Smartwatch app which helps people with a learning disability travel more independently makes finals of Tech4Good Awards

Tech4Good Accessibility Award finalist waytoB, founded by two students, has integrated a smartphone and smartwatch platform to help people with a learning disability navigate their environment more independently. It's currently being trialled in Ireland and is a finalist in this year's Tech4Good Awards, which celebrate the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

waytoB has been created so that a carer, friend or family member can add safe routes via a smartphone platform for a person with a learning disability. That person adds the routes with their smartphone and is then able to track the location, heart rate and battery life of the person with the learning disability. They also get notified of key journey events (e.g getting lost, stopping for longer than expected, showing high levels of anxiety, etc.).

The person who has a learning disability follows icon-based instructions on their watch to better navigate their environment, with the watch vibrating when there's a new instruction.

Universal Design principles

WaytoB has been designed to be as flexible and inclusive as possible, providing independence to everyone: people with learning disabilities including autism, the elderly, and people with physical, cognitive, visual and hearing impairments. The project started in 2014 as part of an innovation module in user-centered design at Trinity College, Dublin. From the very beginning, students Talita Holzer Saad and Robbie Fryers developed their solution with the principles of Universal Design in mind, to ensure it is accessible to every type of user. 

In 2015, Public Health England estimated that there were more than one million people with a learning disability in England alone. Often people with a learning disability rely on others for transport and assistance to access their community, so WaytoB has the potential to open up independence.

A spokesperson for WaytoB said: “A study conducted by IDS-TILDA (at Trinity College) found that the majority of people with a learning disability over the age of 40 that it spoke to are dependent upon others for transportation and access options - and that the need for such assistance was the greatest barrier to successfully participating in social activities."

Standard navigation apps not safe for everyone

waytoB ’s research has also shown tthat popular smartphone apps for wayfinding are not suitable for those with learning disabilities - both from a cognitive perspective, and from a safety aspect, ie walking while trying to follow a smartphone screen presents risks from traffic, crime, and others.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion for AbilityNet adds: “waytoB is a really innovative take on the satnav, that all-important guide most of us use every day. By combining smartphone and smartwatch features this is navigation with a twist – specifically designed to provide that extra help needed by users with a learning difficulty or disability.”

  • You can vote for waytoB in the AbilityNet Tech4Good People's Award here - which closes on 9 July.
  • Winners of the 8th AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards will be announced on 17 July in London.  
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Tech4Good Accessibility Award: Microsoft Seeing AI app reaches the finals of AbilityNet competition

Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which audibly explains what it sees in front a phone camera, is an amazing tool for blind people and has reached the finals of the AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award. Now in their eighth year the awards are supported by BT and celebrate some of the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

Microsoft Seeing AI used for seven million tasks  

Since launching in July 2017, the app has assisted blind and partially-sighted users in completing more than seven million tasks and has been downloaded by 200,000 users.

The app harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to open up the visual world and describe nearby scenes, people, food in supermarkets and more, with spoken audio. Its key features include real-time text reading, audio-based barcode locator and product-recogniser, face recognition and emotion/age/gender description, currency recognition, colour-recognition, audible light detector and handwriting reader.

Understand more about the Seeing AI app on the film below. 

The app can also describe inaccessible images in other apps, including Twitter, and WhatsApp. Additionally, Seeing AI allows users to teach the device to recognise instantly when friends and colleagues are visible.

It is still being developed and added to by Microsoft employees after being created at a company hackathon event in 2014 by three members of staff. 

Checking homework and being more productive at work

A spokesperson for Seeing AI said: “Blind students in school can now read inaccessible paper text which is not in braille or does not have a digital equivalent. Similarly, blind parents are reading books, checking the handwritten homework of their kids and notes from teachers. People are also using it to get more productive at their day jobs and be able to achieve much more during office hours.”

The app joins four other finalists in the Accessibility category of the awards, last year won by Bristol Braille Technology. Four out of five of the finalists in this category in 2018 have developed or used technology to help people who are blind or who have sight loss understand more of the world around them. 

Machine learning technology

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, adds: “I'd like to thank Microsoft for bringing real cutting-edge machine learning to a group of users with such evident needs in this area. While none of the smarts within Seeing AI are solely or even primarily intended for blind users, it takes a company as acutely aware of the importance of accessibility as Microsoft to do such an excellent implementation that brings the best of AI to those who benefit most." Read Robin's full blog on Seeing AI, here

 

GiveVision: Digital magnifier combined with binoculars for people with low vision reaches Tech4Good finals

New technologies for people with sight loss and those who are blind are a key theme in the finals of the AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award this year.

