Posts Tagged assistive technology

[BLOG POST] Assistive Technology: How specialist gadgets and software have increased my independence.

I can’t use a computer without assistive technology. Over the years as computers have become more powerful assistive technology has become better and better. There are now hundreds of specialist gadgets and software that can make it easier for people with disabilities to operate computers or smartphones.

via Assistive Technology: How specialist gadgets and software have increased my independence — Where there’s a wheel, there’s a way

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[BLOG POST] Amazon Echo: A Great Internet of Things (IoT) Device For People With Disabilities – Assistive Technology Blog

 

photo of amazon echo in a bookshelf
Off and on, you may have heard or read about Internet of Things (IoT). In the coming years, it is supposed to be a new phenomenon (it actually already is) that will make everything much easier and convenient for everyone. But what does it mean? What exactly is it, and how would it help people with disabilities?
Let’s start with the basics – What is Internet of Things? In the simplest of terms, it means that you, as a person, control everything around you (yes, everything!) through the internet. What that also means is that you don’t have to physically access an object to make it do something.
Let’s simplify this a little more further.
Let’s say you have a set of lights in your bedroom – one is a bulb in the ceiling and the other is a bedside lamp. When you go to bed, you physically reach the switch on the wall to turn off the ceiling light, and do something similar with the lamp as well (push a button on it to turn it off). In the morning, when you wake up, you push the button on the lamp again to turn it on, then stumble into the bathroom and look for the light switch, turn it on, and do your business. Everything after that (morning coffee, for example) requires a manual interaction with specific devices also.
With Internet of Things, everything is automated. Before going to bed, you either tell a “smart” device – “turn off all lights”, use an app on your phone, or make a gesture towards a smart device that it understands as a “turn off all lights” signal. When you wake up in the morning, you can have your bedroom lamp and bathroom lights turn on automatically at the same time. Half an hour later, coffee would be ready.
The basic idea here is that everything around you is connected to the Internet – from your lights in the house to your garage door to your car. With voice commands, mobile apps or gestures, you can set up a sequence in which everything you need readies itself without you having to manually interact with them.
Sticking with our example above – after you drink your morning coffee, you ask a device what the weather is like, what the news headlines are for today, and when the next bus is arriving at your nearest bus station. That device will answer all of your questions without you having to open up your other devices (computer, tablet, phone) to find those information.

Makes sense?

There are several companies that have made lots of amazing innovations in the IoT world. One of those innovations is Amazon’s Echo – a little, innocuous looking device that just sits in a corner, but does so many unbelievably powerful things. As a user you can just speak to It and ask it to perform certain actions, and it will do it for you in a jiffy.

What kind of things can it do though?

  1. To begin with, it can tell you the weather and traffic conditions. (“Alexa*, what’s the weather like?”, “Alexa what’s the traffic like?”)
  2. Read Kindle and Audible books to you, and play music for you. (“Alexa, play the Kindle book ‘Be Here Now’”, “Alexa, play ‘The Beatles’)
  3. Look up events and appointments on your calendar and let you know what your day looks like. (“Alexa, what does my day look like?”)
  4. Help you go to the movies by finding the nearest theater and local timings. (“Alexa, where is Deadpool playing?”)
  5. Find local businesses and restaurants. (“Alexa, what time does the nearby pharmacy close?”)
  6. Add items to your shopping list and also re-order previously ordered items from Amazon with just one voice command. (“Alexa, reorder laundry detergent”, “Alexa add coffee filters to my cart”)
  7. Helps you keep track of important tasks. (“Alexa, put ‘file taxes’ to my to-do list”)
  8. Control all lights and other devices around your house. (“Alexa, turn on light 1”, “Alexa, turn off the TV”)
  9. Control your thermostat. (“Alexa, set my bedroom temperature to 68”)
  10. Play games, order an Uber ride, order a pizza from Dominos!
  11. Lots and lots of other things!
*Amazon Echo is always listening for the keyword “Alexa”. If you start a sentence with Alexa, it knows that it is directed towards it (her?).

