Disabled entrepreneur creates ‘call for help’ app

Ahead of world health day celebrations (April 7th), north-west wheel chair user Rob Winstanley has used his own experience of emergencies to create and launch ICE Assist – a new smartphone app that offers users a fail proof way of calling for assistance – and all at the touch of a screen.

Rob, who is 23, was born with the condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which affects his bones and makes him highly susceptible to breaks. A fall from his wheelchair can have disastrous consequences but with ICE Assist he can quickly send a message to summon help and tell people exactly where he is.

ICE Assist takes the form of a big red button which fills the phone’s screen when the app is opened.  Pressing the button sends a message to selected contacts saying “HELP I’m in need of assistance”.  It also gives an address and map reference of where the message was sent from.  The app also features optional siren noise, flashing light and vibrate function.

Rob produced ICE Assist through his software development company, Smoke Stack Software, and has already had lots of positive feedback.  “Although I developed the app with vulnerable adults and children in mind, entire communities can actually use it to make them feel safer.  They know they can quickly call for help anytime any place, if they’ve have an accident or feel threatened or unsafe.”

It was actually Rob’s mum Jeanette who proved the most inspiration:  “It was in my mind to develop this app to provide me with added protection, and then my Mum suffered a mini stroke in a local supermarket.  Days later following another stoke, she was rushed to hospital, where for about six hours she couldn’t communicate with anyone and didn’t appear to recognise even her close family.

“This was very frightening for her, and while fortunately, on this occasion, there were people around in the supermarket to help her, I began to wonder what would have happened if she had have been on her own.  This made me determined to develop my idea for ICE Assist.”

Not only does Jeanette feel more confident with ICE Assist on her smart phone, she is more happy that Rob has it on his.  “Rob has never let anyone tell him he can’t do something.  When he was four, his doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to walk.  He took this as a challenge and told them he would walk by Christmas.  On Christmas Day he got out of his chair and walked across the room as he had promised he would.  He will not let his condition hold him back, and as a consequence rises to challenges which terrify me.  Naturally I am worried he will hurt himself, but equally I want him to push the boundaries of his life as far as he can.  The knowledge that he always has ICE Assist with him brings us all a lot reassurance and peace of mind.”

Rob is pleased his condition has inspired him to create something for the greater good:  “I have always been determined that my bone condition would not prevent me from living as full a life as possible.  I don’t want wrapping in cotton wool and value my independence.  However, I have always known that this could put me in danger if I suffered an accident whilst out by myself.  With ICE Assist on my phone I can easily contact someone, letting them know I need help and exactly where I am. And other people with similar conditions or otherwise, can utilise this now also.”

The ICE Assist app is available to download from the App Store. Click here for more information.

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