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The Future of Accessibility:
Tackling the Challenges of Obesity Through Radical Technology

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“ With over 1.9 billion adults diagnosed, obesity has become one of the world’s greatest health concerns as it threatens to reduce life expectancy, according to reports from the World Health Organization. Over the past decade, adverse health issues that were once rarely diagnosed continue to rise in the number of adults with obesity. By 2020, it is predicted that over a third of the global population will be obese, and by 2050,obesity is expected to affect 50% of women and 60% of men. ”

Strategies to include healthier lifestyle changes, proper use of medication, and innovative surgical procedures have been explored as a means of better health and effective weight loss. However, the reality is that most of these changes are not a sustainable solution to the global epidemic.

The future of accessible technology is to help individuals with obesity improve their daily habits, offer both physical and mental support, and raise independence. As the accessible technology adoption continues to rise among this demographic, these radical technologies are tackling the challenges of obesity and mobility.

Staying Connected with Wearable Tech

Today, the rise of personal digital technology is mainly focused on the total management of health and well-being. With 70 million wearable fitness trackers sold in 2016, people are expected to purchase another 160 million by 2019.

While we still have a limited ability to build the connection between technology and personalized monitoring for medical uses, this will completely disappear as more companies continue to embrace the modern advancements.

Wearable sensors can monitor the user’s environment and movement. People can also wear their digital trackers on shoes, wrists, or hips. This will enable the device to track your physical activities, sleep quality, and movements. The sensors monitoring physical actions can tell how fast the patient’s heart rate is beating and can record blood pressure.

For example, the recent launches from Apple, Fitbit and Nike have released sports watches and shoes with sensors that allow you to see your body data directly on your smartwatch or iPad.

Smart Homes for Stable Environment

With the rise of smart kitchens and Wi-Fi appliances, manufacturers are continuing to look for new ways to use digital technologies and create more interactive and smarter household products.

The form of home automation focuses on making it possible for people with disabilities to live on their own.

Mobility-Friendly Stairlifts

To get by, individuals with obesity and limited mobility need to make major adjustments to their lifestyle. One of the main changes to consider is installing stair lifts for scooters and wheelchairs. If you have the resources and space for a vertical lift, a portable wheelchair lift requires no electrical power. It is manually elevated when the scooter is on the platform and wheeled away for storage.

This way, you can move from one floor to the next with ease. It is especially true when you consider the use of stairs by those with obesity-related conditions such as arthritis. What’s more, a stair lift means that users will not have to depend on family or friends to move about their home.

Motion-Sensitive Doorbells

Smart doorbells have a motion-sensor camera display that allow householders to answer the door remotely using their tablet or smartphone. Being able to see who is at the door without having to open it is a boon for anyone’s home security, but this is doubly so for those with limited mobility.

Better still, some doorbell products allow the user to have conversations with the caller directly from their smartphone – even if they are not at home.

Smart home locks

Smart locks are extremely useful for anyone with caregivers, friends, or family who visit on a regular basis. Not only will you be able to grant access to visitors without having to go to the door or hand out numerous duplicate keys, you can also set the times and days they have access.

Most individuals with mobility issues and obesity have a difficult time getting out of bed, bathing, and more. Through smart locks, people with disability will have more security and control on who can enter the home and when.

Smart homes are becoming a practical option for energy conservation and security that tailors towards users with obesity. Until now, research on smart home appliances has focused on gadgets that know what the owner is cooking, fridges that can monitor the quality of produce, and so on. Thus, we can expect to see digital technology and the World Wide Web become part of the everyday home environment.

Smart Technology in Everyday Objects

Assistive technology can be useful in everyday activities, in addition to medical use. Regardless of their capabilities, simple tools are now being converted into smart tools that contain features to help individuals with obesity and mobility issues.

Smart Speakers

The increasingly popular voice-activity home tech, such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, can help individuals with obesity and limited mobility to control smart lights and other household appliances. These voice-controlled speakers are ideal for any smart home setup as they act as virtual assistants with basic voice command.

Smart Power
OUTLETS

Most built-in wall sockets are low and are difficult to use for those with mobility challenges. In addition to voice-activated devices, smart power outlets will let you control any household appliance that plugs into a standardized wall socket.

