New project aims to improve life for mobility-impaired people
By Carl Jackson
243 million people globally live with disabilities that require mobility aids such as walking sticks, walking frames, blind canes or wheelchairs to carry out everyday tasks.
One of the most significant challenges for this group is the ability to travel independently and safely with uneven surfaces carrying the risk of tripping and falling. This could soon be set to change, however, with an enterprising group of researchers tackling the problem head-on. Comprising members from Melbourne School of Engineering and Melbourne Business School, SenseSEE uses a novel sensor technology to help mobility-impaired people safely navigate their environment with a custom mobile app.
The SenseSEE app works by displaying uneven surface hazard locations within a 500 metre radius and alerting the user when they get within five metres of these. Users can also upload new hazard locations, allowing for up-to-the-minute crowdsourced data that better ensures the safety of others in the community. In this sense, the app not only helps individuals, but is also about drawing on others’ experiences to help make our urban environments more accessible for every member of the community.
The project team are pioneers in more ways than one – instead of relying solely on more traditional funding channels they’re taking part in the University of Melbourne’s first ever crowdfunding initiative, FUNDER@Melbourne. Sourcing donations from the community, they aim to raise A$15,000 over a one-month period.
Speaking about what personally excited her the most about this work, SenseSEE project leader Professor Elaine Wong stated: “We often talk about creating impact through our research, but this project truly delivers an immediate social impact that will fill an urgent gap in the current mobility and orientation space.”
This project truly delivers an immediate social impact that will fill an urgent gap in the current mobility and orientation space
Asked what made technology like SenseSEE so important for people reliant on mobility aids, Professor Wong highlighted how “uneven surfaces contribute to more than 90% of falls”, and that with SenseSEE’s hazard detection “users could avoid these hazards, thereby increasing their safety, giving them greater independence and reducing their reliance on carers.”
Contributions to SenseSEE’s crowdfunding efforts can be made until 7 October 2018. All donations made will be matched dollar for dollar by Melbourne School of Engineering until the target is reached.