Beat

One might think that if you lost your hearing it would mean an end to dancing. Not so for Chris Fonseca, who is not only deaf, but also a dance choreographer. He holds classes for hearing-impaired people, allowing them to dance too, and it's all thanks – aside from Chris's own talent – to something called a SubPac.

The SubPac is a piece of wearable tech that allows the user to 'feel' music, as opposed to hearing it, by transferring low frequencies such as bass and sub-bass directly to the body.

The application of this tech, which was originally developed for use by DJs, replicating the intensity of a club sound without the need to crank up the volume to club levels, has opened up the hugely beneficial world of dance to a section of society who might otherwise struggle to participate. But it isn't only dance where technology is breaking down barriers and enabling access for those either born with a disability or who've sustained one as the result of an accident.

Improving Accessibility

Assistive technology is making a big difference to the lives of people who have suffered birth injuries such as cerebral palsy.

Those affected by the neurological disorder are often either totally or partially paralysed from birth, meaning, traditionally, they have had to rely on others to perform tasks that able-bodied individuals can accomplish without a second thought.

Seeking to rectify this, technology is now offering greater independence for sufferers of CP and associated conditions, with everything from accessibility to computers to methods of communication being catered for.

For instance, eye tracking technology such as Eyegaze allows people to navigate a computer screen with just the use of their eyes, enabling anybody who has difficulty or an inability to operate a mouse to access specially adapted Desktop and Tablet computers. Similarly, the HeadMouse offers an identical function, but instead of tracking the position of the user's eyes it responds to head movement, transforming physical motion into a corresponding pointer movement on the screen.

Further assistive tech such as the ACTIV environmental control device, the operation of which can be configured to the disabled person's specific needs, allows users to control everything from the TV and stereo, to curtains, windows and doors.

A Sporting Chance

The world of sport offers further challenges, but, as the Paralympics demonstrates, these too can be overcome. Technology is playing a part in facilitating this.

An app called eAscot is helping people who have lost their sight run without the assistance of another person or guide dog. Using satellite navigation to remain on course and sensors to alert you to when you are veering off, the eAscot has helped its blind inventor (with the assistance of IBM Bluemix) run a 155 mile ultra-marathon across the Namibian desert.

The power of the 3D printer is also being harnessed, offering disabled athletes easy access to everything from bespoke racing wheelchairs to prosthetic limbs specifically designed and developed for use in sporting disciplines.

Add to this paramobile devices that allow people with spinal cord injuries to stand upright and participate in activities such as golf, along with a wealth of other assistive tech – the efficiency and uses evolving every day – and it is clear that a life-changing accident or disability is no longer necessarily the absolute barrier to taking part in the physical activities you enjoy.

David Erwin comments:

"These advances in technology are bringing about new and exciting developments ever more regularly. These, in turn, are allowing people who have suffered catastrophic injuries, whether at birth or later in life, to participate in activities they wouldn't normally be able to undertake or get the maximum benefit from."

"And with the rate at which technology is evolving, it's almost a certainty that better and more effective solutions are already in the pipeline."

"Restarting a physical activity you love following a life-altering injury is always going to be a challenge, but with the availability of these technologies becoming more widespread and the uses to which they can be put increasing, it has been made that little bit more achievable."

News Archive

Get In Touch