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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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Driving schools for persons with disabilities in South Africa

Persons with disabilities can live independently. As part of independent living, being able to get from Point A to Point B is also an important factor. Below are some of the driving schools around South Africa that can assist with this.

Gauteng Driving School Area Contact number(s) Adapted vehicle Website
Driving Ambitions – QASA Gauteng 031 767 0352/48  or 0860 ROLLING Yes
Disability Driving Academy Johannesburg 082 538 5229 Yes  
Thupelo Drving School Pretoria 012 771 7500 or 082 483 7229 Yes
Protea Driving School Pretoria 012 328 5222 Yes
Godfrey’s Advanced Driver’s Academy Johannesburg 011 985 0497 or 082 451 7897
Professional Driving Academy of South Africa Pretoria 012 998 3910 or 082 683 9292 No
Approved Driving Instruction Randburg 011 792 5353 or 082 977 5636 No
Northern Province HTM Polokwane 015 291 5557 or 083 256 1704 Yes
Eastern Cape Coega Driver Training Program Port Elizabeth 041 404 7300 No
KwaZulu-Natal Driving Ambitions – QASA Durban 031 767 0352/48 or 0860 ROLLING Yes
Dees Driving School Durban 031 202 0202 or 082 44 6585 Yes
Easy way Driving School North Coast 035 772 2829 or 072 235 0928 Yes
City Driving School Pietermaritzburg 083 778 0160 Yes  
Western Cape Quad Para Association Cape Town 021 975 6078 or 076 122 1263 Yes
He and She Driving School Cape Town 021 931 8214 No
Anton and Tanya Driving School Cape Town 021 976 9877 or 082 894 7182/3 Yes
Mbumba Driving School Cape Town 083 344 1057 Yes  
Durbanville Driving School Cape Town 021 976 7900 or 072 185 9299 No
Cravenby Driving School Cape Town 021 932 2938 or 083 700 3395 No  
Automatic and Disability Driving Cape Town 074 68 5927 or 064 177 0929 Yes

For more information also read:


Safe driving!


The illusion of disability

It is human nature to look for things that are not present. We tend to see what we do not have instead of what we do have. It is also within societal norms to analyse situations, people and phenomena on what is lacking instead of what is present. Most of us have experienced some form of discrimination due to this type of thinking. You are either too young, too old, the wrong ethnic group, social class or seen as a liability due to your disability.

In academia, many theorists such as Amartya Sen’s Capability approach and the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) have argued for looking at what is present within a persons (i.e. their capabilities or functionings) and how society plays a role in either enabling or disabling a person in participating in everyday life. This argues that a person’s inability to participate in everyday activities are not solely influenced by their medical condition. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in different sectors such as education and employment have been a priority worldwide. The initiatives taken by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and supporting organisations from around the world have lead to many breakthroughs in transforming a more inclusive society.

However, due to our inherent way of thinking about what is absent instead of what is present, this has been a challenge still. Although it is important to acknowledge change in policies for the inclusion of persons with disabilities, the implementation thereof now needs to be addressed. Policies are only on paper and for real transformation to happen, people and society’s way of thinking also need to change. Many role players such as organisations and policy makers have lobbied for including persons with disabilities but they cannot enforce change by themselves and need the assistance of persons like you and me.

That being said, it would require us to go against our inherent way of thinking on what is absent, rather than on what is present. On this note, we refer to the image below of an optical illusion that has been widely used. We are all familiar with optical illusions. As children, we often played with optical illusions, which many scientists have argued develops our brain’s perception. At first glance an optical illusion shows you one image but upon closer inspection one could see another image, sometimes even more beautiful than the one seen at first glance. This way of looking at one image from a different angle in order to uncover another image also needs to happen within the transformation of disability inclusion.


When looking at how disability is sometimes still assessed within different sectors where inherent thinking of absenteeism is present, often companies looks at what it would cost them (i.e. what they will lose) to include a person with a disability rather than focusing on how this inclusion could contribute to the company (i.e. what would be gained). Educational institutions are also sometimes guilty of this when they first think towards cost of inclusion rather than what would be gained.

Building onto this argument, a practical example could be given. If an accountant falls and breaks his/her arm, does that consequentially impact his/her ability to fulfill his/her role as an accountant? Most people will argue “No, he/she would be able to adapt and still fulfill his/her role as required”. If, within the same company, an accountant applies for a position but he/she is in a wheelchair, would that consequentially impact his/her ability to fulfill his/her role as an accountant? Now, the answer often does not come so easy with many people. Suddenly the ability to adapt to fulfill the role required does not seem so possible. This is but one example to consider but there are many more like this, within different sectors and different scenarios.

