Many technologies can be employed by the people, who the charities are supporting, themselves to solve some of the obstacles that they face in their everyday lives and charities are vital in increasing the awareness of these technologies and their benefits as well as rolling them out to those who will make use of them.
There is a growing awareness in technological circles of the concept of accessibility for example – making technology usable for those with disabilities – and as more and more websites, mobile phones and computers become usable by such groups these individuals are gaining a rich medium through which to access the world around them. Examples of accessible technologies include the use of screen readers with compatible websites to provide content to the visually impaired, large button/display mobile phones, intelligent zoom functions on any type of device and voice activated controls.
These technologies can allow individuals to communicate with friends and family where they may have struggled to in the past, become more self sufficient (e.g., maintaining jobs or simply doing their own online shopping) and reach the support they need more readily, whether it be their carer/charity worker contacts or valuable online support groups and communities which they can use to share and received advice and counsel.
Beyond accessibility there are many other uses for cutting edge technology in helping disadvantaged individuals improve their own quality of life, whether as a result charities finding ways to utilise the technology that the individual already owns or introducing new solutions that can also be of benefit. Accessible digital technology can be used for self monitoring (e.g., events, symptoms or medication) either in cloud based calendars or specially built applications, for accessing advice and support on tap (as above), for interactive, accessible, intuitive and engaging learning and education or for mobility. In particular the burgeoning smart mobile phone market with its internet capabilities (using WiFi, 3G and soon 4G), plethora of apps, built in cameras and video recorders and touch screens has delivered a pocket sized solution that combines so many of the latest technologies and makes them available in an accessible medium and free of location ties. In a format which can therefore be taken to those who most need it wherever they are.
More specific examples of how these possibilities have been realised to support those most in need include mobile apps which use in-built cameras to read QR (quick response) barcodes on packets of medication to take the user to a web page with all the information and guidelines that they require, and one touch mobile devices which can be used by victims of domestic abuse to alert the authorities when they are being abused and record the event as evidence (e.g., Vodafone’s TecSOS service).