Hereward College aids transition to independence with robotic technology

hereward assistive tech

Jon McGeown drinking using the robotic arm

Hereward College, located in Tile Hill in Coventry, is a general Further Education college that provides support to a range of physical, sensory and emotional abilities. They’re moving ahead of the curve in assistive technologies, realising the potential of a robotic arm to enhance the mobility of those with limited upper body movement.

The assistive robotic arm, or JacoTM, used in conjunction with powered wheelchairs, aids those with impaired upper limb functions to independently accomplish everyday tasks. Overcoming obstacles that most people take for granted, from picking up a glass, reaching for the phone or completing household chores, all are initial steps towards the transition into independent living.

Hereward College and their ACCESS Research & Development Department work to seek out new technologies that can benefit their students’ lives and the larger community. New technology costs can be prohibitive for a college, but Hereward were supported with charitable funding from Npower and are now looking to offer their expertise to benefit more people with similar restrictions. With proven, real-life capabilities of the robotic arm, the innovative team have the skills to offer external consultation, installation and evaluation services.

The only one of its kind being utilised in the UK, the robotic arm at Hereward signifies a major step forward in making this ground-breaking technology accessible and affordable to the right people. Currently being utilised by ex-Hereward student Jon McGeown, the rewards have been significant. Spending some time with the arm both at home and socially he has worked to implement the arm into his daily life, but a more meaningful use perhaps was allowing him to raise a glass with his family to toast his grandfather’s health for the first time at his recent birthday celebrations.

Paul Doyle, Hereward’s ACCESS Centre Manager, sees the use of the robotic arm not just as a one-off installation, but the start of an on-going relationship; “Hereward is lucky enough to be able to utilise this technology to support our less able students.

We pride ourselves on the duty of care that we have to help students transition into independent living and this technology assists that. It’s not just about a piece of equipment that’s an assistive function, but about integrating its use into society. As Jon demonstrated, it’s not just about the practicalities of picking up a glass but being able to participate in a cultural tradition with family and friends, not just about picking up a phone but communicating with others on your terms – the benefits of this technology are boundless, so we have lots more to explore.

Robotics is starting to mainstream, but they will only start helping people when they’re truly cost effective, that’s why we still need additional funding, to provide more of these arms for students and the wider community.

That is what will bring the cost down and ultimately ensure we are using these technological advancements in a meaningful manner.”

For more information about assistive technologies at Hereward College please call024 7642 6100or email paul.doyle@hereward.ac.uk

Hereward Collegeis a general further education college located in Tile Hill Lane, Coventry, providing both day and residential places. The college welcomes all learners including those with diverse and complex support requirements. In addition to residential learners, day disabled and non-disabled learners also attend the college. www.hereward.ac.uk

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