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Bristol Council uses app to support people with learning difficulties

21/06/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

Bristol City Council has reported positive results from the pilot of a smartphone app to support people with learning difficulties.

Fingers on smartphone

It has been running the trial of Brain-in-Hand over recent months and has indicated its satisfaction with the release of a video on how the app has been used by a young woman supported by its adult social care department.

Oliver Buell, project manager, change services for the council, told UKAuthority it is part of a wider programme of harnessing assistive technologies to support people with learning difficulties.

The Brain-in-Hand app enables users to enter details of their own coping strategies for stressful situations. It also has a ‘traffic light’ system of buttons that a user can press for support – red being the most urgent – when they are without their carers.

“It’s part of a year-long trial we’ve been doing,” he said. “The initial reason is that people can put in their own coping strategies, then when they get into difficulties they can look up what works for them and effectively follow advice they have given themselves.

“The other part that people find really helpful is the traffic light system. If people are felling nervous they can press the orange button, or if they are finding things too much go up a level to the red button that will put them through to someone who will help them.”

Wider roll out

He said the trial is due to finish during the summer and then be subject to evaluation with the prospect of a wider roll out.

“Things like apps are where we want to be in terms of tech, as most people already have a smartphone,” he said.

Bristol is also in the early stages of exploring how it can use virtual assistants and voice activated software, including Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa, to support people with learning disabilities and autism. The work is scheduled to begin around the end of August.

Buell said he is putting together an innovation group in the council to look at particular sets of people needing support, decide on the desired outcomes and go to the market looking for technology solutions to test.

“Until recently we’ve been using the more traditional types of assistive tech, such as pendants and fall detectors, but we’re trying to create a base to start using newer things coming on like the Brain-in-Hand app and others that we’re not aware of yet,” he said.

“We want people to be independent as it’s better for them and better for our budget.

“We want to increase the usage, so that where we find it’s working we can then roll it out to other people where appropriate.”

Image by Andri Koolme, CC BY 2.0 flickr

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