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Last updateSun, 06 Nov 2016 10am

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Top Apps for Disabilities

Image result for appsLiving with a disability always poses many challenges, but in many ways, life has been made easier, or at least more practical, by technological advances and new  Apps, which have in many ways enabled us to rely on our tablets and smartphones in order to complete some of the most pressing tasks of the day. Many of us have these gadgets around us for most part of the day and don’t know what we would do without them, since they have become much more than a means of entertainment. Depending on your disability, Apps can be more or less useful, but we have compiled a list of just a few that may make your day a little easier, and at the very least, more entertaining.

  • Be My Eyes: This App was created as a non-profit startup by visually impaired craftsman, Hans Jorgen Wiberg (from Denmark), who wished to connect those who are blind, with a plethora of volunteers who are willing ‘to be their eyes’. The blind user and the volunteers are connected via video camera. The blind person can ask the volunteer for information such as the expiry date on food, or whether or not particular colours match! The App enables good-willed yet busy people to give even just one or two minutes of their time to help out those who cannot see. The App already has over 200,000 volunteers and close to 20,000 blind users. Why not sign up and begin to avail of useful connections with others?
  • RogerVoice: This App aims to facilitate phone conversations for the deaf. “Read what you cannot hear. Type what you cannot say,” says its motto. Just install the App and start calling. RogerVoice has advanced text-to-speech integration so you can type out a sentence and the App will speak for you. It also transforms voice into instant messages, so you can read anything you did not understand. The App recognises over 80 languages, so feel free to change the app language if you are speaking to someone in a foreign language.
  • Proloquo2Go: This award-winning App uses symbols to help individuals who cannot speak, such as children with autism or those who are non-verbal. It aims to increasing communication skills and helping develop language through research-based vocabularies. The App covers various levels of communication, catering for a wide range of cognitive, visual and fine motor skills. There are 23 different grid sizes and three vocabulary levels, so users can continue to advance as time goes by. The App is available for English and Spanish users. As you click on the images, a natural voice speaks out the word or message, and you can build new sentences, storing them for later use.
  • Visual Schedule Planner: This is a great way to remember all the things we have to get done in the course of a day. The app uses visual representations of events and helps users create an activity schedule or rely on video clips to help model the task that needs doing. Users can customise images and sound, as well as take notes about one’s day for future reference.
  • iReward: This is a special education app that made it to Parent Magazine’s selection of Beat Back-to-School Apps. It seeks to reward positive behaviour via star charts and has been found to work well with children with autism, developmental delays, anxiety, and ADHD. Give stars for chores well done or for good behaviour, and allow your child to reward themselves via smiley faces, checks, etc. The App also has a transition component that invites the child to complete the next task after they are done with their current task. The App helps children focus on the task at hand and gives them clear feedback which motivates them to stay productive throughout the day. It is a great App for all parents of little children, not just those with special needs.
  • Autism Speech Diego Says: This App has been used successfully with children with autism. It has one button that says “I want” and a host of visual representations of actions and things (for instance, food or toys). It helps children express what they want and encourages them to use their voice. Children love the app and many parents report that it has helped their children be more vocal and take on a more positive attitude to language.

Post written and submitted for publication by Anne Smith

Healthcare Access And Costs Abroad

Many disabled people miss out on holidays to places they’d otherwise love to go, because they’re worried that they would not get the healthcare they need there. Sadly, in some cases this is the truth. Health infrastructure issues, economic limitations, or the convoluted (and sometimes expensive) nature of the healthcare systems in some places means that those with serious conditions which may need medical treatment during the holiday would be better off picking a more medically congenial country. However, a disability need not be nearly so limiting as one may expect. Plenty of countries have agreeable deals with Ireland, allowing Irish citizens easy access to necessary healthcare. Read on to find out more.

Great Britain And Northern Ireland

Irish citizens travelling to Great Britain or Northern Ireland are entitled to free healthcare on the NHS. They have no need to obtain any kind of health insurance, but may need to show an identity card which proves that you are Irish.