Four out of five finalists are using tech to offer people with sight loss more understanding of the visual world. GiveVision has developed what it calls ‘the next generation of low vision aids’.  Its first prototype - SightPlus - currently works as an advanced digital magnifier and a pair of binoculars, giving people with low vision the ability to see much more of their surroundings and in greater detail. In the video below, you'll hear from Libby Powell, Paralympian, on her experiences with the aid. 

The technology, which combines augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets, has taken GiveVision - a company of software engineers, researchers and social entrepreneurs - to the finals of the 8th AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award. The awards are supported by BT and celebrate some of the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, comments: “GiveVision takes the best of image enhancement technology and uses it to address the challenges faced by the many millions of people with a vision impairment worldwide.”

Over the last four years, the company has worked with hundreds of tester to refine and develop the vision aid. It says the most commonly sold sight aids are handheld magnifiers, which have limited fields of view and functionalities compared to SightPlus.

A spokesperson for GiveVision told AbilityNet: “The device enables testers to have their hands free, which drastically changes the way they can engage in an activity. For instance, imagine having to hold a monocular to watch a play for two hours. With the technology, users can also capture more visual information by adjusting the zoom, contrast or brightness."

Second incarnation is similar shape to glasses

The second incarnation of the product (shown below), currently due out next year is a more discreet option. It will use the same technology but be smaller and more slimline, similar to a pair of glasses.

Sight Plus mark 2 slimline glasses

The company is excited to be now embarking on a study with Moorfields Eye Hospital to test its device further. 

The importance of assistive technology

On the growing need for assistive technologies for people with sight loss, GiveVision explained: “Today an estimated 217 million have moderate or severe sight impairments, and this number is predicted to double in the next three decades.

"The issue with sight conditions, such as Macular Degeneration or Diabetic Retinopathy is that there is no cure, or there is a limited treatment that can slow down the progression of a disease but doesn't restore the vision. Patients who are registered partially sighted or blind will have to rely on assistive technologies.

“While the use of a smartphone with accessibility features or applications has increased, our research and testing shows it’s more useful and desirable for some people, particularly older generations, to have a dedicated magnifying device,” they added.

Does the Rubik’s Cube really need to be Bluetooth? Inclusive design and the future of connected devices

From earbuds to adult toys, should even the Rubik’s Cube now be Bluetooth? Some of these products and devices are gimmicks and some are game-changers – but smarter devices mean more inclusion when it comes to people with disabilities.

LED Rubik's cube

With connectivity comes choice

Bluetooth connectivity is cheap and commonplace. Here’s an article explaining that even the smash hit Rubik's Cube from the 80s might now get Bluetooth connectivity. Firmly in the ‘gimmick’ camp, this version of the classic cube puzzle would enable your smartphone to know the exact orientation of its faces at any time and could coach you to the final solution. Cool, but not life-changing.

The bigger picture is that Bluetooth (or indeed wireless connectivity of all flavours  - and there are a few different types out there), is able to provide alternative ways of interacting with gadgets and appliances. And, choice is what it’s all about when it comes to inclusive design. Can’t see the fiddly buttons or tiny screen on your thermostat or the cryptic symbols on your dishwasher? Let the larger screen of a tablet or smartphone help by becoming an easy-to-use remote control.

For older people, or those with a disability, the ability to make semi-smart devices (such as thermostats, microwaves, bathroom scales - pictured, blood pressure or glucose monitors) more inclusive is not insignificant. We are increasingly able to connect such devices (via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) to our smartphone. This can mean a larger display of a device that would otherwise be difficult to see; or the voicebox of a device that would otherwise be mute; or the remote control of a device that would otherwise be too fiddly to use.

Garmin smart scalesUsers are already demanding to be able to control the heating in their home from the comfort of their bed using an app on their phone. They want to be able to track their weight, heart rate or blood pressure over days and weeks and again it’s an app that does this and thus connectivity is required. It won’t be disabled people or the elderly that will be driving this agenda, but these communities will be benefiting from it disproportionately if a little bit of good practice in inclusive design is observed along the way.

