Meet Gulliver, my robotic communicator-guide

Liz Ball

Liz BallA recent article in the New York Times explored how robots are being used to care for and support older and disabled people and the roles they might take in the future. It introduces us, for example, to Paro, an artificial baby seal being used to provide comfort to people recovering from strokes. If responses on Twitter are anything to go by, most people find this a depressing concept. Not me!

The argument put forward by those who find this depressing goes something like this. Robots take the human element out of care and support, fobbing people off with artificial relationships and interactions with technology rather than people. To rely on technology is to undervalue those needing care and support and to shun our responsibility to them.

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Meet Gulliver, my robotic communicator-guide

A recent article in the New York Times explored how robots are being used to care for and support older and disabled people and the roles they might take in the future. It introduces us, for example, to Paro, an artificial baby seal being used to provide comfort to people recovering from strokes. If responses on Twitter are anything to go by, most people find this a depressing concept. Not me!

Continue reading “Meet Gulliver, my robotic communicator-guide”

Rehabilitation services must innovate to survive

Rehabilitation training equips blind and deafblind people with the skills they need to live independently, such as cooking without sight, communicating in new ways, or using a long cane to get around. I have written elsewhere about the importance of this for deafblind people. The Care Act emphasises the need for this type of service that can reduce, eliminate or delay the need for long-term care and support.

Yet, the number of people receiving rehabilitation training is falling, as is the number of rehabilitation officers employed by local authorities. Local authority budgets are under severe pressure from government spending cuts and increasing demand for services.

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Product review: the Bradley timepiece

The Bradley timepiece is a stylish tactile watch designed for visually impaired people.

Developed by Eone with the principles of inclusive design in mind, the watch has had a lot of interest from non-visually impaired people attracted by its stylish appearance.

We asked Dr Philip Gafga and Shaun McGarry, who are both deafblind, to see how the Bradley measures up as a practical device for telling the time.

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The fight goes on to victory

Sometimes, campaigning is exhilarating: we are doing fun and exciting things and getting quick results. For example, when I was a student, I was involved in a campaign that arranged for a wheelchair user to abseil down a building in tandem with a senior manager from a sister organisation to highlight its inaccessibility. Just six weeks later, a lift was installed. But, most of the time, campaigning is hard work, slow and a bumpy ride.

When you have been campaigning for something for years, it is easy to lose the will to live, never mind to keep repeating the same points.

It is at times like this that we need to reflect on, and draw strength from, what we have achieved, no matter how small these successes may be.

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The wonders of my new toy

Lynda JonesLynda Jones

Earlier this year I had a very difficult decision to make.  Should I continue with my mobile phone and its tactile keys and TALKS software, or take the plunge and get an iPhone given that TALKS is no longer readily available? I was comfortable with my Nokia and TALKS and very nervous about using a touch screen and more complicated technology, but after much thought I took the plunge. I visited a couple of local mobile phone shops and found the O2 shop assistant was the most helpful and set up my new phone with voice over and phonetic alphabet.  On a frivolous note, I bought a bright pink one!

I had to wait two weeks before getting one to one instructions on how to text and make phone calls but in the meantime I was told about Siri and could ask my iPhone to send texts and make calls.  I learnt that I had to be careful though as Siri sometimes didn’t get it right. Once I sent a text saying “Say hello to everyone XXX”, but unfortunately Siri sent “Say hello to everyone except sex.” Ooops!  It did give everyone a good laugh and I shall never live it down.

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Sense Active’s first football session

a deafbling girl and her communicator guide playing football at a Sense Active football eventOn a cold December morning in Sandwell, 17 very enthusiastic participants – complete with scarves and gloves – took to the football pitch to take part in what was Sense’s first ever football session.

Although for many, it may have been the first time they have ever had a football at their feet, there was plenty of excellent dribbling, passing, shooting and catching on display.

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Window Eyes Screen Reader

Chris Fox

Window Eyes logoWe have some really good news for those of you who use a screen reader on your Windows based computer. G W Micro the maker of Window Eyes screen reader and Microsoft have announced that as long as you have Microsoft Office 2010 or above, either as a standard DVD install or a subscription to Microsoft 365 you have access to a free fully functioning copy of Window Eyes.

You will also need a computer running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 & Windows 8/8.1

The only differences between the free and paid versions are as follows:

The free version does not have:

  1. Braille & Large Print instruction manual.
  2. You have only the standard Microsoft voices (others are available for £40.00 excluding VAT).
  3. Technical Support is provided for initial setup only.

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Book review: He Is Not me: a Deaf Childhood, a Hearing Adulthood

Steven Morris

Steven Morris

I was delighted when I was asked to review Stuart McNaughton’s account of his life both before and after receiving a cochlear implant.

As a recent recipient of a cochlear implant myself, I was fascinated to read of someone else’s experience with this potentially life-changing technology. At this point, I should probably briefly outline what a cochlear implant actually is. A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.

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Stop blaming blindness

Rehabilitation services enable blind, and deafblind, people to develop skills to increase independence. They include, for example, training in orientation and mobility, cooking and other household tasks, reading braille, and using specialist equipment and software. They reduce, sometimes eliminate, the need for long term support.

A recent report published by RNIB revealed a worrying drop in the number of visually impaired people receiving rehabilitation services. It also showed that, when such services are provided, they are often restricted to six weeks, which is woefully inadequate to learn the complex skills, and the confidence needed.

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