EEA Nations

If you are travelling to a nation within the European Economic Area (including Iceland), you may well be entitled to free or greatly reduced healthcare. The precise nature of the healthcare you’ll be able to obtain varies greatly from nation to nation, of course, as does the price (or lack thereof). Nations like Germany and Denmark provide a high standard of easily accessible healthcare, while you may experience more issues in nations like Romania. The important thing to note for travel within the EEA is that in order to access the benefits of Ireland’s EU membership when it comes to healthcare, you will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). These are easily obtainable via the health service. The EHIC entitles you to reduced-price or free healthcare in participating European nations, but will not cover the costs of any emergency transport back to Ireland, should you so require it.

The USA And Canada

You’d be well advised to sort out some health insurance some time in advance of heading to the USA, as their privatized healthcare system can be prohibitively expensive. Sadly, this is especially true for foreigners and those who have long-term medical conditions. It’s not too hard to find some insurance to suit you, but do make sure that you do your research properly and find something which will cover you properly should you find yourself needing to make use of an American hospital. Canada, meanwhile, has a nationalized health service, which means that its healthcare is generally more accessible and affordable than that in the USA. However, the government of Canada does not extend free healthcare to foreign nationals who are not resident in Canada. Should you wish for healthcare in Canada, you are similarly advised to obtain health insurance before flying out. On the plus side, the standard of healthcare in both these nations is reasonably sound, meaning that you’ll probably be in safe hands should you find yourself in need of medical attention.


Australia has a Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement with Ireland, meaning that Irish citizens are entitled to subsidized (although not free) health services. It’s worth noting that not all services are covered under this agreement, so check before you go!

Elsewhere In The World

The quality, availability, and affordability of healthcare elsewhere in the world varies greatly. Some nations have deals with Ireland which allow Irish citizens more affordable healthcare, while others don’t. You can usually find out whether or not this is the case via a simple internet search.


If you must travel with medications, it is crucial that you check whether or not these are allowed in the nation to which you are heading, and whether or not you must declare them at customs. While most common medications can cross borders fairly easily, some are regarded as controlled substances or even drugs in certain nations. You could find yourself labelled a drug smuggler simply for attempting to preserve your health! So check before you go what the bigger picture is regarding any drugs you have to take with you. Your embassy will be able to help you with this, as will any good travel agent. Should you find that your medicine is banned or controlled - don't despair. Your doctor may be able to suggest a non-prohibited alternative

Post written and submitted for publication by Anne Smith


10 Things People With Disabilities Can Do Right Now To Be Happier

People have always been more interested in the secret to eternal life, not the secret to true happiness. That’s because people already think they know what would make them happy – a perfect body, perfect health, money, sex, adventure, fame, success; all the usual subjects. And people with disabilities often choose these usual subjects too.

But for people who’ve won the lottery and ended up with a crazy life a few years later know, getting what you want isn’t always the secret to happiness. Sometimes the secret isn’t something you can buy or achieve with good looks, but something from within that can change, helping you truly align yourself with the road to happiness.

Read on for 10 ways people with disabilities can start getting happier today.

1) No more regrets.

A lot of us have become disabled through an accident, accidents that in many cases could’ve been avoided. Living day in and day out with regret however over such big life moments is never a good thing because simply put – you can never go back and get a do-over, and there’s no use wasting time thinking about what can’t be undone.

Instead, coming to peace with how your injury occurred and not retaining any anger towards anyone who may have caused is the wise choice, even if it seems incredibly hard. Letting go of regrets can restore true happiness to your life and heal the soul in profound ways.

2) Be as independent as you can.

Relying on others may be unavoidable, but becoming too dependent, even letting yourself become a wee bit lazy and let others do things for you that you can, can siphon away your happiness very quick. Try everything, from making an entire recipe from start to end without asking for any help to getting your license. Always remember that doing things on your own can make you immensely happy.

3) Embrace your individuality.

