It was hugely enjoyable visiting the Naidex show at the NEC in Birmingham last week.
Subtitled “Innovations for the Future of Independent Living”, Naidex is, in its own words, “dedicated to the care, rehabilitation and lifestyle of people with a disability or impairment”. It is a complete cross section of exhibitors, speakers and panellists, ranging from charities, organisations, manufacturers, healthcare professionals, publishers and others.
Being heavily involved in transport and transportation systems, I am somewhat drawn to the elements that are related to accessibility in the built environment and public spaces, but Naidex is far more than that and it is hard not to be overawed by the scale, breadth and inventiveness behind some of the products and services on display!
Some of the things that particularly caught my attention included the following (and I acknowledge that some of these have been around – at least in principle – for a while, whereas others might be brand new):
- Loopwheels - wheelchair wheels that have their own suspension system built within the wheel itself, reducing the transmission of vibrations to the wheelchair user. This helps to reduce back pain and fatigue in addition to improving comfort
- Transreport - an app that enables passenger needs and issues to be communicated to train operators quickly and easily. It is fully inclusive and provides an impressive array of features that will help out in a variety of situations
- Bawa Cane - a sensor device that clips onto a white cane to improve obstacle detection and avoidance within a far greater volume than with a traditional white cane. It uses big data analytics and the internet of things and can also connect to a smart device to guide people safely
- Ezi-Sock - a tool that allows you to put on your socks without bending down – and by using only one hand
- Atto - a mobility scooter that can fold and fit into the overhead compartment on a plane. It can also then be separated into two parts for easier storage
- Silver Surfer - a digital radio that addresses the needs of older users and/or those with limited dexterity. It has a simplified layout, extra large buttons and display, a built-in temperature alert and a voice memo feature to provide personal alerts
The sheer ingenuity and cleverness behind these innovations is a lesson to anyone with any interest in this area. The exhibition has given me tremendous food for thought and ample material to ponder as to how the principles behind some of these inventions and adaptations could be applied to our transport system.
Of course, no gathering is purely about the material things and it was great to meet up with a few old friends and to make some new ones. Technology is a wonderful thing but nothing beats meeting people face-to-face.
Together with the infrastructure advances being exhibited the previous week at the TfL Access All Areas it has been an enjoyable and thought-provoking few days.