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Online communities for/interested in assistive technologies? - Carers UK Forum

Online communities for/interested in assistive technologies?

Share information, support and advice on all aspects of caring.
As someone whose caring responsibilities have recently undergone radical change, I've found myself having to adapt to circumstances and helping my grandparents and family to do the same. There are many problems and challenges, and quite a few of those are interesting to me from a design point of view, particularly where resources may be sparse or non-existent.

I expected there might be a few online communities for designers, 'makers', programmers or anybody else interested in producing their own solutions, but to my surprise there aren't. There are a handful for assistive technologies for learning and physical disabilities, but so far I've been unable to find any online communities anywhere (let alone the UK) interested in looking at elderly care problems and designing our own solutions for them.

Does anybody here know of any or is perhaps from a similar background and might be interested in collaborating on such a community? I probably have a broader definition of 'assistive technology', so I'm not just interested in the digital technologies that may be more complicated and difficult to put together; it could be simple adaptations hacked together to make life easier for a caree, developing a system or processes for how something is done, or putting together printed materials to help carees communicate and coordinate - at the moment, I'm putting together a printed visual aid for my nan so she can more easily explain where she is experiencing pain and what kind of pain it is, to reduce confusion and uncertainty about her discomfort and to improve her pain management. There are plenty of pain visual aids for children, but none for elderly adults!
Hi James
I know from an IOT course I did that some digital tech companies are looking into ideas, but from a profit point of view. I doubt they be sharing ideas with an online community
I like your idea of sharing ideas about low tech aids. Is there nothing under physiotherapy or occupational therapy headings? Is everyone really reinventing their own wheel each time?

I know when one of our poster broke her wrist that I did a search to see what might help and found very little

Maybe you have identified a need, and need to set up the community. You could see what happens to this thread or start one asking for ideas of what helps

I'm interested at least

There are certainly plenty of commercial, industrial and academic ventures happening in this area - which is great and I've absolutely no problem with that - but very little (from what I can find) outside of that, at a grassroots level. Even maker communities, which are quite well-supported and popular, don't have anything; just as surprising is the lack of interest in healthcare amongst the maker community, other than things like wearables. I'm a bit stumped as to why - I'd have thought it would have attracted lots of interest. There's no over-arching movement or discipline that people in this area can coalesce around, so yeh, those few people who are inventing wheels may also just be re-inventing them.

One of the themes in health and social care that repeatedly occurs to me is the sense of powerlessness and disorientation, for carer(s) and caree; that, as a consequence of a condition, care is something that's 'done to' you, rather than with you - despite the platitudes about it being 'patient focused' or 'client-orientated'. I can see how it can easily become an isolating, mystifying and passive experience - not least of all for the caree. Some of the things that have improved my grandparents' care and well-being are simple adaptations I've implemented through observing them and taking the time to think about the causes of some problems and negative experiences. They restore a little bit more agency to my grandparents and help us to help them.

There are lots of little things we can do right now to improve the well-being and care of others, without having to wait for someone to let us or eventually provide some equipment. Not everything, but some things; small things that can make a difference, especially for people like me who are new to caring.

I'm unsure about starting something myself, though. It's really difficult getting something new off the ground, especially without any useful experience to bring to organising it or attracting people to it, and doing it without resources, connections, support etc. Being located where I am makes it difficult to do things and meet with people who can help. The flip side to grassroots innovation once it's underway is that it's very flexible, almost anybody can be involved in it and the fundamental knowledge and skills for some of the technologies I'm interested in are readily available to apply with it. To get an idea of the kinds of approaches and tools I'm interested in using, have a look at these free resources:

https://www.plusacumen.org/courses/intr ... red-design - free course on the 'Human-Centred' approach to design
http://www.designkit.org/resources/1 - a 'field guide' for HCD, including tools and techniques
https://www.openideo.com/ - real-life examples of a collaborative process of addressing a design problem/opportunity
http://diytoolkit.org/ - a social innovation toolkit

If it turns out there are a few people who are interested, I'm happy to share ideas and talk more about the kinds of things we could look at or might want to set out to do. And if there are people from various disciplines that could share technical knowledge, or people who can make introductions, enquiries, promote the endeavour, that would certainly help to put it on a sustainable footing.
Hi James,
It sounds interesting. Could you give some more information on what kinds of adaptations you have made that have improved your grandparents' lives, so it is clearer how different this is from what is already on the market? I'm used to social services providing grab rails by the staircase, small wooden ramps so a wheelchair could navigate the garage, using sippy cups and so on. I've heard of a showroom for disability aids but it was too far away. So I tended to search the websites of companies selling aids (I am an ex-carer now).
Hi Greta - just wanted to acknowledge your comment. I did start drafting a reply and it turned into something longer than expected, and then the past couple of days ended up being very busy. Hopefully I'll get chance to post a proper response in the next few days.
Hi James,

No problem, no hurry. I just felt it would be easier to discuss if it was more specific.