Transforming lives with technology

Pioneering technologies of the future, designed to transform the lives of older people and those living with a disability, were showcased in Sheffield last week at the UK’s leading assistive technology research conference.

Man with disabilities uses Assistive Technology (Photo credit: RPI)More than 100 leading health care professionals, academic researchers and businesses gathered at the Technology for Independence (T4I) Conference, hosted by the University of Sheffield, alongside people who will benefit from the futuristic innovations.

The day was filled with more than 20 talks from a wide range of world-leading experts across the assistive technology field. The event gave delegates the opportunity to explore the evolving and innovative ways that assistive technology can enhance independence and enable people to enjoy a better quality of life for longer.

Simon Fielden, Chair of the T4I board, said: “We are now living longer than ever before but we are not necessarily enjoying a good quality of life in our older years.

“With our life expectancy in the UK now over 80 years old and an ageing population, it is more important than ever that we focus on assistive technologies which can provide vital support and allow greater independence, especially for older people and those living with a disability.”

Professor Luc de Witte, a specialist in assistive and care technology from Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH) at the University of Sheffield, discussed ‘How can we bridge the gap between what is technically possible and what is practically available?’.

He highlighted the global problem that 90 per cent of the population do not have access to the Assistive Technology they need. The World Health Organisation GATE initiative estimates approximately one billion people need some form of Assistive Technology worldwide.

Visitors were given a unique glimpse into the future with demonstrations of revolutionary technology including: muscle switches which can detect small electrical signals produced by muscle activity and use these to control assistive technology devices such as communication aids; multi-functional doorbells which help disabled people to identify who is at the door, and online resources which can assist people with cognitive disabilities such as down syndrome or autism.

The University was specially selected to host the prestigious T4I conference due to the success of its pioneering CATCH.

The centre will also organise T4I2017 next year alongside the European mother conference AAATE2017 in September 2017.

CATCH is a multi-disciplinary research centre which brings together more than 70 leading academics from 17 different departments and five faculties to research, develop, evaluate and implement new technologies to help people to live well and age well.

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