DESIGN and technology students from Scottish universities and colleges will take up an unique challenge on Thursday [September 15th] – come up with solutions to some of the day-to-day problems that blind and partially-sighted people face.
The students are taking part in the two-day TechShare Europe conference being held in the Glasgow Science Centre.
Organised by the charity, RNIB, the event is bringing together such global players as Microsoft, Google and Apple to explore how new technology can transform the aids and adaptations that people with sight loss use for everyday living.
The students will form teams that will sit in on conference sessions and talk to blind and partially sighted people attending to hear what obstacles they face at home and outside.
They will then brainstorm ideas among themselves and pitch solutions to some of the problems identified at the end of the conference next day.
The student challenge is being organised by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, which helps students develop enterprise skills, discover their entrepreneurial talent and start up their own ventures.
Ann Davidson, SIE enterprise programme director, said: “We are very excited about this challenge, which will bring together students from a number of different disciplines. All of the teams will receive support from our business advisors and RNIB.
“The emphasis will be on technical solutions, not just apps. We expect to see innovations in areas like wearable technology, for example. We are giving the students space to be creative, to understand their customers, and come up with something that is really desirable.”
By the end of the conference, each team will be expected to produce a rough prototype that will have a life beyond the event with a clear idea of what problem it is solving and why it is worthy of further exploration and support.
“There will be a clear framework that we will guide them through to get them to that position and give them the motivation to take their idea forward,” said Ann.
“Innovation and industry experts will be on hand to mentor and coach them through the process.”
RNIB Scotland director, Campbell Chalmers, said modern technology has the potential to revolutionise the independence of people with low or no vision.
“We want to ensure that the Digital Age opens up the same exciting possibilities for visually impaired people as it does for the sighted population,” he said.
“That’s why this student challenge is very exciting.”
Around 188,000 people in Scotland are blind or have significant sight loss; around two million across the UK. At least 280 million people worldwide are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind.
Notes for editors:
1) The Scottish Institute for Enterprise is the national organisation for the promotion and support of enterprise and entrepreneurship in Scotland’s students. SIE works with Universities and Colleges to champion enterprise education and help their students start new innovative businesses. SIE provides free one-to-to advice, enterprise workshops and business competitions supported by a national team of student interns and business advisors. SIE is supported by the Scottish Founding Council and Scottish Enterprise and is part of the Scotland CAN DO framework.
2) Students taking part in the challenge organised by SIE are coming from the following institutions:
· Edinburgh College
· Edinburgh College of Art
· Edinburgh Napier University
· Glasgow Caledonian University
· Glasgow School of Art
· Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University
· Perth College UHI
· University of Aberdeen
· University of Edinburgh
· University of Glasgow
· University of Strathclyde
· University of the West of Scotland (UWS)
3) RNIB Scotland is the country’s leading sight loss charity. It helps blind and partially-sighted people of all ages to live as fully and independently as possible. RNIB Scotland provides advice, support, training, equipment and transcribe books and other materials, as well as campaigning to improve sight loss prevention.
4) For more information on Techshare Europe 2016: https://www.rnib.org.uk/techshare-europe-2016-accessible-technology-form
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Contact: Scott McKellar