What products do you think should be modified for disabled?
February 4, 2007 6:57 PM   Subscribe

What product or services (that haven't already been) should be modified for individuals with disabilities -- educational or augmentative toys, games?

This is a practical question I'm beginning to research for a client. The client is a large non-profit organization that is interested in 'investing' charitable dollars to re-market, or possibly modify and market existing product and services for individuals with disabilities. These may include anything from Web services to software applications to toys to gadgets to games, etc. The 'target market' can include anyone on the disability spectrum, meaning anyone from children with physical, psychiatric/neuro, and developmental all the way through to frail elderly adults, and everyone in between. Examples include: kids/adults with autism, kids/adults with mobility problems, credebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, kids/adults with emotional and psychiatric issues, individuals with vision and hearing problems, memory impairment, etc. etc. etc.

My client is ideally looking for 'opportunities' to serve an underserved niche -- where there is a need, but perhaps not a huge commercial opportunity that would attract a sizable company to address the need. They're interested in providing seed funds for development/modification of new or existing products, with the expectation that the product/service will find a market large enough to perpetuate the business.

The organization is particularly interested in opportunities that do not require starting from scratch, but rather working with existing product/service providers to make necessary modifications for disabled populations. Education games and toys that fit this niche are of particular interest.
posted by pallen123 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Improvements to TV closed captioning. Though not currently disabled, I sometimes watch my TV muted, which causes closed captioning to kick in, and I have observed that its quality is often quite poor. Even scripted shows often have lots of typos, omitted words, and so forth, and live shows are often hopelessly mangled. It must be possible for this to be done well, perhaps by providing scripts, better training, etc.
posted by bac at 8:49 PM on February 4, 2007

In my experience with the elderly a frequent cause of trouble is reduced hand strength causing difficulty with everyday tasks, especially in the kitchen. Some conveniences that are made for younger people, like adding pull tops to soup and pet food cans, make it very hard for the elderly or people who have weak hands for other reasons because they can't use an electric can opener anymore on these cans. A lot of packaging (like that plastic stuff that hangs on a hook at the store) is very hard to open. Strong people fight to open it with scissors/knife, it's hopeless for someone less strong. Tools to help people deal with these strength problems would be a good area for examination.
posted by putril at 9:21 PM on February 4, 2007

CC is pretty much stuck where it is because it's a standard that's everywhere - it'd be hard to change. (Not that I would discourage anyone who wanted to try - change would be very welcome.)

I vote for better electric wheelchairs - more robust and reliable, and able to deal with more varied terrain (small amounts of snow, maybe curbs).
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:23 PM on February 4, 2007

Ben Heckendorn is a hardware hacker who generally builds things like Wii laptops and handheld NES systems, but he recently has started building one-handed Xbox 360 controllers (reportedly for servicemembers injured in Iraq). He has been refining the design, but has stated that he cannot keep up with the massive demand he is seeing for them.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:46 PM on February 4, 2007

bac: Good quality closed captioning does exist, it's just more expensive, and most networks aren't willing to pay. I have a friend who works for one of the gourmet editing firms, they pride themselves on accurate spelling and grammar and have high standards for their employees. Watch Battlestar Galactica on the Sci Fi channel sometime. My friend's company does their stuff.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:58 PM on February 4, 2007

Might not be what you're looking for, but Come As You Are in Toronto modifies sex toys for disabled people.

I think this is probably a question that requires a more specialized audience. Have you thought about posting this on something like the BBC's Ouch message board?
posted by craichead at 10:03 PM on February 4, 2007

Perhaps you know about this already, but CSUN is the annual conference about disability technology. I've never attended but apparently all of the latest and greatest prototypes are exhibited there -- you might check out their website.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:00 PM on February 4, 2007

the best computer aid that i know of for severely disabled people is the magic wand keyboard...
your client could help distribute these to people who can't operate regular keyboards and mice.
posted by bruce at 11:44 PM on February 4, 2007

For the younger set, contact Early Intervention programs (such as REACH in Massachusetts). These programs are designed to provide services for children under three years of age who have disabilities.

Early Intervention is provided by the state up until the child is eligible for pre-school, and there's a terrific reason: the more progress that is made in those first three years, the more likely the child grow up to be independent and self-sufficient.

As a parent who worked with REACH, I can tell you right now that a lot of the toys, eating utensils, furniture, and clothing are unsuitable. Very often the various therapists have a collection of tools and toys that are very often not made anymore or are on the thin line of "safe" because they meet a particular goal better than what they can get now. The people I worked with are big fans of adapting and leveraged my and my wife's ability to make/hack things to better suit the needs of our child (we made peg toys, blocks that fit my child's hand, a scooter, elastic banding to hold her hips in, a small lap desk, a kneeling height chalk board - the list is huge).

And this is where I think you will find your greatest challenge for this group: things need to be adapted as the need for them arises and often the adaptation has to be custom. So basically, you need a custom adaptation in the span of a week or two and you might need a few iterations on the design to make it work right.
posted by plinth at 6:54 AM on February 5, 2007

Thank you very much. These are all very helpful ideas. Additional thoughts are greatly appreciated!
posted by pallen123 at 10:03 AM on February 5, 2007

I asked this question a while ago about technology for people with MS, and was surprised at how few answers I got. I'm not familiar with the issues -- I was asking for a friend of a friend -- but it seems there's a need there.
posted by occhiblu at 11:08 AM on February 5, 2007

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