On the 25th and 26th of April I went to the Naidex show for the first time, which was held in the Birmingham NEC. It’s Europe’s biggest event dedicated to disability and independent living, and is full of companies showcasing the latest technology, products and services they have to offer, along with seminars and panel discussions, a mobility test track, a sporting arena for people to try out different activities, a moving and handling lab offering training for healthcare professionals, and more. And it’s completely free to attend, which makes it very worthwhile going to check it all out.
I’d never heard of the event before, so I was very intrigued to see what it was all about. I became aware of it because I was one of various bloggers contacted by Cláudia from the Prysm Group marketing team. As well as telling me about the event, she asked if I wanted to be an ambassador for it – which basically involved me giving them a plug on my social media channels, and they would promote my blog in return. I was happy to do that, given my interest in the event, so that’s what we did. Hence you will have seen me mentioning them every so often over the past month, and they did indeed share the link to my blog on Facebook and Twitter a couple of times as well. I didn’t receive any payments or gifts for it, we were literally just exchanging posts to promote each other.
And the event itself was great, I really enjoyed exploring it over both days. So I want to give you a comprehensive review of the event, and tell you about the various companies, products and services that I became aware of. As a result, this is quite a long post, but it is divided into headings with a contents list if it’s helpful. So I hope you enjoy reading about it!
Note: Footage from the event can be seen in my April Favourites video. I also discussed my Naidex visit with Fern Lulham on AMI Audio‘s Kelly & Company show on 24 May 2018.
- Travelling To Birmingham
- Navigating The Show
- Companies, Products & Services
Before I start, please be aware that:
- I have not been asked, paid or gifted by Naidex, Prysm Group, or any other individuals or companies involved with the show, to do any blog posts or state any particular opinions. I paid for my own travel and expenses to go there, and I’m writing this post purely because I want to. So all opinions expressed are my own.
- Unless stated otherwise, I’ve never used the products or services mentioned in this post, and have no affiliation or connection with the companies involved. I’m simply mentioning them because they appear to be worth checking out. So please do your own research before using any of them.
- Naturally I couldn’t visit every exhibitor or go to every talk, so this is just a small selection of what was at the show. And as a visually impaired person, I generally focused on things that felt most relevant to me. So you won’t find discussions of wheelchairs here, for example, although one or two mobility related companies are mentioned because I happened to pick up literature about them.
Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get’s on with my review!
Travelling To Birmingham
My journey to Birmingham was nearly scuppered when I developed a bad cold in the days leading up to it, because I felt awful on the day before I was due to travel. I’ve definitely been more prone to colds since being in London, which probably isn’t surprising given how regularly I go out and about, amongst crowds of people on the streets, Tube trains and buses, and all the vehicle pollution. Compared to my old home in the Westcountry, there’s a lot more in the London air for my body to adjust to. This has been my second cold so far this year, and my third during the autumn/winter period as a whole, so hopefully this one is my last for a while!
Thankfully, although I still wasn’t perfectly well, I did feel able to travel to Birmingham on the Tuesday night, catching a fast train from London Euston to Birmingham International that only took 1 hour 10 minutes. It’s great that places like Birmingham are so easy for me to get to now, I should go there and explore it properly really. Same goes for other places that are a short train ride away from the capital, I want to try venturing out of the city more.
I used a mobile ticket purchased on the Trainline app to make the journey, instead of getting a paper ticket. And of course I used my Disabled Persons Railcard to get a third off the price. Having a mobile ticket basically means you activate your ticket in the app on the day of travel, which then gives you a square barcode – like a very complex QR code – to scan at the ticket gate by holding your phone’s screen over the reader. So that’s really useful. However, as it happened, I never actually got to use it.
