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New innovations to assist persons with disabilities – Article 2 (technology)

Helping people with disabilities to communicate (App)

Rebecca Bright was recently named one of the winners of Virgin Media Business’ Voom 2018 competition for her business, Therapy Box. Trained as a speech and language therapist in Australia, after graduating she noticed that the communication aids that were on the market at the time were expensive. She and her husband wanted to look at how to create an iPhone app to help people with motor neurone disease to be able to communicate once they lost their speech. The app launched in January 2011 and went on to be a big success. It is now in 11 languages and used by over 200,000 people.

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Helping parents with hearing impairments to hear their baby cry (App)

Dr Ariana Anderson at the UCLA Medical Center and Semel Institute wanted no parent left feeling like they’re in the dark when it comes to their baby. The Chatterbaby app is aimed to help thousands of other parents feel more empowered when it comes to attending to their children. It accomplishes two major feats i.e. alerting parents when their children are crying and offering an explanation of the cause, which assists members of the deaf community in their quest to interpret their baby’s needs. Although the app is still in development, Dr Anderson and her team have already collected a database of over 2,000 baby cries and had deaf parents test the app to see where it’s most and least effective. The app has had a 90% accuracy rating so far.

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Helping people with visual impairments to navigate their environment (App)


Google has announced one of its upcoming apps called Lookout and it has nothing to do with the mobile security application of the same name. Lookout was designed to help the visually impaired be more independent by giving them spoken notifications about their environment. For instance, it can tell them that there’s a “chair 3 o’clock,” so they don’t bump into the object to their right. The app can also read texts, such as Exit signs over doors.

The application has four modes to choose from: Home, Work & Play, Scan or Experimental. The app will use machine learning to figure out what visually impaired users deem important and worth hearing about. So, the more people use it, the better it becomes. No specific date was mentioned so far for the release.

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects people with visual impairments with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call. You can either use it as a person with a visual impairment to ask people for assistance or you can volunteer to assist people with visual impairments by also downloading the app. The app will inform you when someone needs assistance.

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Controller for Gamers with Disabilities

Microsoft has a new control system on the way designed specifically for those with limited mobility, which through a base unit and add-ons will make playing Xbox One games a lot easier for those who might struggle with the current controller.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller features a large white base unit, which has a few buttons and large pads on it, but the real meat comes from the back of the controller, which has room for a ton of extra joystick and button inputs that can be fully customised via both their plugs and an app.

Designed primarily for gamers with limited mobility, the Xbox Adaptive Controller allows you to create a custom controller experience that can be adapted to meet the needs of people with various disabilities in an affordable way. We gained feedback from people with disabilities and collaborated with gamers to build an accessible controller from the ground up, and I think this will make a huge difference for gamers of all abilities — connecting more gamers than ever before.

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Augmented Reality to assist persons with visual impairment

A company called eSight has been using augmented reality technology to give visually impaired people their sight back for quite some time. eSight was started with inspiration from the founder’s two legally blind sisters. He imagined a better world for them, without the challenges in education, mobility, employment and independence that most visually impaired people experience in their day to day lives. The eSight system consists of a simple setup with some glasses and a controller. The glasses are made to be lightweight, and fit similarly to sunglasses which users can customize with their prescription. Unfortunately, those who are entirely blind cannot benefit from this technology since eSight does not feature any kind of implant technology, but those who are extremely near-sighted or farsighted, or may have visual issues like cataracts, glaucoma or optic nerve disorders will be able to enjoy clear vision that eSight says rivals that of a fully sighted individual.

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3D printing helping people with visual impairments

Researchers at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom have successfully created the first ever 3D-printed cornea .British scientists combined human stem cells with a mixture of alginate and collagen to produce a “bio-ink” that can be used by a 3D printer. The durable yet flexible combination can reportedly be turned into the outer lens of the eye, which light passes through on its way to the retina in less than 10 minutes. Prof. Connon noted that there is a shortage of human corneas available for transplant around the world. He believes that bio-ink could solve the problem in the future. Newcastle University says the 3D corneas will have to be tested before they are cleared for use in human transplants.

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Technological accessibility in the modern world

Microsoft has enhanced many existing features including Ease of Access settings in Windows 10 and more built-in settings such as Read Aloud and Dictate in Office 365 to assist persons with disabilities. They are also revealing new Office 365 features to ensure inclusiveness and ensure equal access to information for people with disabilities. Google Chrome also provides various extensions to assist people that may have special needs.

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