Through your speaker or smartphone, you can set a scheduled timer for lamps, turn on your slow cooker, and change the temperature.

For example, users can change the television channel or create a shopping list. Those with obesity and other physical conditions that affect their hands and limbs can have the freedom to do many things – hands-free.

IoT for Better Patient Care

Until recently, the price of modern technology has demanded that personal gadgets such as smartphones and tablets combine as many functions as possible. The landscape is gradually evolving, however, and new technology is rapidly changing as devices with specified functions allow personal technologies to link together as needed. In the future, IoT devices might be used to help physicians and caregivers virtually monitor patients’ history, vitals, injuries, and even track their weight loss progress.

This digital revolution is proven to benefit Baby Boomers, who are facing increasing obesity levels and chronic conditions as they age. In fact, financial experts suggest that adults 65 and older are likely to spend over a third of their income on health care and maintenance. Thus, new assistive technology can help save both their lives and preserve financial independence.

Tech Applications in Public Spaces

Gone are the days of connective gadgets with extended cables and CDs to install applications. Now, plenty of assistive technology software is available for download as it can be used wherever, whenever. In 2016, 58% of smartphone users in America downloaded a health-related app. As mobile phone apps are more integrated with wearables, this helps users to perform useful tasks like activity trackers and transportation with a single device.

For instance, Google Maps has taken serious steps to address user accessibility in its app. Meanwhile other solutions like AccessMap are providing accessible routes for those with a physical disability. This technology will target users with mobility challenges who want to explore new environments.

Together, geological data along with crowdsourcing can help users explore wider pavements, quality ramps, and more. Not only will apps provide an interactive map to pinpoint locations with wheelchair accessibility, they will also help users know what to expect and plan their trip ahead.

Smart City Solutions

Smart cities, named for their technology and design for the betterment of the community, are gaining plenty of attention and funding from local government. Despite the idea of smart cities rising and urban areas embracing the use of technology to improve user experience, accessibility hasn’t always had the same attention. Accessible elements such as bike-share zones, crosswalk signals, and ramps work towards helping the city’s urban planning while understanding their citizens’ needs and habits.

While these elements have been around since the 1980s, the demand for smart services is expected to grow by 30% by the year 2025. For example, those with limited mobility often struggle with barriers of minimal space, no lifts, blocked ramps, automatic doors, and inaccessible restrooms. In fact, the world as we know it is changing to redress the current needs of pedestrians of all kinds – including their current accessibility.

Self-Driving Automobiles

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One in five American adults has a disability that prevents them from getting where they need to go. This includes those with physical mobility issues that require the use of a wheelchair. Autonomous vehicles are revolutionizing how those with mobility issues can get around their community and travel with ease. People who have trouble commuting or have physical difficulties that prevent them from driving safely often rely on the help of others to help them get around when necessary.

Simultaneous advances in artificial intelligence and self-driving cars can help those living with mobility issues and obesity to become more independent. In return, these technologies will provide practical assistance to match the user’s needs and abilities.

Self-Driving Automobiles

Like self-driving vehicles, autonomous shuttles can be another tech solution for accessible transportation. Riders with mobility issues can connect with the dispatch system and request a shuttle. Users can create profiles with information as to their disabilities and communication preferences, as well as frequent destinations. The system would dispatch the shuttle based on the equipment needed, such as having the extra room to move or a wheelchair ramp.

During the trip, riders can include any relevant information with the vehicle – such as details about detours or arrival time – by displaying text on a screen or voice-interaction. This would allow the rider and the shuttle service to communicate, regardless of what the limitations or abilities of the passenger might be.

Mobility Scooters

Walking may be a continuous challenge, especially for those with mobility issues. Commuting may be the central part of their daily lives - whether it is to work, running errands, or visiting family and friends. But without mobility assistance, difficulties in walking can result in isolation, anxiety, and depression. Thus, people with obesity often seek solutions from scooters as a means of getting around independently without the need for cars or shuttle services.

What Does the Future Hold for Accessible Technology?

As a growing number of health technology is designed with obesity and mobility in mind, this allows overweight individuals to form support groups, track their personal health goals and take control of their life. It also allows healthcare providers to interact with and monitor their patient’s progress online. In the end, such innovative technologies will entice people to embrace healthier choices inside and out of their home.