On the outward journey from Euston, I asked the member of staff at the ticket gate where I needed to scan the barcode, as I couldn’t quite remember for sure having only done it once way back last year. And he just let me through the gate, as he could see the ticket on my screen and was happy to keep things simple for me. And at Birmingham International the gates were open for everybody to exit freely anyway. And then on the way back, the gates at Birmingham International were again open for anybody to walk through to the platforms, and the gates were open at Euston when I got off there. And nobody came round to check the tickets on the trains either. So I never got to use the mobile ticket as intended, but I do know they work.
The hardest part for me was finding my seat number, which is always difficult on Virgin Trains. The numbers are really small and difficult to see, so I have to lean over the seats to look at the tiny screens, which have poorly contrasted text above them. I can get on the right carriage, and at the right end of it – although even the signs on the outside of the trains aren’t as clear as they could be – but finding the seat number is more of a challenge. I do manage it, but it is awkward, and it does feel rude leaning over people to read things. So I do wish the numbers were bigger and more prominent. The train journeys were comfortable though, and there were no delays.
From Birmingham International station it was a very short walk to the Ibis Styles Birmingham NEC & Airport Hotel. Coming out of the downstairs part of the station, you turn right, exiting the station from the opposite end to the taxi rank. You then just follow the pavement around the back of the small car park, up a slope to the dual carriageway, turn right, and then a short way down the road is the hotel around the next corner.
The staff there were really friendly and welcoming, and when I said I was visually impaired they asked if I wanted a room on the ground floor to make things easier, whether I would need additional assistance in the event of an evacuation, and any other help I might need. As it happened, they didn’t have any rooms spare on the ground floor anyway, but then I didn’t need one either, so I wasn’t bothered about that. But it was lovely that they offered and checked. I actually ended up being on the third floor (right at the top), but the lift was easy enough to use, so that was fine. And it was good to know that they had made a note of my visual impairment in case an evacuation was ever necessary. Which thankfully it wasn’t, and it should never be required, but it’s better to be safe.
I was able to find the room quite easily, because the numbers on the doors were big and clear, having large white bold digits on a dark blue background, so the contrast was great for me. The keycard was a bit temperamental in the door though, it took a few tries to get it work sometimes. And the room itself was alright. It was nothing special, but it had a double bed, a sofa, a desk, a free bottle of water as well as the usual tea and coffee supplies, a TV (whose Freeview tuning clearly hadn’t been updated for a while, but there were still plenty of channels available), and a bathroom with a shower and no bath (so the shower actually had its own large, proper cubicle, which was great, as I prefer showers to baths).
The bed was reasonably comfortable to sleep in. I think Premier Inn’s beds are better on that score, but it was reasonable enough to get a good night’s sleep. And as the hotel name suggests, it is near the airport, as well as the dual carriageway, so you can hear noise from those areas nearby. But it’s not very loud, at least to me. I didn’t find it disruptive or noisy anyway, it was just atmospheric noise in the background really. But others may have different views of course.
The food in the hotel was delicious, and again the staff were really nice. For dinner on my first night I had the steak burger, which was topped with cheese and bacon, and came with chips and salad, and it was amazing, I loved it. And I had their hot breakfast, which is one of those buffet type affairs where you can pick what you want. So I asked the lady member of staff if she could help me, and she was only too happy to take me around and made sure I had everything I needed. So that made things really nice and easy first thing in the morning. And on my last day there, when I had to check out, I was able to leave my luggage with them until I’d finished at the event and was ready to catch my train home in the evening.
So I had a nice stay at the hotel for the 2 nights I was there. It’s not luxury, but it does the job nicely, and the staff were really kind and respectful of the fact that I was visually impaired. And there were no major problems on the train journeys.
Navigating The Show
To get to the show, I had to use the shuttle bus that departed regularly from Birmingham International station, although this proved tricky for me to find on the first day. Because I was entering the station on the ground floor, where the taxi rank and some bus stops are, I initially assumed the bus stop would be in that area, and spent a little while looking for it there. There might have been staff around to ask, but I didn’t spot them if there were. But then I looked at the directional signage boards hanging down from the ceiling using my monocular, and found one of the arrows was pointing to the NEC upstairs.