Speech or screen – the choice is yours

Does all this mean that a smartphone or tablet are essential possessions for older or disabled users in order to feel included in a digital future? Not necessarily – but there’s no doubt that they are becoming more useful, affordable and smarter every day. Though simpler than a computer, there’s still a considerable learning curve and that might not be for everyone.

Enter the voice assistant. We’ve had the likes of Siri and the Google Assistant in our phones for several years, but smart speakers like the Amazon Echo are increasingly providing an even simpler alternative to the smartphone or tablet. I’ve written several articles on the versatile power of the voice assistant, so I won’t revisit the topic here. Suffice to say that, in the house at least, we now have an even easier way of connecting to all our Bluetooth and wireless devices and controlling them with intuitive voice commands.  As a blind person who is a power user when it comes to IT, but a complete novice when it comes to less inclusive devices, I can now say “Start a hot wash”, “Record Blue Planet” and “Turn the heat up and lower the lights”. Three cheers for a more connected, more inclusive, future.

A shout out for low-tech

I’ll finish off with a quick shout out for low-tech solutions. Having a hi-tech way of wirelessly interfacing with devices is indeed a game-changer in many cases. When it comes to getting cash out, for example, I long for the day when I can use the speech on my phone to interface with the ATM rather than relying on the honesty of complete strangers to choose options on my behalf and not then run off with my money. But sometimes, the simple low-tech option works just as well.

For example, for blind people, putting a couple of self-adhesive rubber bumps (available in packs for a few pence each) at the points around the washing machine dial that represent a hot and colour wash is an elegant solution. Similarly, putting an elastic band around the conditioner bottle to distinguish it from shampoo works a treat. There are hi-tech AI solutions that work as well, but let’s not forget simple adaptations along the way. An elastic band never needs charging after all, and a humble rubber bump still works when the wi-fi’s down…

Robin Christopherson is head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet. He blogs regularly here

 

Tech4Good Accessibility Award 2018: Facebook reaches finals with Automatic Alt Text and image recognition features

More than one billion photos are shared on Facebook every day, and artificial intelligence is now making many more of those images accessible to Facebook users with the development of Automatic Alt Text.

Through research with the vision loss community, Facebook learned that for users of screen readers, who are blind or have vision loss, it wasn't straightforward to know what was in a photo that arrived in their News Feed. 

So in 2016, Facebook launched Automatic Alt Text (AAT) - a feature that uses object recognition technology to describe photos to people who are blind or who have low vision and use screen readers. And at the end of 2017, the social media platform also launched a Face Recognition tool that tells people using screen readers who appears in photos in their News Feed, even if they aren’t tagged (as long as that person has allowed this option in their settings).

Facebook labelling an image using Automatic Alt Text

Facebook’s efforts to make the social media platform more accessible to people who have sight loss and those who are blind has earned them a place in the finals of the Tech4Good Accessibility Award - with the winner announced at BT Centre on 17 July.

Now in their eighth year the awards are supported by BT and celebrate some of the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet commented: "In a popular social media platform like Facebook, it’s impossible to expect every user to add descriptions to their images. This smart use of AI gets around that problem and is a game changer for disabled users."

Using artificial intelligence and machine-learning for accessibility

AAT was developed by programming machines using AI and was updated and refined based on feedback from multiple rounds of user research. The system can currently detect more than one hundred concepts, such as the number of people in a photo, whether people are smiling and physical objects like a “car”, “tree”, “mountain”, and others. Currently, about 75% of photos on Facebook now have at least one image identified by AAT.

The platform's Face Recognition technology analyses the pixels in photos and videos, such as a user’s profile picture and photos and videos that the user has been tagged in, to calculate a unique number, which is called a template.  When photos and videos are uploaded to Facebook’s systems, those images are compared to the template to find matches.  With this technology, people using screen readers can know who appears in photos in their News Feed, even if they aren’t tagged.

Manual alt text

The traditional mechanism for describing photos to people with vision loss is the use of alt text. Traditionally, alt text requires that the content creator/ person who uploads an image include a secondary description (as well a written post) for each photo, which is then read by a screen reader.  This is time-consuming for the person posting and is also extremely uncommon as too many people don't know about the value of alt-text.

To address this challenge, Facebook created automatic tools powered by AI to describe photos on Facebook, which allow Facebook to dramatically increase the number of photos that have supplemental text descriptions. Facebook told Tech4Good judges that as it continues to improve its object and face recognition services, AAT and Face Recognition will continue to provide more descriptive narratives for visual content.

