Assistive Technology Week: BlueAssist and the simple things in life

Text by Eleanor Dewar

Before we begin I must make a confession - I love technology. I work as an educational technologist. I live on the Internet and technology helps me cope with 4 chronic illnesses. So it might come as a surprise to those who know me that this blog post is about simple assistive technology. Today, I want to talk about how the simple things make my life better. 

BlueAssist Light is that simple technology. This App is based of the BlueAssist symbol, and card system, that supports people with hidden and communication disabilities. It looks a bit like this:

There are two screens; one with a simple message asking for the person to call for support and a second screen where the message can be changed as often as you like. The call button connects to a number programmed into the phone that can be changed as many times as needed. 

“So how does this help me?” I hear you ask. Well I am, as my friends will attest, fairly chatty however when things start to go wrong, I lose my gift of the gab. Even if I can speak, it is likely to be disjointed and confused. The world becomes loud. Too loud. Painfully loud. I can hear every conversation. Sat here in a coffee shop just writing about it I am becoming painfully aware of the coffee maker, the cars going past, chairs scrapping the floor. The smells of the coffee shop become sharper, almost nauseating, and I am becoming increasingly aware of my heart racing and my breath getting more panicked. Thankfully I can focus on these words and bring myself back to some semblance of normality. However, when I can't ground myself and the shaking and the depersonalisation and panic reach a point where I can't cope, BlueAssist is there to save me.

Most of the time the message on the second screen of my BlueAssist Light is set to this:

“I don't feel very well, I am ok but need some help, could you help me find somewhere quiet?”

All I need to do is find a person to help and you'd be amazed at the response from staff at train stations, cafes, bookshops, places of learning (all the places this geeky academic hangs out really). It gives me the confidence to go out by myself, travel the world by myself, be an independent young woman, rather than have to rely on friends and family to be there every time I need to leave the house. 

I said I was going to talk about simple assistive technology and I don't think it comes more simple than BlueAssist Light. That said, for some one like me for whom just getting out of bed, let alone the front door, is a challenge in its own right, it is nothing short of a miracle for the confidence it gives me. In my mind sometimes the best things in life really are that simple.