So I went upstairs, and it was then that I saw the entrance to the huge bridge, which is very clearly signposted, leading to the NEC. So from there, everything was easy. The bridge takes you across the railway, and there was a clear sign in the middle of the subsequent corridor pointing to the stairs and lift for the shuttle bus. So you then go downstairs, cross the road and walk down to the bus stop. It took about 20 minutes for the bus to come, and it was quite a big vehicle, with plenty of room for wheelchairs, including a ramp to let wheelchairs on and off. The journey to the venue took no more than 10 minutes. Coming back the other way was easy as well, as the bus picks you up from the drop off point.
Finding the show in the building was easy as well. I just followed the crowd around the large concourse to one of the many exhibition halls, passing places to eat and drink on the way. There were multiple shows going on in the building – and it transpired later that 2 of my work colleagues were at one of them – but the Naidex hall was very clearly signposted, so I spotted it easily.
The ticket had a barcode on it, which they scanned to verify it. And it was doubled-up, so they could fold it in half and then attach a bit of cord through the holes in the top, to hang it around my neck. That way, exhibitors could say hello to us by name, and the ticket also said if you were there as a consumer, exhibitor or whatever. You were also given a bag to collect all the literature and freebies in, and a free show guide as well. So entering the show was really quick and easy. I didn’t get there as soon as it opened, so I can imagine there would be a big queue to start with, but when I got there it was fine.
The hall was massive, with hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of people. It was laid out in a sort of grid formation, with nice wide aisles most of the time, and open seating areas at regular intervals too. The back wall of the room contained multiple counters to get food and drink, and lots of seating. The signage for that and the toilets was really big and clear, which was great, though the selection of sandwiches perhaps left a bit to be desired. I wasn’t a big fan of the BLT I had on the first day, but it filled a hole and kept me going. The next day I went to Subway in the concourse outside the hall, and that was better, especially as it’s been ages since I last had a Subway, so it was a nice treat!
The show guide was really useful for helping me to find my way around. In fact, rather than using the glossy paper version I’d been given, I used a copy I already had on my phone instead. They had a digital version of the guide on a site called Issuu (and indeed had posted preview guides for the show on that site too). So using the Issuu app, I was able to flick through the digital guide easily, and zoom in and out to read things. They also had a highlights guide on there as well, which was useful to read in advance.
Within the guide was a whole section giving you a brief paragraph of information about every exhibitor, in alphabetical order. So every so often, I would stop at a junction or seating area in amongst the stalls, standing out of people’s way of course, and use my monocular to see what was around me – because every stall had a banner above it with the name of the exhibitor. Then, if I wanted to know about any of the names, I would quickly look them up in the guide on my phone, so I knew if I fancied approaching them or not. It meant I could target the stalls I wanted, and avoid the ones I knew weren’t of interest.
The guide also contained a floor plan, which was really useful to keep track of where I was in the exhibition, and plan a route through it so I didn’t miss anything. In the paper magazine, this floor plan is designed to cover a 2-page spread, so you turn the magazine on its side to look at it vertically. This meant that the floor plan in the digital version was displayed on its side, and rotating the phone would initially cause it to rotate away from you. However, by locking the screen into portrait mode, I was able to turn my phone and read the plan easily without it rotating like that, so that was fine. The exhibitors weren’t named on the plan, because there simply wasn’t space, but all the stall numbers were on there. So by matching those with the numbers on the stalls I was next to, I was always able to keep track of where I was, as well as matching myself up with landmarks like the entrance and the food area. So I never got lost.
All in all, therefore, I found it nice and easy to get around the show, I had no problems there. So let’s get on to what I actually looked at.