Vote now in the Tech4Good People's Award

The People’s Award is one of Tech4Good's most sought Awards because it is chosen by the public, voting online via Instagram, Twitter or on the tech4Good website.

Tech4Good Accessibility Award 2018: Be My Eyes harnesses the power of 1.5 million volunteers to help blind people in 150 countries

Vicky, a mum of three in Edinburgh has been blind since birth. Her husband Robbie has very limited vision. They mostly manage as a family independently. But Vicky says that sometimes she just needs someone with vision to help her with tasks such as matching her children's socks or in situations such as checking the expiration date of food in her fridge.

This is where Be My Eyes comes in. The free app, created by Hans Wiberg, has more than one and a half million volunteers who are available day and night via live video link to help a blind person in such instances. It's currently being used in 150 different countries with help provided in 180 different languages and is a finalist in this year's AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award.

"We live in a world that is poorly designed for people with visual impairments, and I believe that technology can help change that," says Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, community director at Be My Eyes.

"I believe that Be My Eyes is a very powerful tool as it can help people lead more independent lives. The simplicity and flexibility of Be My Eyes make it works so well for both our blind users and for our sighted volunteers, and I really believe that Be My Eyes harnesses the power of generosity, technology, and human connection. We hope to win the Tech4Good award 2018 so we can get a step closer to making the world more accessible for people with disabilities,” he adds. 

Now in their eighth year, the AbilityNet Tech4Good awards are supported by BT and celebrate some of the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

Connecting users to corporate customer service teams

The Be My Eyes team has recently launched a new feature called Specialized Help that enables companies to support disabled customers via video link. Microsoft is one of its first customers. Users can connect to the company’s (Microsoft) Disability Answer Desk and can get help with such tasks as setting up Microsoft Office or checking an internet connection, for example. This means the company becomes more accessible to blind and partially-sighted people.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet says of the app: “Be My Eyes combines the smarts of your phone, crowdsourced help from around the world and pure simplicity to address the everyday needs of blind people that, as yet, no AI can reach. This is one to watch.”

This Microsoft Be My Eyes short film shows the amazing story behind this app:

 

AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards

The awards celebrate the technology innovations that are improving lives across society. Categories include the BT Connected Society Award, BT Young Pioneer Award and the Digital Skills Award, as well as the Accessibility Award. Winners across all categories will be announced on 17 July in London at BT Centre.

How can technology help people with Macular Degeneration?

It is Macular Disease Awareness week this week.  We wanted to explore how technology might be able to help you if you have this condition.

Commonly asked questions about macular disease and macular degeneration

x-ray of eyeball showing signs of macular diseaseMy Gran has macular disease and is struggling to order her shopping. What quick and easy changes could I make to help her out?

You might be surprised just how much you can do to change the settings on your computer just by making a few changes. A good start would be to go to our My Computer My Way website which provides step by step guides on how to customise Windows, Apple and Android computers, laptops and smartphones.

Hopefully that will help but if you are still having difficulties we have a network of volunteers who can help people in their own homes.

I can cope fairly well with using a computer but I struggle to cope with my correspondence.

There are definitely lots of options that can help. You can either scan letters in with a scanner and use Optical Character Recognition and text to speech to read it out to you, or you can use a device such as Readdesk to take a photo of the document and then have it read out to you. If you have a smartphone there are some really useful apps to consider using which will alow you to deal with correspondence and can also help with other aspects of your life.

My Dad is trying to finish a book of poetry off but can't really see the letters on a keyboard. What can help him?

hi-vis keyboardThere are lots of different types of keyboards available which could help people who are having dificulty seeing the keyboard. For example a larger keyboard with hi-vis stickers on it might be useful - these can be purchased from many different places including the RNIB shop.  You can even get large print wireless keyboard too, so this cuts down on the amount of wires everywhere.  Also don't forget that voice recognition is an easy alternative to using the keyboard, and you  can easily make the text easier to see on the screen.

Case Study: Harry and Helen go shopping again

Harry and his wife Helen are both very independent and enjoy going the local supermarket to get their groceries.  They need to find a useful way of being able to make shoppAmazon Echoing lists throughout the week so they can remember what to buy on a Friday morning which is their shopping morning.    They have just bought a Amazon Echo device as they like to listen to different music and radio stations.

One of our volunteers Lucy showed them both how to make lists on their Echo device and then getting Siri to read out the list to them when they are in the supermarket.