This video should give you a good understanding of how a person with disabilities can use Echo/Alexa at home.

Automation, in general, is a big victory for the regular consumer in terms of convenience. However, it brings a much bigger convenience and independence factor to people with disabilities, especially anyone who is blind, in a wheelchair, paraplegic, bed ridden because of a spinal cord injury, or doesn’t have good motor skills. It saves them a lot of time and energy by not making them interact with other devices that they may not have skills for or are unable to use them because of various disabilities. The only device they interact with is Echo, through voice, and it provides them with the results and information they are looking for instantly, and thus, saves them a lot of trouble. A person in a wheelchair doesn’t have to try to reach a light switch that’s in an awkward corner of a room, a person with not good motor skills doesn’t have to flip through pages or operate an e-reader to read their books, and a blind person doesn’t need to navigate a website on an electronic device to order a pizza anymore.
Automation through Internet of Things doesn’t only have to be at home. A device like Alexa can be installed by an employer at work as well so that employees with disabilities can be more comfortable in their work environments. A device like Echo is not expensive ($179), and it just makes the ability to provide accommodations an inherent part of the system, and not an afterthought.
This is just the beginning though. The kind of features Amazon keeps adding to Echo is mind boggling, and very exciting to say the least. Keep watching the IoT space to know about more innovations and automations for people with disabilities!

Source: Amazon Echo: A Great Internet of Things (IoT) Device For People With Disabilities – Assistive Technology Blog

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[BLOG POST] Top 5 Ways to Outfit the Bathroom for Disabled or Elderly Loved Ones – Assistive Technology Blog

 

Bathrooms can be very dangerous, both to the disabled and the elderly. The smooth surfaces, awkward movements, and generally solitary usage of the bathroom makes it one of the most common areas for accidental falls and injuries to occur, both for the elderly and the disabled.

However, given the prevalence of falls and injuries in bathrooms, there are many useful products on the market that can help prevent falls, and allow greater autonomy.

Let’s take a look at 5 of the best ways to outfit bathrooms to help your loved ones avoid falls and other dangerous situations, and give you greater peace of mind.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are perhaps the single most important addition you can make to a bathroom to help your loved ones avoid falls and injuries.

These simple devices are generally made out of a durable plastic or a high-quality stainless steel, and can be applied to walls in the shower, bath, or next to toilets to allow for increased grip and stability during awkward movements, such as getting on or off the toilet, stepping over a shower landing or a tub, or getting feet situated on a more slippery surface.

Grab bars are especially important for the disabled, as those who have trouble walking or are confined to wheelchairs will be unable to otherwise pull themselves onto the toilet.

They’re inexpensive, easy-to-install, and highly recommended as a preventative measure for falls.

Anti-Slip Mats

Anti-slip mats are incredibly important – but not just any mat will do. In fact, improperly secured mats and rugs are another leading cause of falls and injury among the elderly – a poor quality mat, or one that’s installed incorrectly, can actually increase the risk of injury in the bathroom.

The best anti-slip mats are made of a solid, durable rubber which offers great traction, and are usually quite thick – the thickness of these mats prevents the corners and edges from turning or flipping up, and reducing the hazard of tripping.

Anti-slip mats should be placed wherever slipping is likely to occur – not just in the shower, but also on smooth tile surfaces that are likely to become wet, or in front of the toilet if stability is a concern.

Shower Stools

The shower is one of the most dangerous areas in the bathroom. Most often, the cause of a fall in an elderly or disabled person in the shower can be traced to slipping – covered with an anti-slip mat – or fatigue.

The hot temperatures of the shower, combined with an inability to change the temperature or move easily out of the way of the water can cause an elderly person to lose energy and fall.

The best way to combat this is with a shower stool – these high-strength, high-traction, durable products are built to stand up to the shower, and allow your loved one the option of sitting down if they feel that standing is too tiring or risky.

Disabled people generally need shower stools for other reasons – if they cannot stand, a stool makes for a much more comfortable experience than sitting on the floor of the shower or the tub, and even those who can walk may wish to have the option to sit in case they feel tired.