There were over 200 talks, presentations and panel sessions at the event, taking place in lots of theatre spaces that had been set up throughout the hall. They generally lasted half an hour, with speakers often using Powerpoint slides on a screen next to the podium where they were talking (I used my monocular to look at these if I needed to). And they covered every topic relating to disability and independent living you could imagine.
It would have been easy to block out my entire schedule on both days just by going to various talks, but I had to be selective, to give myself lots of time to explore the rest of the show. I didn’t get to every talk I initially wanted to, but I did end up attending three of them.
Designing Homes With A Focus On Visual Impairment
This talk was given by Anava Baruch from Design For Independence. It was designed to raise awareness among people involved in the design and adaptation of homes, by showing them the variety of eye conditions that are out there, and discussing some of the elements that can be considered when designing homes e.g. good contrasting colours, even and consistent steps on staircases that don’t curve round corners, etc.
Her talk was great, and she made the point that it needn’t cost any more to build and adapt a home with the visually impaired in mind, if you design it thoughtfully. And she reminded the audience that we’re all going to be visually impaired one day, as a result of old age if nothing else. So “it’s not them and us, it’s all of us.” It benefits all of us to design things to be as accessible as possible, and that doesn’t just apply to houses.
Life-Changing Apps & Gadgets
This next talk was by Matt Harrison from Beacon Centre. Matt is visually impaired, and his charity supports visually impaired people, so the apps here were generally geared towards that, but many of them are useful for others too. The aim was to show people the kind of things that are out there for people with sight loss – not just for that type of audience, but also to inform those who work with and care for people like us, to raise awareness.
And I think it did open some people’s eyes, so to speak, to the tools that we have at our disposal. There are still plenty of people out there who are surprised that visually impaired and blind people can use phones, not realising that we have speech, magnification, colour adjustments and loads of other accessibility tools and special apps at our disposal. So awareness like this is still vital. Let’s face it, when staff at a popular website like Buzzfeed feel it’s ok to mock a blind man for using his phone, only removing the photo when people tell them why it’s so bad, you know there’s still much work to do.
Naturally, Matt spoke about many things I was personally already aware of, but there were a few I hadn’t known about or used, and it was all very interesting. During his talk he mentioned:
- Siri & Maps on the iPhone
- Train Times (better than the standard National Rail app apparently)
- Trainline (which I use for booking train tickets)
- NetNav (for public transport in the West Midlands)
- BlindSquare (I’ve never used this, but I spoke to one lady at the event who loves it, and it’s got really good reviews in the app store. So I’m tempted to give it a go soon.)
- Audible (great for audiobooks, I use this too)
- Seeing AI and Soundscape (Great free apps from Microsoft. Seeing AI is really useful for reading things, and Soundscape seems useful for navigation. I haven’t got around to trying Soundscape yet, but I do want to experiment with it.)
- Smart assistants like the Amazon Echo (which we have) and Google Home, including the way they can be connected to home automation devices like smart plugs and smart lighting.
- Gadgets like OrCam, SightPlus from Give Vision, and Iris Vision from Vision Aid which all help you to see the world around you in slightly different ways.
Government Approaches: Assistive Technology, Disability and Inclusion
This talk from the second day was by Sarah Newton, the Minister for Disabled People. And it was really popular, with a large crowd of people filling the concourse around the theatre to hear her, as she spoke about the importance of assistive technology and the government’s commitment to it, and promoted schemes like Disability Confident and Access To Work, the latter now including a new Tech Fund.
Disappointingly, however, she didn’t stick around for questions at the end, like most other speakers seemed to have done. She just thanked us all for listening and went. So I don’t think people were too happy about that. It is strange that the Minister for Disabled People should come to Europe’s biggest disability event and not talk to the people her work affects. A missed opportunity there, which made it feel like she was talking to us, not with us. Still, the Access To Work scheme is a great thing – it’s given me support in my job, and we also had a presentation about it at the Aniridia Network Conference last month.