How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of services to help disabled people and older people.

  • Call our free Helpline on 0800 269 545 and our friendly, knowledgeable staff will offer one-to-one help.
  • If you are in work your employer has a responsibility to make Reasonable Adjustments which include helping you with invisible illnesses. Find out more about how we help disabled in the workplace.
  • Arrange a home visit from one of our amazing AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about computers and vision impairment useful
  • My Computer My Way is our free interactive guide to all the accessibility features built into current desktops, laptops, tables and smartphones.

Talking to the internet – how to get millions of over 55s online

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that 4.8m of over 55s are still offline - they represent 94% of the remaining people in the UK who have yet to go digital, according to the charity Ageing Better. Without concerted efforts, this group will increasingly miss out on essential online services, says the charity. Let’s talk about ‘the conversational internet’ and how it could help some of those people.

Digital made simple


Getting online is a challenge. For the digitally uninitiated (and even for those who are pretty savvy) It requires a level of knowledge about how to interact with technology that isn’t acquired overnight. It takes months if not years to be confident about what to do when an unfamiliar pop-up asks you an often worryingly obscure question, and even more digital nouse to trouble-shoot something on a computer or tablet when things go wrong.

While it’s no longer necessary to read an instruction manual to use a tablet or smartphone, or worry whether your tablet’s antivirus is up-to-date (or indeed if it even has one), anyone who has had to support a relative or friend in the early/on-going stages of initiation into the world of mobile tapping, swiping and scrolling will know that things are still far from simple.

Pictured: Amazon Echo Show, Echo and Echo Spot

Echo Show with screenAmazon Echo Echo spot

The conversational internet


What could be easier than natural, conversational speech as a way of interfacing with today’s diverse digital world? I’ve discussed voice assistants in several recent posts: how simply speaking to the air and getting useful information, being entertained and even performing sophisticated tasks is the next significant chapter in computing. Do check out these posts for the full picture on how natural language and 'ambient computing' (voice-first smart assistants which can live in a range of devices) will form a significant feature in all our digital futures:

The older, less digitally adept generation and those of all ages with disabilities may well benefit most from these advancements in more natural and conversational interactions with the digital world.

If some devices have screens then great – additional information or the face of a loved-one can be displayed, and people who are deaf will have spoken information presented visually. For those who can hear and speak, at the heart of these devices is the ability to communicate with them conversationally and with increasing flexibility. 

We’re certainly not anywhere near satisfying the toughest trial of AI – the Turing test – but we’re getting closer every week. In the meantime, government at all levels and companies of all sizes are focusing budgets and resources towards the future of the internet - a future where services delivered through the conversational internet may be even more significant than the standard digital delivery channels of today. Tapping has already exceeded clicking. Similarly, speaking will undoubtedly one day outstrip tapping as the main method in which most people conduct their digital lives.

Robin Christopherson is head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet. Find more of his blogs here. 

If you'd like help getting online or would like an AbilityNet volunteer to help you get online, call 0800 269 454 or email enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk.

 

Are Robots the Future of Education?

As much as you may have concerns about robots and the way we could be interacting with them in the future, it’s important to consider how AI and robotics can and do benefit the education of current and future generations.

Already robots are being used to help assist and teach children with autism and they’re being used to allow students with health conditions or impairments to attend school remotely.

The sector is on the grow 

It’s estimated that by 2019 the spend on robotics and related services will hit 135.4 billion US dollars. The types of technology we are talking about specifically for education will make up a very small fraction of this, infact the two fastest growing industries for robotics are healthcare and unsurprisingly process manufacturing. We feel it’s still fair to say technology will continue to play a pivotal role in all sectors, including education.

As accessibility specialists we’re passionate about technology and how it can help people with different health conditions and impairments to achieve their goals. For that reason we’re interested to see how robotics can help students with health conditions or impairments such as dementia, autism or mobility differences.

‘If you think you don’t know someone with a disability, think again’

Recent stats from you.gov shows that 1 in 4 students will experience mental health concerns during their education, stats from the British Dyslexia Association state that 10% of the population have dyslexia and there are 2 million people in the UK with visual impairments. '72, 000 children are missing out on their childhood due to long-term illness. That means in every eight classroom there is an empty desk' (source noisolation, 2017) This shows large numbers of people that could potentially have invaluable support from Artificial Intelligence.

