As the world becomes increasingly reliant on cutting-edge technology, debate continues to rage over whether the growth of smartphones and the unstoppable rise of the internet is always a positive thing. Nevertheless, there can be no denying that users of mobility scooters and others with physical or mental difficulties can benefit hugely from the range of intuitive, disability-focused mobile apps that have been developed and released over the last few years.
In this article, we will introduce you to five of the most sophisticated and popular accessibility apps currently available and explain why each would be well worth downloading.
Possibly the most successful specialist mobility app ever built, Wheelmap is a platform whose appeal is truly global. First released in 2010, available in over 20 languages and now featuring the details of around 600,000 public places across the world, Wheelmap continues to provide countless wheelchair and mobility scooter users with invaluable accessibility information when it is most needed.
The beauty of Wheelmap is that its ongoing usefulness and accuracy is entirely dependent on the contributions of those who use it. Much like Wikipedia, this app is a community-based project that anyone can add or submit corrections to, with the maps relying on the real experiences of people ‘on the ground’ to make them as comprehensive as possible.
Via a simple traffic light system, users can mark how wheelchair accessible a public building or point of interest is; places that have not yet been categorised are coloured grey. The accessibility information for all kinds of public spaces can be edited on Wheelmap, from public toilets and local authority offices to cafes and nightclubs, making the app a hugely useful tool for people with limited mobility across every aspect of their lives.
Much like Wheelmap, the WheelMate app is driven by the contributions of its users. Where this platform differs, however, is that it is solely focused on helping people with mobility difficulties locate accessible toilets and car parking spaces quickly and conveniently.
According to WheelMate, their app has so far been downloaded close to 17,000 times by users in 45 different countries. These users have uploaded information about 35,000 restrooms and parking spaces since the app’s launch, again demonstrating the amazing potential of free-to-use, community-powered tech projects.
Benefiting from a clean and simple interface that smartphone owners of all ages will be able to get to grips with easily, WheelMate also has a GPS feature which gives the user clear directions from their current location to the nearest accessible facility that they require. As is the case with Wheelmap, there is no need to register in order to download or edit the app, so you can be sure of accessing the information you need without any fuss or delay.
Red Panic Button
Whatever our level of mobility, and however keen we are to get out and about, our most important consideration should always be ensuring our personal safety. Fortunately, there is now a free app that offers a simple way of contacting all your friends and family if you ever get into any kind of distress, literally at the push of a button.
The Red Panic Button app is exactly what you would expect; an app which has just one basic but essential function, the button, when activated via your mobile device, will immediately send a text message and email notification to your chosen emergency contacts. As well as alerting those closest to you to the fact that that you need help, the messages they receive will also include your GPS coordinates, meaning you can be found even if you are unsure of your own location.
Hopefully, most people who download the Red Panic Button app will never need to use it. In a way, though, this is the whole point of the platform – knowing that they have this digital security blanket will give users the confidence and reassurance they need to go out and explore the world, regardless of how limited their mobility may be.
Changing Places Toilet Finder
Those with severe physical or learning difficulties and their carers will already know how difficult it can be finding suitable toilets when enjoying a day out. You may also be aware that an increasing number of the excellent and fully accessible facilities known as Changing Places are slowly but surely being installed in various public places across the UK and are going a long way towards improving this situation.
These advanced restroom units, which boast invaluable features such as extensive floor space, adult changing benches and hoists, can be a godsend for people with profound disabilities, and your nearest one can now be easily found by downloading the Changing Places Toilet Finder app.
As well as a map displaying your nearest units and additional information about how to access them, the app also lists many hundreds of toilets which offer enhanced facilities for disabled people but do not quite meet the official Changing Places standards (this is often due to unavoidable logistical issues such as not having enough floor space).
Finally, we will discuss an app that is a spin-off from a product specifically designed for people who have severe physical impairments which prevent them from using handheld devices like smartphones and laptops.
Tecla is a game-changing accessibility device that lets those with profound disabilities fully interact with the latest technology and the environment around them, giving them hands-free control of everything from smart TVs and thermostats to lighting and automatic page turners.
The app which accompanies the ground-breaking Tecla device allows users to access it remotely and includes additional useful features like calling, text messaging, emailing, Alexa compatibility, and volume control. The intuitive app is fully compatible with all standard assistive technology (such as sip-and-puff systems) and is also very intuitive, letting the user reach their favourite contacts and access their most-used programmes in seconds.