In fact, the talk I had originally hoped to see at that time was by Paralympian Emma Wiggs, as it would have been fascinating to hear her story. But she had to cancel due to work commitments. Mind you though, when it comes to missing famous people, I discovered after the first day that actor Warwick Davis had also been there – not to speak, just as a visitor – and had taken photos with various people. So that was a shame, I’d have loved to meet him. Never mind.
Companies, Products & Services
I spoke to loads of exhibitors at the show, and picked up a ton of literature, so I’ll give as many shoutouts as I can here. It was really enjoyable and interesting to explore it all. And again, as I said earlier, I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these companies. I just think they’re worth mentioning based on what little I’ve seen and heard about them, so please do your own research as well if any interest you.
Magazines & Directories
First up are PosAbility Magazine, OT Magazine & OnTrack Magazine, all produced by 2A Publishing. I had the pleasure of meeting the editor Ros and her colleagues on both days of the event, and spent quite a while chatting to them!
PosAbility Magazine is a disability lifestyle magazine that has a myriad of articles on all sorts of things, and it’s really interesting to read through. The April/May issue I looked at includes articles about a disabled suffragette, the Commonwealth Games & Paralympics, 3D printed prosthetic hands, mouth and foot painters, Deaf Awareness Week, and World Down Syndrome Day (including wonderful lip sync video, with a song that was also used at my best friend’s wedding), among many other things. So I really enjoyed reading through it, there’s lots of interesting stuff in there and it’s easy to read. And, fun fact, they’ve also featured my friend Emily from Fashioneyesta in the past.
OnTrack Magazine is all about disability sports, so naturally also covers the Commonwealth and Paralympic Games. but also has articles about lots of other disability sports, and plenty of ways for you to get active and sporty. And according to their quiz, my Fitness Spirit Animal is a cross between a fish and a wolf, with a fair bit of sloth mixed in! Which sounds weird, but it actually seems quite fair judging by the descriptions of each, so I’m happy with that.
OT Magazine is less relevant to me because it contains news, articles, products etc for Occupational Therapy professionals, and the issue I picked up contains articles on healthcare technology for the elderly, body dysmorphia, homelessness amongst the young, and a whole section dedicated to paediatrics. And that also has a smaller, related publication called CPD Life, on Continuing Professional Development.
Able Magazine is a disability lifestyle magazine that’s been going for 24 years already. The March/April issue that I picked up includes articles about Commonwealth Games and Winter Paralympics, interviews with Amy from Wandering Everywhere, actress Lisa Hammond and MP Sarah Newton, and articles about fundraising with Newfoundland dogs, smart devices and home automation, spring activity ideas, hiring a personal assistant, buying a powered wheelchair, and lots more. So I really liked this magazine too, again because it has a great variety of content and is designed really well.
It’s also worth noting that the PosAbility and Able magazines both have motoring spin-offs, called Motoring With PosAbility and DriveAble respectively. Neither of them are relevant to me personally as I can’t drive, so I can’t really comment on them. But it’s great to see publications dedicated to the topic.
Disability Horizons is an online magazine with a variety of entertainment, advice and opinion articles, covering all sorts of topics, and where you can share your own views and stories. They also have a very welcoming online community where you can chat to other disabled people and get advice and support. They’re very keen to empower and inspire their followers, so they can achieve great things and not feel held back by their disabilities, and it was lovely to talk to the lady, possibly called Liz, at their stand during the show .
Ability Needs is a magazine containing articles and adverts about motoring and mobility, home adaptations, exhibitions and holidays. And the free issue they were giving out at the show includes a column by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson OBE. It didn’t interest me as much as the other magazines above to be honest, and it felt like the adverts were taking precedence given the way it’s designed, but that’s just how it came across to me.
Disability Today is a new online disability lifestyle directory, with links to all sorts of products, services, companies, websites, etc in loads of different categories, along with news articles and stories.
