Innovation for Independence

‘Switched On’

Publish date:
16/01/2015 - 3:34pm
Last updated:
16/01/2015 - 3:34pm
Kate Spenceley

‘Switched On’ is a communication bracelet that is swiped over programmed RFID/NFC tags or stickers to activate a voice on a smart phone or similar device. This simple, easy to use audio technology is unique because it is not screen or symbol based. It will enable people with speech difficulties to interact directly with others, giving them greater independence in everyday life. It is innovative because it makes audio communication more accessible for people with speech difficulties by drawing together existing technology, smartphones and RFID/NFC tags with a physical bracelet and paper. Further, ‘Switched On’ was the winner of a designathon facilitated by Cornwall People First (a user-led charity for people with learning disabilities), which directly involved people with learning disabilities. Over 2 days, technology experts, professionals, carers and people with learning disabilities competed in mixed teams to design an innovation to help people with learning disabilities engage in everyday society. ‘Switched On’ arose from the needs of a team member who, like many people with learning disabilities, finds it difficult to communicate clearly and quickly with people. E.g., she likes to order her own drink at cafes, but is often not understood and comes back with the wrong one.

Insight & Impact

Our group includes two self-advocates with learning disabilities; two family carers, one from Partners in Policymaking Cornwall; speech and language specialist; technology expert; product designer; Cornwall People First. The combined knowledge and experience of these people enabled them to find the best solution to the problems experienced by one of the group members who has profound and multiple learning disabilities with speech difficulties. This person likes to do everyday things like ordering her own drink in a café. Not being able to these things leads to frustration, confusion, and a lack of confidence and independence. Our design, unlike other communication technology, is easy to use, portable, and not based on a screen/symbol system. Screen based products disconnect the user from everyday communication. Our bracelet idea means that the user can keep eye contact with whoever they’re interacting with. ‘Switched On’ will enable people to do things like shopping, ordering drinks, getting on public transport and in any communication with people in public situations. It could reduce confusion in communication and the time a carer spends with a person helping them access everyday life. It could increase independence, confidence, and access to life outside the home with or without a carer.