So what about the future?

You might think we’re about to predict robots standing at the front of a classroom teaching or taking over the classroom altogether. The relationship between robotics and education might be a bit more complicated than that… An article from the BBC shows how students teaching a robot actually helps them to learn. Training the robots has also proven to be largely effective at training the students, and their patience is improved as they are learning by doing so. So, perhaps it could be time to embrace the future potential of Robots in Education.

If you'd like more information on how technology can support education contact us: Free phone 0800 269 545 or email enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk 

How you can use a computer if you have MND

Motor Neurone Disease is also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease (after an American baseball player). It affects the muscles in your body causing them to be weak.  There is no known cure for this condition, but symptoms can be managed to help people to achieve the best possible quality of life. 


This blog has been created to coincide with MND Awareness Month which runs throughout June.


Professor Stephen Hawking

What is MND? 

According to the MND Association there are 5000 people with the condition in the UK. The causes aren’t really understood but it may be something to do with chemicals and structures in the motor nerves.

The effects include difficulty speaking and movement; eating and swallowing are also affected and eventually the muscles that assist breathing fail. There are different types of the condition.   

Professor Stephen Hawking who sadly passed away this year was one of the most famous people to have the condition.  Other people that have the condition include ex Scottish international rugby player Doddie Weir.

FAQs about MND and computing

These commonly asked questions about having MND illustrate some of the many ways of using a computer can help someone who has the condition.

Q: I sometimes find it hard to use the standard mouse. What can I do?

There are lots of different mouse alternatives available, including rollerballs and joysticks. Take a look at our factsheet about mouse alternatives to work out which one may be best for you. 

If you have good head movement, you will be able to use a head mouse.  

If you have issues with “clicking” the mouse button you can download some free software which means you don’t have to do any clicking whatsoever. Eye gaze technology is advancing at a pace now and the cost is coming down all of the time. 

You can also check My Computer My Way to see if changing the way the mouse pointer moves might help!

Q: Can I talk to my computer?

If your voice is clear then we’d advise trying out voice recognition. It’s built into all new Windows and Apple computers as well as most tablets and smartphones.

For more details have a look at our easy to understand step by step instructions on My Computer My Computer.

We’ve also written a factsheet about voice recognition that offers advice about various options.

Some times you might find that your voice changes throughout the day. We’d recommend that you have a couple of different voice profiles. So for example you might have a “Morning voice” profile and an “Afternoon voice” profile.

Q: Sometimes I have difficulty reaching all the keys on the keyboard. What can I do?

A lot of people like to use keyboards that don’t have the number pad on the right hand side. This means the keyboards are a lot smaller than normal ones. They are called “compact” keyboards.

A keyguard might also be useful. This will stop you from hitting two keys at once!  As the condition progresses it might be worth exploring other input options like switches.

There are lots of different keyboards available – take a look at our factsheet on keyboard alternatives to learn more about your options. 
 

Q: I've heard a lot about "smart-tech" devices. Would these help me in my home?

Amazon Echo DotWe are really keen on smart home devices especially such as Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.  These are voice controlled devices that can help you with tasks around the house. For example you can link your Amazon device up to your TV and you can change the channels on your TV screen by voice.  Want to turn lights on? you can use smart tech to help you out again.  Want to see who is at your door?

Your Amazon Echo or Google Home device can also connect to a smart door lock so you can let people in as and when you need to, without having to struggle to get to the front door.

We also like the fact that you can use Amazon Echo to make calls to other people who own Echo devices as well and you can use the Google Home as easily as you can use a landline phone. to make incoming and outgoing calls. 

Case study: Using Skype to help families keep in touch?

Jon called us on behalf of his brother Nick. Nick used to enjoy travelling and has made many friends across the world, but now finds it difficult to get out of his house. We chatted about technology such as Skype which would mean that he could stay in touch with his friends.

We also chatted about alternatives to the headset microphone which might be easier for Nick to use and identified some retailers that have a “try before you buy” policy.

We also arranged for one of our IT Can Help volunteers to come to Nick's house to check the current set up and help with installation of any new equipment.

More help from AbilityNet

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people.

Call our free Helpline

Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.

Arrange a home visit

We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.

We have a range of factsheets 

Our expert factsheets talk in detail about technology that might help you and can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.

My Computer My Way

Our free guide to all the accessibility features built into every computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone. We show you the adjustments that can make your time on the computer that bit easier.