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Global programme seeks solutions to improve autonomy of persons with physical disabilities

enable makeathon logo

Make a global difference in the next generation of affordable assistive devices for persons with physical disabilities living in rural areas by participating in Enable Makeathon sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and partners.

This 60-day programme challenges teams to improve individual autonomy of persons with physical disabilities through nine challenges:

  • performing activities of daily living
  • mobility in and around the house
  • mobility within and beyond the community
  • accessing education and training
  • employability and self-employment
  • remote access to physical rehabilitation services
  • remote follow-up and users-to-service provider interactions
  • data collection to improve the quality of services
  • adaptation and use of new technologies.

Calling all creatives: product designers, engineers, and clinicians to an exciting opportunity to support people with disabilities through development of a product as a solution to one of these challenges. Applications are due by October 31, 2015.

enable makeathon pictures

This programme takes place between November 2015 and January 2016 with two parallel programs, an online track and an onsite track in Bangalore, India. During this time, teams from both tracks further develop their product, engage in seminars/webinars, receive feedback from mentors and people with disabilities on design, create prototype, network and develop world connections.

Products will be judged by panel of experts and the best three solutions will be awarded USD $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000.

For more information on the program, visit


Announcing Winners of Community Design Challenge 2014

DIT and Enable Ireland are delighted to announce the winners of this year’s Community Design Challenge

Overall Winner, “The easyscan”

Expert AT User: Anne & Colm

Team: Darragh, Eimear, Omar, Paul & Stephen

Description: The easyscan is a device that enables those who are visually impaired to do everyday activities that would otherwise be impossible. The user holds the scan button while moving the device over the text they wish to scan. The easyscan converts this text to audio and feeds it to the user via wireless earphones.

Overall Winner, “The easyscan”


Special Recognition Award for Affordable Design is, “The HoldEasy”

Expert AT User: Keith

Team: Andrew, Cian, Karl, Marta, Ronan & Sarah

Description: This team proposed two phone cover designs that incorporated different methods in increasing the access and utilisation of smart-phones by users with reduced mobility.

This year’s competition involved a total of 29 students (Product Designers from DIT, Bolton Street and Nursing students from Trinity College, Dublin) and 6 Expert AT Users. Students from Purdue University in Indiana joined as observers for the final which took place in Enable Ireland on May 23rd. Each design concept reflected a keen understanding of the challenges which the Expert AT Users described in their daily lives. All of this underscores the value of students and users collaborating to find solutions to real world problems. Leckey, the competition sponsors were struck by the value of this coloration and are fully supportive of this approach to design solutions.


Universal Design Grand Challenge 2014: DIT student sweeps the boards

DIT Product Design student, Christopher Wallace was the clear winner of the Centre of Excellence Universal Design Grand Challenge 2014, winning both the Judges’ and the People’s Choice awards for his tactile watch design: 20:20.

Christopher developed his concept of a tactile watch from discussions he had with an expert AT user who is vision impaired. Her reservations about the use of speaking watches  led to him developing the concept of a watch with tactile markers which could indicate the time and may be attractive not just to someone with a vision impairment but also to users who simply want to check the time surreptitiously (!). The judges noted that one of the key strengths of the 20:20 design concept was that Christopher had consulted in depth with a user, and understood the user’s needs.


See here for further details of both Christopher’s winning product concept, and of the runners up:

close up of man wearing an input device around his ear that he is pointing to with his index finger

The Human Body as Touchscreen Replacement

Summary: When you touch your own body, you feel exactly what you touch — better feedback than any external device. And you never forget to bring your body.

palm with dots representing various commands
Touching specific spots on your own hand enters the commands.

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen discusses the future of HCI (Human Computer Interaction) and Ubiquitous User Interfaces in the latest instalment of his blog, Alertbox. Specifically he looks at two concepts that use human body parts as user interfaces: Sean Gustafson‘s hand based interface (pictured) and the EarPut, ear based input system being developed by Roman Lissermann and colleagues from the Technical University of Darmstadt. One very interesting discovery that has been made through this work is that when blindfolded, users were almost twice as fast using the hand interface than they were using a regular glass touch screen. Read the full article here


Turn Obsolete Tech Into Fun Home Help

Architecture, interior design, and more ∨

Browse bedroom ideas, from loft beds to luxury beadspreads, and dream in style.
Find a shelf, customizable closet storage and stylish living room furniture to whip your closet into shape.

