Tech and Disability News from Around the World - 2024-03-17

First Published: Sun Mar 17 2024
Last Updated: Sun Mar 17 2024

Looking at the stories I've picked out for this weeks News post I'm thinking I should deep dive a bit more on some of the topics presented here.

Even before the current AI Hype cycle started we've had ongoing research into so called "Companion" apps and bots. Artificial services that would help the elderly or disabled to live their best lives. But what does this actually mean for everyone concerned? At the very least what does it mean for the privacy of the individuals concerned? What about effects on the human work force? Does the rise of the Companion Bot mean a race to cut costs?

I'll try and do more deep dive articles as time permits.

Meet Viv, an AI Companion for people with dementia

Initially based on the experiences of four women with dementia, Viv is an experimental, AI driven system that has been designed to communicate and be a companion to people who suffer from dementia. The researchers behind Viv  (The felt Experience and Empathy Lab based at the University of New South Wales) hope to build a tool that will provide support to dementia sufferers by easing loneliness and providing a calming effect to people in distress.

Viv isn't alone of course, there's a lot of research being done into the role of companion apps and robots for aged and disability care, and it's only going to get  busier/more interesting/controversial as question about even basic things like what IS companionship and can an artificial creation really provide it are asked and argued about.

Wearable patch allows people to speak

A new patch has been developed that measures the movement of your larynx and sends the signals to a processor which converts the movements to speech. 

New App to crowd source the best and the worst accessible locations

I came across this one via a couple of different routes. Firstly I saw it mentioned on TiktTok (there are a number of good Disability/Accessibility Advocates on the Tok) and then a family member mentioned it me.

The Roll Mobility App is an app aimed at giving people with mobility and accessibility issues the ability to review and share their experiences with different locations. Essentially crowd sourcing an accessibility map for users.

Originally launched last year with a focus on the Denver, Colorado area, it seems to have been picked up by a wider group and is continuing to gain users.


The WHO is looking for experts to join their "Technical Advisory Group on assistive technology"

The WHO has put the call out for experts to join the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on assistive technology.

Established in 2022, the TAG has the following functions:

  • To provide independent advice to WHO on methodologies and review of evidence for the development of APL and accompanying tools such as the APS and TAP to support its implementation; 
  • To provide recommendations to WHO on the use of the evidence in the aforementioned technical development; 
  • To review and make recommendations to WHO on the APL based on available evidence and further identify gaps where more research is needed; and
  • As appropriate, to review and make recommendations to WHO on technical products in development. 

They're looking for people with experience in implementing Assistive Technology programs, developing AT standards or has worked in the development of AT workforce capacity

Portsmouth City Council adopts wheelchair crossing app

Portsmouth City Council has started installing new crossing buttons that make crossing the road a more accessible task.

The new systems have been designed to be more accessible to people with disabilities. They are installed lower on the pole, allow users to wave their hands UNDER the box and are even blue tooth enabled, allowing users with an app to register a request to cross without even touching the system.

I'd be interested to know if any of this technology has made it to Australia.

Email: james AT angrybeanie DOT com



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