Disability Technology in the News
Despite all the problems in our world, we are very fortunate in that technology is continually developing and is having a very positive impact on peoples’ lives. So, I thought I’d share with you a couple of the exciting disability related technology stories that have been making headlines in the news recently.
NHS Trial of 3D Printed Bionic Hands
A company called Open Bionics has developed 3D printed bionic hands and is trialling them with a hospital in Bristol. They use 3D printers to make hands, by printing them in four parts and constructing them and adding sensors which allow the user to control the hand’s movements through their arm muscles. These are considerably cheaper than existing models of bionic hands, meaning that children should be able to more easily have hands at a younger age, which will then be replaced as they grow older. During the trial ten children will have these new bionic hands and if successful, the company will be able to seek funding to offer the hands through the NHS around the country.
This will be a really positive development particularly for children. The article I read quoted one of the disabled children on the trial as having said that she finds her new hand makes her feel more comfortable as people don’t pity her for lack of a hand any more, on the contrary they find her new hand impressive.
The other factor that’s good about this is the fact that it seems to be considerably cheaper than alternative products. One of the ever repeated stories about disability technology is the fact that while it’s possible to make really cool products that will have an amazing impact on peoples’ lives, they are often so expensive, that the people who need them often can’t have them. So, it’s exciting when people find creative ways to make the things people need in a more affordable way, because that ultimately makes it easier for them to be more widely available.
Project Fizzyo – A Device to Turn Physiotherapy for People with Cystic Fibrosis into Gaming
Haiyan Zhang and her team developed a wireless sensor that she used to connect to the physiotherapy equipment of two teenagers with cystic fibrosis she worked with, in order to make their physiotherapy exercises more fun, by making the exercises they did control a video game. People with cystic fibrosis are often encouraged to do physiotherapy at least twice a day, as it can help improve their health long-term increasing their life expectancy. The sensor is now being further developed and will be trialled in one hundred homes across the country.
This is a really positive example of how technology can both be used to improve the lives of people as well as to make them more pleasant by incorporating an element of fun in to the lives of people who have limiting health conditions. Having extra things to do to support your well-being can be tedious and frustrating. To have a means of making those things more fun both helps to make the extra work more bearable, as well as to help give people opportunities to have fun that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
What technological developments have you heard about recently that you think will help disabled people? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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