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Innovations for independent living take a step forward

A Braille tablet computer, an online tool to seek out low-cost 3D-printed prosthetics and other projects to assist independent living were showcased earlier this month at the European Parliament.

The projects on display were part of an event in Brussels, ‘Accessible technology for independent living’, organised by the European Disability Forum and Google. Featured projects were supported by $20 million from the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities – a scheme funding non-profit ideas that utilise new technologies.
(Read more at the Google Impact Challenge website: http://eab.li/a .)

Projects on show included: BLITAB; Wheelmap; Wayfindr, and; My Human Kit.

BLITAB is a Braille tablet computer. It’s the first device of its kind, according to its developers, who have nicknamed it “the iPad for the blind”. BLITAB uses a liquid-based system to produce Braille graphics and maps that visually impaired users might not be able to access on a regular tablet device.
(Read more at the BLITAB site: http://bvi.blitab.com .)

Wheelmap is a global data map of accessible public locations, gathered through crowdsourcing. Accessibility information for over 630,000 places has been contributed so far, and the aim is to go beyond one million.
(Read more at the Wheelmap site: http://eab.li/e .)

Wheelmap was developed by Holger Dieterich, chairman of Sozialhelden, a German non-profit that tackles social problems. Dieterich, told e-Access Bulletin that Wheelmap’s data will be merged with other datasets from similar projects. “The goal is to define a common format so this information can be shared with other location-based services, so that more people can use it,” he said.

Wayfindr is a system designed to improve audio navigation on digital devices, for people with visual impairments. A trial took place in December 2015, with participants guiding themselves through Euston Tube Station in London via audio directions from a smartphone app.
(Read more at the Wayfindr site: http://eab.li/h .)

After receiving $1 million from the Google Impact Challenge, the team behind Wayfindr (developed by the Royal London Society for Blind People and digital product studio ustwo) are working on guidelines for others who are producing similar navigation services.

My Human Kit is an online platform that both develops and guides people towards low-cost, open source 3D-printed models for prosthetics. The project was founded by Nicolas Huchet, who wanted to provide an alternative to the expensive prosthetics he encountered after losing his hand in an accident.
(Read more at the My Human Kit site: http://eab.li/f .)

All of the projects on display at the event had significant potential to help individuals with disabilities live more independent lives. Encouragingly, project teams seemed keen to collaborate and share information with others, to achieve the big-picture goal of developing products and services that reach as many people as possible.

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