When you’re disabled, it can be stressful, even downright embarrassing to always be the odd one out. “Fitting in,” after all, is a base human need. But looking at your uniqueness differently, and loving every bit of it (and really believing it) can make you blissfully happy.

I love that I’m not everyone else because it makes me more memorable. Life is too short to be vanilla; to be like everyone else and doing the same old thing. Disability can definitely make life harder, but it can also make you a unique survivor worth noticing.

4) Connect with your sexual self.

Denying your sexual self can be one of the worst things you can do if you have a disability. As human beings, having sexual experiences are key to keep our happiness levels afloat, but I know this can be hard for many. Finding a partner that can look past your disability is not always easy. And for many, this can leave us involuntarily celibate for years.

Try online dating if you haven’t yet, and if you’re still having no luck, masturbation can be great in the interim, especially if paired with quality pornography. No matter what though – do not forget your sexual self. Primp, shave, powder, or do whatever you do to get your “I am sexy” feeling on.

SEE ALSO: Why Do People With Disabilities Expect To Be Treated Differently When Facing Criminal Charges?

5) Make friends you can relate to.

We all need people in our lives we can relate to, someone who really knows our daily struggles because they live them too. High school girls like to hang with other high school girls for example, and I like to have at least one female friend who uses a wheelchair. Being able to vent with someone who really knows your struggles is better than any therapist session by far.

6) Only surround yourself with positive people.

While this isn’t possible every moment of the day, only surrounding yourself with people who support and genuinely like you is a big thing you can do in the way of finding true happiness. We are all guilty of staying friends with people who bring us down or are negative. It’s not easy cutting people out of your life, especially if you’re afraid of being lonely, but negative people can suck out your happiness worse than a hungry vampire.
Instead, find people who are happy for you when you succeed, who wish the best for you at all times, who are happy in their own lives too. You can never go wrong with your own personal cheer team.

7) Find a skill you’re really good at (and make money doing it).

Everyone needs to be good at something, to be known or notorious for a certain skill. Whether it’s poker, applying makeup, designing, writing, cooking or financial planning, the key is finding one thing you can do that makes you proud. And better than that (if possible), a skill that helps you make extra money. Being able to support yourself, or just being able to bring in some income by doing something you love is a true life pleasure. It’s also a great way to beef up your self-esteem, if needed.

8) Help others.

It can be too easy to get caught up in your life of limitations when you have a disability. Using your life to help others however, no longer focusing on what you need, can redirect your mental stream in a positive way. Volunteering, mentoring, helping at a kid’s with disabilities camp, visiting old people in a nursing home; doing anything outside of yourself can cause an explosion of happiness in your world.Being happy at all times may not be the true purpose of life, but wallowing in unhappiness certainly isn’t life’s purpose either. Before you give up on finding happiness entirely, try a few of the tips above. You’ll be surprised at what layers of happiness are yet to be uncovered.

9) Church/Live Music/

For people of faith, this is huge. With faith, and a dogma if you’re lucky, you can have a handbook to happiness all ready to go. Faith gives your life purpose and the answer to eternal life; both are true-blue happy inducers. If you’re willing, try reconnecting with your childhood faith or a faith you’ve always been interested in, and then see how it feels. It may give you more comfort than you’d think.

And for non-religious people, a great alternative is live music. The energy that emanates from a live performance can make you feel like you’ve had the most amazing sex of your life. The louder and more feverish the better. Whatever your music genre poison is, a monthly episode at the minimum of soaking in the presence of live music may be just the Prozac you were looking for. And remember – the smaller venues, the better (they typically let you get closer to the stage if you can’t walk).

10) Start exercising.

They say getting your body moving and blood circulating can get your endorphins flowing, those lovely happy-happy hormones, and they’re right. But when you have a disability getting in that exercise takes a bit more creativity and let’s face it – many of us get tired quicker. Using the Wii, arm weights, handcycling or even chair-aerobics can be great ways to get in a cardio workout, which if you want to really see if exercising works, you should be doing at least four times a week.

