Assisting Change

Dr Marc Beale, from Assistive Control, tells us more about the life changing technology designed to help individuals struggling to communicate, either through disabilities or old age.

Many people cope with a disability on a daily basis, whether that has been caused by a degenerative condition, a stroke or an accident that has caused a brain injury or paralysis.

As a result of their condition or injury, lots of people lose the ability to communicate, which has a devastating impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones and carers. They often report feelings of isolation and their families are left helpless, unsure of the needs and wishes of those closest to them.

An online search reveals a number of technical solutions available to help someone with a disability to type and communicate, including speech output systems and various types of onscreen keyboards.

The team at Assistive Control work in the specialist field of Assistive Technology — a generic term for all technology developed or adapted for use by people with disabilities. One of the company directors, Dr Marc Beale, is an inventor and scientist, who, through the course of his work, has been able to assess hundreds of people with a broad range of disabilities.

Inspiration Typeassist was created after Dr Marc Beale witnessed an array of people

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with poor dexterity, as well as little strength in their arms and hands, struggling to cope with a communication aid that used a standard ‘Qwerty’ keyboard. This type of keyboard has a large number of small keys, making communication a very slow, frustrating and process.

The new Typeassist tool has been developed to allow the disabled and elderly to access IT quickly and easily, without the need for a long instruction manual. A specific requirement when creating the product was to make it a communication aid suitable for people who hadn’t used a computer before.

Simplicity is Key The system was developed with a new layout, to make it easy to use by people with a wide range of disabilities and to enable the user to make their selection without having to hit the keys accurately. An intelligent word prediction system was also required to ensure the user needed as few keystrokes as possible to type and get their message across. The most difficult task was to ensure the computer’s user interface was completely free of any irritating boxes, pop-ups or small icons that might cause confusion, frustration and mistakes.

The team has invented several text- based systems, but Typeassist is the first system that people can use to type and ‘speak out’ their message using 16 large onscreen keys.

Typeassist is particularly useful for the elderly or those who have never used computers or smart devices before as all the complexities of the system have been hidden from view — the only thing the users will see are the Typeassist keys.

The tool offers a completely new way to type and communicate, both quickly and comfortably. There are two versions available — the more straightforward Typeassist communication aid, and Typeassist + which offers a range of additional features, including editing, saving and customising features.

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