NAIDEX is a two-day expo at Birmingham NEC showcasing innovative technologies to assist people with disabilities.
Every inch of the convention space was filled with a variety of products and services from motorized wheelchairs, adapted vehicles, one handed shoelaces, specialized beds, hoists and virtual reality headsets. It was a cave of technological wonder and amazed me even more how people can innovate products that do so much for people. Seminars ran throughout the day on various subjects. I attended a lot of the seminars but I'll summarise what I've learned on Day 1.
ACCESSIBILITY BOOSTS BRAND LOYALTY
Marianne Waites talk covered how disabilities are portrayed in marketing campaigns and if done the right way can boost an entire brand. Examples of successful campaigns featured Gillette Razors using a video of a Son talking about his Father in his youth and then showing him caring for him after suffering a stroke and how Gillette developed a razor designed for carer’s to use on loved ones. She also talked about marketing campaigns that were perceived negatively in the disabled community due to using disabilities to purely sell a product rather than explain the benefits the product had to people. Link to Video
INFORMATION UP FRONT IS HIGHLY REGARDED.
Speakers Caroline Wells and David Livermore covered similar topics in separate talks, but each had a vastly different approach to the subject of access to tourist sites.
Both speakers campaigned for more information to be available for visitors such as width of doors, distance to toilet facilities, loop systems and various other criteria. This was to enable tourists to be able to make an informed decision if a location was suitable to visit. They told about situations where a location had a ramp, but it was situated around the back of the building and the person had to go through the kitchens. They also warned that if the information was not available then people would assume that the place was not accessible and would go elsewhere.
The main difference from the two talks was Caroline put the emphasis on the location to provide the information. David worked with the locations to provide an independent guide to tourist locations.
3D PRINTING HAS PROGRESSED A LOT
I cannot say this strongly enough, innovative use of technology astounds me, inspires me and I want this to succeed in a big way. Samantha Payne from Open Bionics explained they were launching 3D printed multi-grip hands for the NHS. The design of the prosthetics was the most interesting part as instead of trying to be the most realistic designs they were inspired by sci-fi designs and looked very modern. Disney even gave away the rights to big movie licenses such as Iron Man, Frozen and the Last Jedi so that they could be used in the designs for children. Imagine the difference it makes being given Iron Man’s hand compared to a traditional prosthetic.
Sarah gladly talked about the delight they saw in the kids that have been testing the hands and where they have previously hidden a prosthetic from photos and strangers they now gladly show it off.
She also went into some of the issues they had managed to overcome such as creating airflows within the design so that it could be worn for longer periods. Using 3d Printing production techniques they were also able to do so at a much-reduced cost than traditional prosthetics.
All of the designs are Open Source so anyone with the right equipment can print a hand (with the only exception being the motors).
COLLABORATE OR TRADE SKILLS = SUCCESS.
Dom Smith is an unstoppable force of nature and provided the most unconventional talk I have ever attended. Plus, he gave out free t-shirts and I do love free t-shirts. Six people attended due to the timings of the talk but that made it all the more interesting.
He started by asking each audience member why they were attending and what skills they had. We had a wide range of people from Social Workers, Writers, Musicians, Car Designers and me (Software Tester) and I had never met these people before. By the end of the session I was giving advice to a Musician about open source assistive tech to help with dyslexia. The Social Worker was giving advice to the Car Designer about their personal experience of adapted seating and Dom was negotiating with the Writers on creating articles on Disabilities in the Arts. It demonstrated perfectly that by working together even if your skills at first seem vastly different can push projects forward. I also may have volunteered an hour or two or my spare time to look at a couple of blog websites.
I'll post Day 2 soon in where I will cover more talks and the most interesting technology I witnessed.