New D4D report provides hope for communication

The lives of people who find communication difficult are to be dramatically improved following a report published by Devices for Dignity (D4D), into Voice Output Communications Aids (VOCAs).

The free to access report, whose development was led by Barnsley Hospital and NHS Sheffield as part of a D4D consortium, is designed to improve the development of new technologies and stimulate further research in the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) field.

Simon Judge of Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Gillian Townend of NHS Sheffield authored the report which found that not being able to effectively communicate can be deeply frustrating and detrimental to people’s lives but that VOCAs provide them with a voice, improving their quality of life.

VOCAs are part of AAC – extra ways of helping people who find it difficult to communicate by speech or writing.

D4D felt that users had not been given a voice regarding the effectiveness of their devices and in response to the lack of previous research, D4D, a national Health Technology Cooperative, commissioned the two-year project to investigate user requirements, future improvements and areas for future research.

The report has already led to a number of companies speaking to D4D on how it can be implemented in their technologies.

Toby Churchill, a leading company in the AAC field, have already started using the report to shape their own product developments.

David Mason, MD of the company, said: “I found the D4D AAC report to be a comprehensive study that is valuable to Toby Churchill Ltd as we seek to develop and improve our products, and the whole user experience of our AAC devices. The report has encouraged us to seek to do further work with D4D, which we hope will commence soon.”

The report has also inspired D4D to engage users in the design process because the feedback given by users indentified a number of shortcomings of existing devices, such as slowed communication when using communication devices causing deep frustration.

User involvement will help to make the devices more reliable, durable, portable, and simple to use and encourage more successful use in a context that is wider than a single place such as at home or in school.

In order to assist the collection of data for the report, D4D – who are hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, also designed a decision support tool as part of the consideration, trials, selection, provision and review processes resulting in more informed choice and narrowing the gap between current tools available to AAC professionals to and potential users.

Devices for Dignity (D4D), hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is a Healthcare Technology Cooperative which drives forward innovative new products, processes and services to help people with debilitating conditions preserve their dignity and independence. It is a national resource.

The DALLAS programme delivering assisted living lifestyles at scale

The Technology Strategy Board is to invest up to £18 million over four years to show how new technologies and innovative services can help support independent living for older people and people living with long-term conditions, and improve their quality of life.

The DALLAS programme – Delivering Assisted Living Lifestyles at Scale – will establish up to 5 sites across the UK with a minimum of 10,000 users per site and will show how assisted living technologies and services can be used to promote well-being and provide top quality health and care, enabling people to live independently. The programme will also help to grow the sector in the UK and help British companies to take advantage of increasing global demand for assisted living.

Download the full press release here:

New Smart Underwear for incontinence pad users

We are looking for female volunteers over the age of 18 years, who wear a pad for urinary incontinence to test some new ‘Smart underwear’.

The underwear has been designed to help individuals manage their incontinence by alerting them if their pad has leaked.

Your participation would provide us with essential feedback on how the device worked for you and whether you found it helpful.

This research is being conducted by the BioMed centre at Southmead Hospital.

You will receive a £25 voucher as compensation for your time.

For further information, or to take part in the study, please contact: Maryann Slack (study nurse) at the BioMed Centre, Southmead Hospital, Bristol. On 0117 3235188 or

This research has been reviewed and given favourable opinion by Southmead Research Ethics Committee (reference number: 10/H0102/12

D4D project runner up in regional ICT awards

A D4D backed project has come runner up in the West Midlands ICT Awards 2010; ELAROS 24/7 is an electronic Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) assessment and remote observation service.

Wolverhampton-based Medical Devices Technology International Limited (MDTi Ltd) came runner up in the Best Knowledge Transfer category, alongside some truly inspiration technologies.

The project was developed through a core collaboration between MDTI, D4D, MidTECH NHS Innovation West Midlands Hub, Medipex Yorkshire and Humberside NHS Innovation Hub, RTC North NHS North Innovation Hub and Staffordshire University.

To read more about the awards click here (navigates away from this site).

From the lab to the living room

The FAST Parliamentary report on “Research and development work relating to assistive technology 2009-10” is now available on the Department of Health web-site for review. Click here to download a copy (pdf).

Read Prof Mark Hawley’s report on how D4D is contributing to this field on page 17 of the report.

D4D product launched!

The Dignity Bidet Commode, a D4D supported product – is set to provide dignity and assistance to users, after being recently released.

A self-controlled device – the Dignity Bidet Commode can wash and dry its user without the need for assistance – and offers a dignified alternative to the traditional product.

D4D helped the product’s inventor, Mr Andy Speechley, to develop his prototype with a team of design engineers at Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield. From there, the team at D4D assisted with ensuring safety and hygiene standards were met to the appropriate standard.

The Dignity Commode is being manufactured by commercial partner Gordon Ellis & Co and has received Regional Innovation Funding to aid its uptake by the NHS.

Dragons’ Den style workshop offers children independence and street cred

Children with disabilities and their carers have been given the opportunity to take part in a Dragons’ Den style workshop with leading designers at an event arranged by Devices for Dignity (D4D) Healthcare Technology Cooperative – which is hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The aim of the workshop, which was run in conjunction with Frazer-Nash Consultancy (Systems and Engineering Technology Consultancy), was to give children and carers the chance to talk about the problems that affect their daily lives and highlighting how these are not currently addressed by existing technologies.

Held in London, in conjunction with children’s charity Whizz-Kidz, four designs were presented to the group, with the aim of the choosing one overall concept that caters for all their needs and provides care, quality of life and independence for thousands of children across the UK, including children with severe disabilities and wider groups.

The overall aim of the project is to design a chair that allows children to confidently leave hospital environments and be able to get out and about safely, confidently and more independently.  Whilst the designs incorporate the most complex equipment needs such as catering for ventilators and oxygen cylinders, they also have a wider generic appeal as well.

Another feature of the designs was its ability to adapt with the changing size of a child; encompassing a range of frames and seat options that accommodate growing children.

Over the last year the team have worked closely with paediatric consultants from Great Ormond Street Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital, occupational therapists, engineers and clinical scientists to design a new transport system that caters for the children’s everyday needs.

D4D and Frazer-Nash Consultancy commissioned a series of on-line surveys, user and carer focus groups to find out exactly what it is needed and how this can be in incorporated into the new designs – these were hosted by Whizz-Kidz, providing a national platform for input.

Wheelchair user Leanna Horne said: “People don’t usually ask us what we want and need but by working together we can ensure children in the future get better wheelchairs than the ones I had when I was growing up. There isn’t a clinical need for wheelchairs to be fashionable but as you get older you want to make sure you fit into society and that your disability isn’t any more obvious than it needs to be.  If you have a slim line chair with character, it’s easier to get around and makes you feel more integrated into society.”

Parent, Helen Spear whose daughter Amber was at the event, commented: “One of the main problems we have is transporting our daughter’s powered wheelchair because it is so heavy.  It is 12 and half stone and it takes both me and my husband to lift it into the back of a car. This makes going on school trips or away with friends very difficult. Anything that can improve the lives of children and their carers is a positive move.”

The children and parents used images of key features to create a collage of their ideal wheelchairs, these and their feedback will be used alongside data from clinicians to produce a  final design scheme , anticipated to be in October 2010, with the view to start the development of the first prototypes in the autumn.

8 year old Amber  added: “I have millions of ideas, which are all important such as adding lights and reflectors and making wheelchairs more colourful. I hope that some of my ideas are used.”