Disabled Go (2019 update – now known as AccessAble) is a website I’d already been aware of, but they are well worth mentioning. Their website contains accessibility guides for over 125,000 places in the UK, all of which have been visited and assessed in person by their team. And their massive database is growing all the time. So if you like going out and about and need access information, add them to your bookmarks.
The Disabled Persons Railcard didn’t have a stand at the show, but the information leaflet was included in the literature being given out. I already have one of these railcards, and I would hope all of my UK disabled followers do as well. It’s really useful, because it gives you and a companion a third off the cost of train travel. The card costs £20 a year, but if you use the trains a lot you’ll make that back several times over from all the savings. I think many people forget you can take a friend and they get the discount too, so it’s good to point that out. And even if you’re not disabled, there are loads of railcards out there, some of which you may not be aware of, so it’s worth checking to see if you’re eligible for any of them.
RADAR Key Company make official Radar keys that are used to access disabled toilets throughout the UK. And they’ve now produced a free website and app with comprehensive information about Changing Places Toilets, which was their big promotion at the event. They’re also working on a website and app to help you find over 10,000 accessible toilets, including those that don’t require a Radar key, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for that.
Me Included is a website where you can share your reviews of accessibility experiences, resulting in community feedback that will hopefully give pressure and inspiration to businesses to improve their facilities for disabled people.
Holidays For All is a group of companies who offer accessible holidays all over the world, including Access Travel, Calvert Trust, Maison des Landes Hotel in Jersey, Makin’ Tracks Ltd, Park House Hotel in Norfolk, and Revitalise Respite Holidays.
Native Hotels helps you to find accessible accommodation if you’re planning to go on holiday in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Morocco or Mexico. Facilities include braille and embossed signs, hearing loops, a wrist watch that can alert deaf customers to knocks at the door or emergencies like fires, spoken menus for blind people using QR codes, and even a wheelchair to ride a camel in the Moroccan desert apparently! And they claim their website is fully accessible, with no need to see the screen, touch the keyboard or talk to your device. I found it easy enough to browse by sight, but I can’t verify their other claims personally.
Sight Loss Support & Technology
Beacon Centre was the first stall I visited, where I spoke to Matt Harrison. And I really enjoyed hearing about everything they do to support visually impaired people in the West Midlands. They organise a wide variety of activities and events, help people to live independently and make the most of their remaining vision, demonstrate how to use assistive technology, provide personal care services and support people who want to get into work. They also have a 3D printing facility, where they can produce all sorts of customised items in clearly contrasting colours, and Matt showed me a few examples including a dice with tactile dots, an iPad stand, and a model of a shark! So I thought that was really cool.
EyeSynth was quite an interesting device that was demonstrated to me. They’re smartglasses for the blind that produce a 3D audio representation of the environment, transmitting it through bone conducting headphones, so your ears are kept clear. It generates sounds, a bit like white noise, to give you an indication of obstacles and moving objects in front of you, and the small demo the guy gave me seemed to prove that. The sound changed as he moved towards me and further, and moved his hand side to side across my face. It takes a little getting used to at first, sure, but it seemed pretty good, and it might be useful for some people.
OrCam now have the MyEye 2.0 model of their device. It’s a smart camera that clips on to any pair of glasses, and it’s much more compact than the original model. All you have to do is point to some text and it will speak it to you, whether it be a book, a newspaper, a menu, a sign, etc. And it can also recognise faces, products, money, etc. I had a little play with the original model at Sight Village once, and it seemed quite cool, and I’ve seen one or two bloggers online who say they love it.
Dräger Lienert is a German company that offers consultation and technology to help blind people in the workplace, including braille displays, CCTVs, screen readers, etc. Their ALT software is designed to work with all programs, screen readers, magnifiers, etc, and apparently takes care of navigating folders and websites, opening programs and files, searching for documents, common typing tasks, etc, by using accelerator shortcuts to speed up workflow tasks. They also promote the BlindSquare app, that assists with navigation both outdoors and indoors.