Accessible Music Festivals

Love music festivals, but hate inaccessibility of outdoor venues – have a look at an initiative by a young musician turned music festival promoter in the UK passionate about creating “wholly accessible” venues. 

Person in wheelchair held up high within a crowd of people
Accessible festivals

 When Paul Belk took a break after the first year of a music degree at Newcastle University in 2005 to go backpacking in Asia, he was a fit, athletic 20-year-old. His ambition was to be a drummer and he played in a number of bands in his hometown of South Shields in Tyneside. However, within weeks of arriving in Thailand, Belk was in hospital in a coma with a prognosis of a 2% chance of living. It transpired that his drink had been spiked in a bar and, after slipping into unconsciousness, his brain had been starved of oxygen. When Belk came out of the coma, while his cognitive functions were intact, he needed to use a wheelchair and moved into Chase Park rehabilitation centre, in Gateshead.
Belk says the festival is “for the whole community and it gives us an opportunity to increase wider understanding around accessibility issues”. He insists that the last thing he ever expected was to become a campaigner, but that finding a way to combine his love of music with accessibility has been “inspiring”. Belk committed to putting accessibility on the agenda, starting with making Chase Park the first music festival fully accessible to persons with a disability. Problems at most music festivals include accessibility to stage areas when, for example, poor weather creates muddy conditions that make it difficult to use a wheelchair. At Chase Park, Whickham, which held its inaugural free one-day festival August 2011, special raised track ways were used. This allows people to get to the stage area whatever the weather. In addition, there was a drop-off point that aids access to the stage and to specialised mobility equipment should it be needed.
By tapping into contacts he had in the music scene across the north-east of England, developing relationships with local charities, and forging links with groups campaigning for greater access to mainstream festivals, Belk found a vocation he could channel his energies into.
“There’s nothing else like this out there,” he says. Beyond Chase Park, Belk believes more could be done to make mainstream festivals accessible. He acknowledges that there is clear evidence of efforts being made by mainstream events organisers, including those that provide disabled campsites that have their own entrances. But, he says, it remains a challenge to introduce widespread changes at non-disabled events.
“A lot has been done already but there could be more; for example to help people with complex disabilities,” says Belk. “I’m hoping Chase Park will show them what the gold standard should be.”


Ok we have all heard of getting your 5-a-day, fruit and veg being an important part of a balanced diet, but a part of the orchestra?

Everyday market fruits and vegetables can be prepared to produce remarkable musical instruments – a carrot kazoo, a cauliflower conch, a squash udu all possible with a little preparation and a lot of vision. Here is one man who never listened when his Mother told him not to play with his food.

A program called ‘growing sound’ is being delivered in both primary and secondary schools in the UK. A cross curricular workshop exploring music, the physics of sound, plant biology, transforming vegetable to instrument and finally the performance of produced instrument. This can link in with many other aspects of curricular activity: vocational subjects, renewable sources of food, engineering etc.

But vegetable instrumental is not merely child’s play as we see the Vienna based vegetable orchestra ; celery guitar, cucumber phone, pumpkin triangle all sound like they could be instruments, but how are parsley, cabbage and a french bean played?

Have you bean inspired?

Music Technology

Music is something that we feel, the rhythm of the rain, the maternal heartbeat for a foetus in utero and the pulsating waves from a base drum to a person without the ability to hear. Music is experienced, therefore access to express these feelings should not be confined to a select few.

Over a series of postings i will take a look at some newer instruments which may enable budding musicians to find their groove and also highlight some of the existing accessible options. Please join in to create our universal orchestra -all together now!

black and white graphic of an orchestra conductor.


Me, Myself and I

Basically whatever you have use it, voice is one of the more widely used instruments but toe tapping, humming, clicking, clapping all adds to the orchestral piece.

One of the more creative examples of this is producing a sound by clapping both hands together so that the air is trapped between the palms, then squeezing the air out vibrating the skin of the palms, here is one such musician displaying his talent a so called manualist enjoy!

Click and play

bliptronic 5000. a square electronic instrument that is programed by pressing buttons on an 8 by 8 matrix
Bliptronic 5000

An evolution for the market of the more technical Matrix Synthesisers such as Bliptronic 5000 (image above) a software based musical sequencer by selecting squares to start and stop beat find out the basics and have a try on this website

Below is some inspiration to get you going..

could switch users take part, how about the deaf? Tell me how!

