Making creativity accessible: Tech4Good Accessibility Award finalists

AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards

According to psychologist, creative thinking expert and Nobel Prize nominee Edward de Bono, “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all.” Sponsored by Microsoft, Tech4Good Accessibility Award demonstrate how tech can help harness disabled people's creative talents - the finalists this year include people and organisations making music production and poetry writing more inclusive.

Accessibility Award

Sponsored by Microsoft

Experts believe that creativity will be one of our key defining skills over robots in the future, so it's great to see a strong focus on making creativity more accessible among the entrees to the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards this year. The awards, sponsored by BT, take place in London on 17 July. 

Digit Music: Making music accessible to all

Founders of the product Control One, made by Digit Music are one of the four finalists.

The Control One has been essential to the musical compositions created by Jess Fisher, winner of the Emerging Artist prize at The Mighty Creative awards, earlier this year. A short film about Control One follows.

 

The musical interface and audio system which make up the Control One enable music creation through simple movements of a joystick attached to a wheelchair. The adapted wheelchair controller interacts with a computer and allows the user to make entire songs.

Fisher explains what the invention has meant to her: “Performing on stage has been amazing and it’s made me feel so blessed," she says. "It shows that despite having a disability you can still make music and it can sound good. I hope this opens people’s eyes to what the future holds for people with disabilities. But it’s not just for people with disabilities, it's for anyone with a desire to make music who might need an extra helping hand.”

The invention enables people with restricted movement to perform complex musical phrases. Musicians are able to work independently, using the controller to switch between instruments, genres and tempos, or in groups by selecting different instruments to play collaboratively.

Inventor of the Control One, Si Tew, suggests that as well as being used by music students and young people, the device could be useful for older people and those with dementia.

MakeWrite: Aphasia and writing

A fellow finalist in the 2019 AbilityNet Accessibility Award category is MakeWrite. Designed by the INCA Project at City University, London, this app makes creative writing easier for a range of people. It was built for those who have Aphasia, a condition which can happen to people who have had a stroke.

People with Aphasia can struggle to find the words to express themselves. The INCA Project’s work is directly addressing this challenge and enabling people with aphasia to be creative using the exciting principle of 'constrained creativity'. It was inspired by the concept of redacted poetry where a would-be poet sources words from an existing text to create something new and unexpected. With MakeWrite, users select a source text, automatically redact it to erase most of the words and arrange the remaining words to create a new piece of creative writing. A short film demonstrating how MakeWrite works follows. 

 

“Creative activities allow people to express themselves in rich, nuanced ways and have benefits for mental well-being and self-esteem,” a spokesperson for the app told AbilityNet.

As always, the Accessibility category of the Tech4Good Awards is a very strong category. The remaining two finalists are also doing excellent work to enable disabled people to more readily participate in life, work and fun.

Everyone Can: Disability and gaming

Everyone Can, which makes the list, provides a number of services, including an impressive gaming centre for disabled people and family and friends. The team offers around five gaming sessions a week in Manchester but also takes equipment in a van to different areas of the UK. Their Manchester facilities include 150 inch screens for multiplayer games, a driving rig, two virtual reality stations and three assistive gaming stations for children/adults who are unable to use a regular controller.

Each gaming station is set up to quickly assess the individual and then get them gaming in the way easiest for them e.g. joysticks, switch buttons, eye movements, head movements e.t.c. The Everyone Can team has seen first-hand the growth in confidence and life-skills among those who game with them. A short film of the Everyone Can centre follows.

 

Completing AbilityNet's inspiring line-up of finalists in this category is the Welcome app made by Neatebox. This creation makes the experience of going into shops, businesses and other venues a more welcoming visit for a disabled person.

Welcome by Neatebox: Making businesses and services more disability-friendly

As founder and CEO of Neatebox, Gavin Neate, explains the Welcome app was in response to seeing people with a disability going into venues, shops and retailers and not getting as good as service as they should. "One of the reasons for that," he explains, "was that people giving the service were maybe nervous or embarrassed, or just weren’t able to approach the person with a disability the way they would like."

Ken Reid has tried out the app and says: “I have walked into shops many times and I have stood there and waited, holding a cane in my hand, looking enthusiastic and nobody has come and talked to me. I’ve turned around and walked straight back out.” A short film demonstrates the app. 

 

The app enables a conversation between the business/ venue and a disabled customer or carer before they reach the service. Using a phone’s location service attributes, the Welcome app trains staff before the visitor walks through the door giving the person's name, profile picture, an overview of a condition, top tip and further learning (supplied by the organisation supporting the disabled visitor). The visitor remains at the very centre of this interaction, becoming more empowered and dictating the level of service they receive.

Some of the businesses using the app so far include RBS, The Scottish Government, House of Fraser, Dundee Council, Stirling Council, Guide Dogs for the Blind, NorthLink Ferries, Visit Scotland, NatWest Bank, DoubleTree Hilton.

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