Riding For The Disabled Association train disabled people to take part in horse riding, including races and dressage. I remember doing a bit of horse riding myself when I was at school, and also donkey rides when I was a little kid, it was all good fun. And it was nice to talk to the lady here. It was really interesting to hear how they adapt things for people with visual impairments, having a guide on a horse in front of them for races, and special ways of marking the space for dressage. And the lady’s big trivia fact, if I remember it correctly, was that the horse riding team they trained is the only Great Britain Paralympic Team to be unbeaten in any sport, which is awesome.
Para Dance UK promotes and develops dancing as a sport and leisure activity for disabled people, offering taster sessions and instructional courses, running competitions, and training people to take part in international dance contests. I’ve never taken any dancing lessons, which is why I’m rubbish at it, but it is something I should try out at some point. I love music after all, so dancing would be fun too I’m sure.
Incidentally, there was also a sports arena in the show where you could try out different sports like Taekwondo, Goalball, Powerchair Football, etc. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to taking part in any of those, there just wasn’t time. But it looked pretty cool.
Blue Badge Company make all sorts of accessories and aids for the home and for travel, in stylish, creative, colourful designs. This includes radar keys, blue badge permit covers, walking stick holders, pill boxes, lap trays, tablet cushions, door stops, wash bags, hot water bottles, and so on. I had a nice chat to the lady at this stall, as she showed me a few of the items. They are also keen to give employment opportunities to those with limited work options, with over 40% of their staff being disabled or a primary care giver.
Cintique make chairs with beech show wood frames that look quite comfortable, with a spring system on some chairs to support the cushions, and headrests so you can lean right back in them. Not specifically for people with disabilities, they’re for anyone I think.
Design For Independence works for clients who have physical, cognitive and visual impairments, giving assessments and guidance on accessible accommodation and equipment. They can search for properties suitable for adaptation, design and adapt living spaces, assess and advise on specialist equipment needs, assess and advise on posture and seating, and so on.
Macro Level Smarthomes develop smart technology for the home to enhance people’s independence, customising it to their needs, and claiming it can learn to anticipate your needs before you’ve thought of them. For example, it can activate lighting and heating depending on where you are, have music follow you around the house, notify carers of unusual activity or lack of movement, switch off sockets when you go out, and activate lighting, sockets and curtains when you’re away to make it look like you’re at home. It can be configured on their customisable tablet interface or an app on your own device, and can be operated by voice commands. So it sounds cool.
Centrobed makes specialist beds and cots that increases independence and reduce hospital visits and costs. These include a standing bed that takes the patient from laying down to completely standing, a chair that converts into a bed, a leg lifter, a pillow lifter, a bandaging stool, and so on.
Aristocraft Kitchens & Bedrooms are a supplier of fitted kitchens and bathrooms, which can be customised to suit your desires and needs. They are very confident about their quality – if you can find the same design at a better quality and price, they will match the price and take a further £250 off. The designs in their catalogue do look nice.
CPR Global Technology make a variety of products to help with everyday life, particularly with vulnerable people in mind. They specialise in call blocking devices that look quite simple to use, and a call blocking app too. Plus they have a mobile phone and a phone watch, both of which allow vulnerable people to call loved ones instantly in an emergency, and be GPS tracked for safety.
iResTech makes the Iris Phone, which is a simplified smartphone for elderly users. There’s no need to use buttons or a touchscreen to do anything – the user just holds the phone over an image to trigger the function e.g. make and receive calls, enjoy entertainment, monitor their health and control smart home devices, while authorised family members, friends and carers can send content to the device and make changes via an app. The fact that it relies on pointing at an image won’t make it suitable for people with severe sight loss perhaps, but for vulnerable seniors who do have sight, this could be very useful.
The Data Guardians offer guidance and training to ensure organisations are able to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is the reason that companies have been sending emails out, for instance, asking if you’re still happy to receive information from them. They have to ensure they’ve got your consent under the new rules.