Raised Toilet Seats

Though the shower is often thought of as the main culprit behind accidental falls, the toilet is just as likely to cause serious injury to an elderly person, and disabled people often have trouble adjusting to the awkward movement necessary to sit on a standard-sized and shaped toilet seat.

The best way to help prevent toilet falls is by making the toilet easier to access, and a great way to do this is with a raised toilet seat. These seats usually offer a 5-8 inch rise in height, along with other features like lockable latches and extra side handlebars to aid sitting and standing.

Make Sure That Bathrooms – And Hallways – Are Well Lit At Night

The elderly tend to visit the bathroom more than younger people – and quite a bit more at night. This can be dangerous – especially if there is a long connecting hallway between the bedroom and the bathroom. Often, there are unexpected objects and obstacles in hallways, and if these areas aren’t well-lit at night, your loved one could stumble and fall.

The hallways leading to bathrooms should be lit with as many night lights as necessary to illuminate the path to the bathroom, and ensure that any unexpected object can be seen and reacted to. Motion-sensing lights can be purchased if you’re worried about wasting energy.

The bathroom should also be well lit at night – a night light or motion-activated light is a good idea, as it will allow your loved one to easily locate light switches and other necessities with ease.

Make a Big Difference with Small Tweaks

While the bathroom still can be a risky area for the disabled and the elderly, the above five solutions are inexpensive, easy to implement, and can have a huge effect on your loved one.

Allowing your loved one to be able to use the bathroom with greater autonomy and peace of mind will also help you and the rest of your caregivers relax, knowing that you’ve protected your loved one from the risks of bathroom falls to the best of your ability, and that they have all the tools they need to stay safe.

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Featured Image Source: Donutrockcity.com

This post was written by the www.vivehealth.com team.

Source: Top 5 Ways to Outfit the Bathroom for Disabled or Elderly Loved Ones – Assistive Technology Blog

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[ARTICLE] Computational architecture of a robot coach for physical exercises in kinaesthetic rehabilitation – Full Text PDF

Abstract

The rising number of the elderly incurs growing concern about healthcare, and in particular rehabilitation healthcare. Assistive technology and and assistive robotics in particular may help to improve this process. We develop a robot coach capable of demonstrating rehabilitation exercises to patients, watch a patient carry out the exercises and give him feedback so as to improve his performance and encourage him. We propose a general software architecture for our robot coach, which is based on imitation learning techniques using Gaussian Mixture Models. Our system is thus easily programmable by medical experts without specific robotics knowledge, as well as capable of personalised audio feedback to patients indicating useful information to improve on their physical rehabilitation exercise.

Full Text PDF

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[ARTICLE] The Cybathlon promotes the development of assistive technology for people with physical disabilities – Full Text

Abstract

Background

The Cybathlon is a new kind of championship, where people with physical disabilities compete against each other at tasks of daily life, with the aid of advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies. The first championship will take place at the Swiss Arena Kloten, Zurich, on 8 October 2016.

The idea

Six disciplines are part of the competition comprising races with powered leg prostheses, powered arm prostheses, functional electrical stimulation driven bikes, powered wheelchairs, powered exoskeletons and brain-computer interfaces. This commentary describes the six disciplines and explains the current technological deficiencies that have to be addressed by the competing teams. These deficiencies at present often lead to disappointment or even rejection of some of the related technologies in daily applications.

Conclusion

The Cybathlon aims to promote the development of useful technologies that facilitate the lives of people with disabilities. In the long run, the developed devices should become affordable and functional for all relevant activities in daily life.

Keywords

Competition, Championship ,Prostheses, Exoskeletons ,Functional electrical stimulation, Wheelchairs, Brain computer interfaces

Background

Millions of people worldwide rely on orthotic, prosthetic, wheelchairs and other assistive devices to improve their qualities of life. In the US there live more than 1.6 million people with limb amputations [1] and the World Health Organization estimates the number of wheelchair users to about 65 million people worldwide [2]. Unfortunately, current assistive technology does not address their needs in an ideal fashion. For instance, wheelchairs cannot climb stairs, arm prostheses do not enable versatile hand functions, and power supplies of many orthotic and prosthetic devices are limited. There is a need to further push the development of assistive devices by pooling the efforts of engineers and clinicians to develop improved technologies, together with the feedback and experiences of the users of the technologies.

