Smartphone Apps Change Lives for People With Disabilities

As people with disabilities assimilate into all aspects of everyday life, their needs and demands expand.

Oded Ben Dov — a tech guru who got his start programming video games — learned the struggle that people with disabilities face simply from doing his job. His journey commenced when developing a video game that, instead of being controlled by users’ hands, was controlled by their vision.

The day after the game went public, Ben Dov got a phone call from a man who told him: “I can’t move my hands or legs. Can you make me a smartphone I could use” After receiving this call, Ben Dov embarked upon a new passion. This call led him to found Sesame Enable, a company based in Israel that sells Android smartphones for people who can’t use their hands.

Users of Sesame Enable rave about the device and how it has empowered them, with one saying, “One of my biggest frustrations was my inability to use my phone independently. I longed to be able to send and receive text messages on my own and to make phone calls without asking for assistance. Sesame Enable has allowed me to do just this.”

Ben Dov’s advances have hit the start-up lottery with financing from technology titans, including Google. When asked about his initiative, Ben Dov explained that “For me, [Sesame Enable] was a calling to put my skills and knowledge to good use.”

After creating a device marketed specifically for people with disabilities, Ben Dov took his solution a step further and created a Sesame Enable app. Android N users can now purchase the app through the Google Play store and select settings through the app based on their specific needs. App features include face-tracking, point scanning and eye-tracking.

While physical care is always a top priority for people with disabilities, the problematic search for effective means to perform simple everyday tasks, such as communicating with others, is often a life-long struggle.

Creating the app has made “the Sesame phone exponentially more affordable and accessible to the millions of people around the world who are otherwise unable to use smartphones,” Ben Dov said. “Until now, users had to purchase a device that we pre-installed with our custom ROM. With the Android’s new API, our technology can be streamlined, and access to it is as simple as downloading an app.”

Others in the tech industry are discovering the demand for this technology as well, including Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a nonprofit that brings together technologists who want to solve problems for people with disabilities. One of TOM’s notable products is a special sensor device for people in wheelchairs who face the problem of “pressure sores.” The sensor device fits easily on a wheelchair seat and is connected to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. If the app notices that the pressure hasn’t changed in a certain period of time it will notify the user as a reminder to move.

Creator of this device Paul Herzlich, who himself uses a wheelchair, says, “It’s raising that awareness for the user because we’re often paying attention to other things throughout our day and don’t remember to move.”

Herzlich is hopeful that his device will be able to help hospital patients who suffer from pressure scores on a large scale.

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