Accessible IoT for Greater Independence and Mobility

January 23, 2020

IoT can provide convenience for many consumers. But for people with disabilities, IoT can mean the ability to care for themselves and live in independence. A digital home assistant means an improved way of life for those who struggle with everyday tasks such as turning on lights, locking doors or starting the oven. Below are other ways IoT is making life easier for those with disabilities.

Apps to Improve Independence

In the Netherlands, an app for the elderly and others with mobility challenges allows for more time to cross the street. The app works via GPS and software that interfaces with traffics lights and “tells” the light to remain green for a preselected amount of time. The user of the app can then cross the street safely and without worrying about the light changing too soon.

Microsoft released an app to help the visually impaired that describes surroundings to users. By tapping on or taking a picture, the app tells a user what the image entails. The app can help users identify a busy intersection, describe people around them and read signs or documents. For the visually impaired, this means a greater understanding and ability to interact with the world around them.

Mobile or computer apps, usually controlled through touch, are inaccessible for quadriplegics or those with limited limb function. Open Sesame interprets head movements to trigger commands, allowing those with paralysis to access standard apps. Through connected devices, users can perform tasks they couldn’t before, such as adjusting room temperature, answering the phone, playing games and sending messages. This greatly increases user independence.

IoT Wearables for Visual Assistance and More

For those visually and audibly impaired, the Dot Watch tells time through braille. The watch can be used as a stopwatch or timer and can also translate text messages, social media posts and map directions. The watch provides a silent and stylish interface for those with visual or hearing impairments.

A special glove is in development to allow people who are blind or deafblind to use smart phones and computers. The glove contains sensors and actuators that identify alphabetic hand movement as commands, allowing users access to digital applications. It also translates messages back to the user.

A number of smart glasses also exist that allow those with impaired vision to ‘see’ through magnified images, exaggerated light contrast and live assistants. These devices however are costly, limiting accessibly for those who may want the technology in order to navigate their surroundings independently. In the future, as technology continues to advance and prices fall, these devices may become more accessible.

Smart Cities

Smart cities can sometimes pose more hindrance than help to those with disabilities. However, the potential for improved accessibly is high and initiatives are in place to promote inclusion. For now, digital-accessibility map apps help those with disabilities identify accessible locations and navigate a city. In the future, a combined focus on IoT and disability awareness may see a rise in accessible smart cities around the world.