Ever heard of a Skoog?

man with glasses holding a scoog, a white cube with coloured convex buttons on each face.

Sounds like a range in Ikea, but it is actually a new exciting musical instrument and tool for inclusive education. The brainchild of Doctors David Skulina (Physics/Music) and Ben Schogler (Psychology/Music) developed in the University of Edinburgh, the Skoog boasts usability for those unable to play traditional instruments. It is a soft squeezable cube shape with 5 colourful buttons on sides (barring that on which it sits). Plugging straight into a USB port the Skoog adapts to the users movements tap, flick, touch, squash, press any of the surface area programmable with a choice of scale and notes, different instruments and even upload sample sounds yourself. With its versatility, sensitivity and innovative design features the Skoog sure does seem to tick all the boxes.

Skoogadellic baby yeh!!


hand holding black pacman looking instrument

Well who is this little cutey, 3 dimensional pac man and a vertical tail with attitude. Is it a toy or is it a musical instrument shaped like a quaver note lasting 1/8 of a bar? That is up to you, but what I can tell you it is the quirky invention of a Japanese art group Maywa Denki who engineer imaginative products and perform demonstrations. Little pac man himself has a face which will sing creating the vibrato effect by squeezing his cheeks, the tail which is both pitch and tone is controlled by sliding a finger along the either towards or away from base. Otamatone masters have further controls available on the back to refine performance ability, although many otamatonists prefer to freeform and release the musical beast within. 3AAA batteries are required and a high functioning ability of motor control in both hands is crucial to operate the product efficiently. With 5 colours to choose from black, white, yellow, pink and blue the otamatone can be used from experimentation right through to recital.

and now even an app..

New hardware and app combos that let you open your door from anywhere

Below are a number of new interesting products being developed at the moment that are due to be available by Summer 2013.  These are phone-based door products that enable you to use your phone much as you would a key.  You walk up to the door, with your phone instead of your key, then unlock the door with your phone.

UniKey Keyless Entry System

UniKey Keyless Entry System
UniKey Keyless Entry System







UniKey is a deadbolt that fits to your door.  It uses Bluetooth wireless technology to unlock the door. You just touch the UniKey deadbolt, and it unlocks if your phone is within a few feet of the lock.  Another  feature is that with the UniKey app you can send an electronic copy of the “key” for example, if you want to let a friend into your house while you’re away, you can send the key over the Internet, then the friend can use it to unlock your door. You can also revoke keys using the app and send keys that work only during certain hours of the day.

Agipy Lockitron Keyless Entry System

Agipy Lockitron Keyless Entry System
Agipy Lockitron Keyless Entry System







Another similar smart phone lock is the Lockitron. Rather than being a replacement deadbolt, the Lockitron fits over your existing deadbolt and turns it phyiscally when you send the command from your phone. You can also turn the lock by hand.  It connects through your home’s Wi-Fi network, which means you can unlock the door from anywhere in the world over the Internet.  It can also be set to unlock the door automatically as you approach by detecting the Bluetooth signal from your phone. You can also grant access to others by sending them permission over email. 

Edison Junior DoorBot Smart Doorbell

Edison Junior DoorBot Smart Doorbell
Edison Junior DoorBot Smart Doorbell







The DoorBot is a doorbell and a camera that installs next to your door. The way it works is that when visitors ring the doorbell, your phone alerts you and you can see who’s there, even when you’re not at home.  You can speak to them through your phone. The camera has infrared vision and so works during the night. The DoorBot is designed to work with the Lockitron, so not only can you see and speak with whoever’s at your door, but you can let the person in, too.

Is High Tech always the best solution?

Many of our everyday devices are moving towards platforms that offer great functionality with the ability to customize around our needs.  However high tech solutions can have a number of disadvantages.   One disadvantage is complexity which can be associated with frustration for new users.  Other disadvantages can be cost, battery life, and reliability.  For example for an individual who needs easier access to the opening and closing of windows there is the high tech solution of fitting an electric window opener and setting up a computer based controller (1) or alternatively there is low tech option such as manual window openers (2).  Although the manual opener may suit a user’s need to ventilate a room it has only one single purpose.

Computer based controller and an electric window opener
Computer based controller and electric window opener
Manual window openers
Manual window openers