Simple Laces – The idea of having a shoelace that can be tied quickly and easily with just one hand sounds great, because they can be really fiddly sometimes, and my elderly mother in particular finds it hard. So this looked pretty cool, and the guy demonstrated it on my own shoes to show how easy they were. They’re just regular laces that can you thread into your shoes as normal – but one end of the lace has a Velcro-like strip on it. So all you do to fasten them, where you would normally tie them, is pull the lace back over itself, pulling it as tight as you need to, and press it on to that strip. You can then cut off the excess. It seemed to hold in place very firmly, and they claim it has a very strong grip. So I rather liked those.
Quick Shoelace – This company also does easy-fasten laces, but they do it a different way. You put a couple of metal tips into the opening lace holes, and then thread their shoelaces through the other holes, cutting it to the length you want. The laces are elasticated and come in a variety of colours. And the idea is that you pull the lace to tighten it and wrap it around the 2 metal tips, which you can do with just one hand. So it’s a little bit more fiddly to set up with those metal tips, but could still be very useful.
Relync manufactures mobility scooters, with a folding design and trolley mode for easy transportation. A smartphone can also be used to lock, unlock, locate and get diagnostics and status updates from the scooter.
McElmeel Mobility Services provide wheelchair accessible cars and minibuses, some of which were on display at the show, and they can do taxi conversions as well.
There was also a mobility test track at the event, where people could test out wheelchairs and powerchairs on a specially designed obstacle course.
Other Assistive Technology & Support
Support Dogs – Some people forget or don’t realise that Guide Dogs aren’t the only disability assistance dogs out there. And the work this charity does looks incredible, I enjoyed chatting to the lady at their stall. Seizure Alert Dogs are trained to help people with epilepsy, and can warn the owner of a seizure up to 50 minutes before it happens! Autism Assistance Dogs can give valuable companionship, improve the owner’s safety and behaviour, and reduce stress for children and their families. And people with physical disabilities can have their own pets trained to be Disability Assistance Dogs, depending on their needs, which may include dressing, using doors, pressing buttons, getting dressed, loading the washing machine, picking up objects and raising the alarm. So the work this charity does is vital for so many people.
British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) works on behalf of the users and supporters of assistive technology, with campaigns, lobbying, education, information sharing, advice, training, etc. The guy I spoke to also mentioned the ATEC Conference, which is dedicated to assistive technology and was taking place in London. It happened on Thursday 3rd May and I couldn’t go, but I’d never heard of it before, so it was interesting to made aware of it. Maybe something to look out for next year.
Implaser produce accessibility solutions for commercial buildings, including location maps, signage, evacuation plans, etc that are high contrast, tactile and include braille, along accessible lecterns for displaying information, tactile paving, photo-luminescent tactile floor tiles, anti-slip flooring, induction loops for the hard of hearing, folding evacuation chairs, and so on.
Microlink offer a Workplace Adjustment Service to enable and enhance the inclusion of disabled employees, providing assessment, consultation, assistive technology and training, helping both the employee and employer with the adjustment process from start to finish.
Rehadapt provides mounting assistive technology, that can be used to hold things in front of you, like smartphones, tablets and other communication devices, along with things like printouts and switches. So you can get mounts that attach to wheelchairs, rolling floorstands that can be positioned by a regular chair, table stands and light stands.
Told you there was a lot there, didn’t I!
That is just a small selection of everything that was being promoted at the event. I enjoyed looking around to see what I could find, and chatting to so many people, it was fascinating. It was easy to get around the show and find the things I wanted to focus on, so I felt very comfortable. In my opinion it’s well worth going along if you’re interested to see the latest developments in the world of disability. And that is genuinely just my opinion, nobody’s asked me to say that. I really did enjoy the event.
Thank you to Naidex for getting in touch and making me aware of the event in the first place. And I hope you all enjoyed reading this post and got something useful out of it!
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