As stated before, it is human nature to look for what is absent rather than what is present but for true transformation of inclusion of persons with disabilities to succeed, we need to rethink our own way of thinking by starting to focus on what is present and not what is absent. Referring back to the image of optical illusion used earlier, when we change our way of thinking about the ability within a person rather than the disability, we might just be able to uncover an image that is more beautiful than the one we saw first.

Photo credit: World For All Campaign (Photographer Amol Jadhav)

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Disability Awareness: Deaf or Hearing Impaired (Animated Video)

Inform@bility is aimed at providing information on disability-related topics to persons with disabilities and their families. In doing so, it is also aimed at raising awareness on disability and the related challenges faced by persons with disabilities and their families.

In order to understand these challenges, persons that do not have lived experience might need to be sensitized on experiences of persons with disabilities.

Below is a short film on the experience of a person with a hearing impairment:

Credit: Jason Marino & Craig Kitzmann

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Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities often struggle to access the same opportunities as their peers. However, as South Africa, and the rest of the world become more aware of the capabilities of persons with disabilities, more and more opportunities are becoming prevalent. Below are a few that are available:

Training opportunities for persons with disabilities

Entrepreneurship and Basic computing

Email CV to
Use reference on subject : May_D

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Learnership opportunities for persons with disabilities

Business Practice

An opportunity exists for 16 learners with disabilities to join a business practice learnership in Cape Agulhas. Please contact

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Employment opportunities for persons with disabilities

Department of Home Affairs

People with disabilities are requested to forward their CVs for attention of Mr Caiphus Mahumani, who can be reached at (012) 406 2891 and email and Mr Reggie Ditsele who can be contacted at (012) 406 4009 and email

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QASA is assisting people who are paraplegic and quadriplegic with employment. For more information you can e-mail

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NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (The SA National Council for the Blind (SANCB))

Closing Date: Friday, 1 June 2018.

Should you meet these requirements, please email your CV to, Ref: SANCB Director

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Entrepreneurship opportunities for persons with disabilities

If you have a disability and own a business that complies with the requirements below, please register on the National Treasury Database for procurement purposes.

Go to to register your company on the National Treasury database. Government across all departments requires that you are registered and that all your documents are up to date before they can do business with you.

And while you are on the net, go to to track government tenders your company might qualify for.

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Sources: South African Disability Alliance and Rolling Inspiration Magazine

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Stars and Stripes, all so bright – a story of traveling with a disability

During the holidays I was fortunate enough to go traveling in the US, as a South African tourist and I was completely amazed at how most businesses are focused on ensuring that they are accessible to people with disabilities. 

The trip started at the airports where full assistance was given to persons in wheelchairs with a porter ensuring that you are at the correct terminal at the right time. They even assisted with checking in.

From the airport, we were greeted by taxis that have now been replaced by vehicles that are more accessible for persons in wheelchairs and can host wheelchairs as well. Trains and buses had specific seats allocated for persons with disabilities as well. Most of the subways also had elevators, not only stairs, so to assist with accessibility. 

As we started our traveling, we found that the majority of businesses had alternative entrances that are accessible to wheelchair users and in public spaces where ramps were steep, there were warnings as well.

We were amazed during our trip to see how the country had made a conscious decision to include persons with disabilities in everyday life. Yes, there were cases where improvements could be made but overall it really felt that persons with disabilities had become more of a priority and it made our trip even more spectacular. 

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The year ahead

So for the past few months we have been a bit quiet as we have been exploring different topics related to disability. Please read our stories on traveling as a person with a disability in the US, new technologies that could assist persons with disabilities as well as new research on disability-related topics. Remember to also, if you have not yet make use of our Disability Awareness Calendar for 2018.

Let us make this year the best one so far for disability advocacy.


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Informability Challenge: Make 2018 a year of disability advocacy and inclusion

On 3 December we celebrated World Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day has been celebrated since 1992 but still it seems that there are many gaps within disability sensitisation, inclusion and advocacy.

Although a lot of progress has been made in disability-related issues such as health care, employment and inclusion, there is still room for improvement. This can only be done with the collaboration of all the different sectors as well as community members.

One of Informability’s aims is to make information accessible to people who might otherwise not have had access to this. In order to help address this, we created a calendar marking all the international disability awareness days, complete with some information as well about these disabilities. The calendar challenges people to use 2018 to be advocates for disability themselves with a monthly advocacy challenge. The calendar also has a simplistic image each month indicating a disability-related topic or etiquette. The purpose of these are to not only provide information to adults who can read the facts but also to provide information to children (which they then can colour in as well).

The calendar is a free downloadable template to everyone. Please print, share and use to assist us in bridging the gaps within disability related issues. Let’s make 2018 a year of inclusion and not exclusion.

Click here to download:

Disability Awareness Calendar