The Cybathlon is a new kind of championship with the aim of promoting the development of useful technologies. In contrast with the Paralympics, where parathletes aim to achieve maximum performance, at the Cybathlon, people with physical disabilities compete against each other at tasks of daily life, with the aid of advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies. Most current assistive devices lack satisfactory function; people with disabilities are often disappointed, and thus do not use and accept the technology. Rejection can be due to a lack of communication between developers, people with disabilities, therapists and clinicians, which leads to a disregard of user needs and requirements. Other reasons could be that the health status, level of lesion or financial situation of the potential user are so severe that she or he is unable to use the available technologies. Furthermore, barriers in public environments make the use of assistive technologies often very cumbersome or even impossible.

Six disciplines are part of the competition, addressing people with either limb paralysis or limb amputations. The six disciplines comprise races with powered leg prostheses, powered arm prostheses, functional electrical stimulation (FES) driven bikes, powered wheelchairs and powered exoskeletons (Fig. 1). The sixth discipline is a racing game with virtual avatars that are controlled by brain-computer interfaces (BCI). The functional and assistive devices used can be prototypes developed by research labs or companies, or commercially available products. The competitors are called pilots, as they have to control a device that enhances their mobility. The teams each consist of a pilot together with scientists and technology providers, making the Cybathlon also a competition between companies and research laboratories. As a result there are two awards for each winning team in each discipline: a medal for the person who is controlling the device and a cup for the provider of the device (i.e. the company or the lab).

Fig. 1 Arena with four parallel race tracks designed for the exoskeleton competition. The pilots start at the left and have to overcome six obstacles with increasing difficulty level

Continue —> The Cybathlon promotes the development of assistive technology for people with physical disabilities | Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation | Full Text

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[REVIEW] Effects and impacts of a robotic arm used by individuals with upper limb motor impairment: A scoping review

Introduction

Individuals with motor impairments may be limited in the realization of their activities of daily living, their leisure activities or their work activities. To overcome these limitations, the involvement of a caregiver and/or the acquisition of assistive devices are often necessary. In the last few years, more and more assistance robots have been developed and the interest they generate is growing. Among these, there are robotic arms aiming to improve the functional autonomy of people living with upper limb motor impairment.

Objective

Since the effects and impacts of the use of a robotic arm by these individuals are not well documented, this study aims at obtaining an overview of what has been reported until now in the scientific literature.

Methods

To achieve this, we undertook a scoping review. Four databases were searched: PubMed, Embase, Compendex and Scopus. Following a selection process involving different steps, 36 papers were retained. Relevant data, the same for each paper, were recorded. The quality of the selected papers was evaluated using the Critical Review Form for Quantitative Studies (McMaster University). The papers were also classified according to the Canadian Model of Occupational Performance and Engagement (CMOP-E). The CMOP-E allowed us to identify the occupational domains addressed in the retained studies.

Results

Twenty-four papers presented results related to basic activities of daily living, 18 to instrumental activities of daily living, 9 to work activities, 8 to leisure activities, 2 to school and 2 to games. The quality assessment revealed a mean score of 8.8/15, demonstrating that the effects and impacts of robotic arms have to establish in a more rigorous way. The utilisation of a robotic arm has more positive than negative effects and impacts on the various occupational domains.

Conclusion

These assistive devices have the potential to be successfully integrated into the users’ life, but some improvements are desirable to increase the satisfaction related to their utilization.

Source: Effects and impacts of a robotic arm used by individuals with upper limb motor impairment: A scoping review

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[ARTICLE] User-centred input for a wearable soft-robotic glove supporting hand function in daily life

Abstract

Many stroke patients and elderly have a reduced hand function, resulting in difficulties with independently performing activities of daily living (ADL). Assistive technology is a promising alternative to support the upper limb in performing ADL. To avoid device abandonment, end-users should be involved early in the design and development phase to identify user requirements for assistive technology.

The present study applies a user-centred approach to identify user requirements for wearable soft-robotic gloves targeted at physical support of hand function during ADL for elderly and stroke patients.

Elderly, stroke patients and healthcare professionals, participating in focus groups, specified requirements regarding:

  1. activities that need support of assistive technology,
  2. design of wearable robotic devices for hand support, and
  3. application of assistive technology as training tool at home.

Assistive technology for the support of the hand is considered valuable by users for assisting ADL, but only if the device is wearable, compact, lightweight, easy to use, quickly initialized, washable and only supports the particular function(s) that an individual need(s) assistance with, without taking over existing function(s) from the user.

Source: IEEE Xplore Abstract – User-centred input for a wearable soft-robotic glove supporting hand function in daily life

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[WEB SITE] Disability.gov’s Guide to Assistive & Accessible Technologies

Disability.gov’s Guide to Assistive & Accessible Technologies

Assistive technology (AT) “includes any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capacities of people with disabilities.” AT can be low-tech, such as a magnifying glass, or high-tech, such as computer software. There are many different types of AT and adaptive equipment to help people with disabilities live independently and participate in the classroom, workplace and in their communities.

Here are some “quick links” to get you started:

The Technology section of Disability.gov has a broad range of resources about assistive technology. In addition, we have developed this guide to connect you with programs, services, government agencies and organizations that can help you find and pay for AT. To learn about technology related laws and regulations, including the Assistive Technology Act (“Tech Act”), visit “Disability.gov’s Guide to Disability Rights Laws” or the Technology Laws & Regulations section of the website.

For more information about AT, check out the following sections of “Disability.gov’s Guide to Assistive Technology”:

Return to Disability.gov’s Guides to Information.

via Disability.gov’s Guide to Assistive & Accessible Technologies – Disability.gov.

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[WEB SITE] AbleData Information Resources

AbleData Information Resources
The NIDRR-funded AbleData project recently debuted its redesigned and reorganized website. The new site makes it easy to search or browse for assistive technology (AT) products, manufacturers, and distributors. Visitors also have quick access to AbleData’s information products, including their most recent articles on mobile apps, AT for safe bathing, and resources for veterans with disabilities.

via News and Notes from the NIDRR Community and Beyond March 25th.

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[ARTICLE] Brain–machine interfaces in neurorehabilitation of stroke – Full Text HTML

Abstract

Stroke is among the leading causes of long-term disabilities leaving an increasing number of people with cognitive, affective and motor impairments depending on assistance in their daily life. While function after stroke can significantly improve in the first weeks and months, further recovery is often slow or non-existent in the more severe cases encompassing 30–50% of all stroke victims.

The neurobiological mechanisms underlying recovery in those patients are incompletely understood. However, recent studies demonstrated the brain’s remarkable capacity for functional and structural plasticity and recovery even in severe chronic stroke. As all established rehabilitation strategies require some remaining motor function, there is currently no standardized and accepted treatment for patients with complete chronic muscle paralysis.

The development of brain–machine interfaces (BMIs) that translate brain activity into control signals of computers or external devices provides two new strategies to overcome stroke-related motor paralysis.

  • First, BMIs can establish continuous high-dimensional brain-control of robotic devices or functional electric stimulation (FES) to assist in daily life activities (assistive BMI).
  • Second, BMIs could facilitate neuroplasticity, thus enhancing motor learning and motor recovery (rehabilitative BMI).

Advances in sensor technology, development of non-invasive and implantable wireless BMI-systems and their combination with brain stimulation, along with evidence for BMI system’s clinical efficacy suggest that BMI-related strategies will play an increasing role in neurorehabilitation of stroke…

Full Text HTML –> Brain–machine interfaces in neurorehabilitation of stroke.

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