And whatever you do, don’t start doing an adapted sport just because your therapist recommends it. If you didn’t like basketball before your injury and now you use a wheelchair, chances are you still won’t like it. Find a physical activity you love doing, and you’re on your way to finding that happiness and clear of mind feeling you can only get from exercising.


Avoiding Depression - What Actually Works for Disabled People?

Depression is a far, far bigger problem than most people realise. Not only on a personal, but on a societal level. For individual sufferers, it is a life-altering and, in some cases, life-destroying condition which often renders people disabled in terms of their ability to carry out normal day to day living - despite seeming in full physical health. On a societal level, the rising levels of depression and the impact they’re having on society (economically, socially, and even politically) are ringing alarm bells in health authorities the world over.

Depression is an often devastating mood disorder. It’s likely that the depression of some sufferers may be influenced by their genetics, which render them more vulnerable than others to depressive episodes. For others, it may be brought on by a variety of factors, or attack apparently at random. If you are genetically predisposed towards depression - do not worry. This does not necessarily sentence you to a lifetime of recurring depression. The manifestation of a predisposition towards depression can be influenced by a number of lifestyle and health factors. While this by no means indicates that the development of depression is your ‘fault’ for not staving it off effectively enough (it’s an unpredictable and hard-hitting disease, and we live unpredictable lives!), if you know that you have a tendency towards depressive episodes, there may be some things you can do to limit them. Here are a few of the things that science says reduce your chances of developing depression:

Exercise - Particularly Outdoors

Exercise can help to fend off depression, and spending time outdoors can also help to fend off depression. Both appear to release mood-boosting chemicals within the brain, which have both a short and a long-term effect upon one’s depression risk. Spending time outside seems to aid our mental health in a variety of ways, for reasons which are not yet fully understood, but which are too clearly evident to ignore. The ‘greener’ and more ‘natural’ the outdoor location, the better. Sunshine on the skin infuses us with Vitamin D, and may aid in the production/release of mood-boosting hormone serotonin. Meanwhile, exercise improves both our physical and our mental health through a variety of mechanisms, including improving blood flow to the brain and the provocation of ‘natural highs’ via endorphins. Walking in particular is considered to be an excellent exercise by which to fend off depression. It often occurs outside - thus bestowing all of the outdoor mental health advantages - and appears to have a semi-meditative ‘rhythm’ to it which the human brain finds very useful indeed. It’s a kind of active meditation, which allows our brains the time and space to sort out and eliminate sources of psychological stress, while simultaneously providing great brain-boosting exercise.

Eat Right

We know, ‘exercise’ and ‘eat well’ are boring sets of advice which aren’t always practical. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the brain relies upon the body for everything, and your body relies upon the fuel it’s given. The better the fuel, the better the body operates. The brain needs nutrients as much as any other organ, and if it’s deprived of the correct nutrients, it won’t work as well as it should. An increasing body of evidence is linking depressive disorders to poor diets. Diets rich in green, leafy veg, wholegrains, fish oils, and fruits are likely to reduce the eater’s risk of developing depression, while unhealthier diets actively increase that risk.

Prioritise Time - Especially Time For Relaxation

Stress is a major, major factor in the development of many cases of depression. While stress has many causes, lots of people state time pressures as a prominent cause of stress. Piling more work and tasks into our days than we have time to deal with is not a healthy way to live our lives - we’re not designed to do more than a few hours of ‘work’ each day, and our brains can’t take that kind of stress. To prevent depression, prioritise spare time in which to relax and let stress levels lower naturally. For some, this may lead to making harsh choices between time and money. On the one hand, it’s nice to be comfortably off - but, if spending too much time earning is taking a toll on one’s mental health, it’s probably best to render oneself slightly more money-poor in favour of being time-rich.

Sleep Well

The human brain needs sleep in order to function properly. Sleep disturbances and a failure to get enough sleep are massive problems in the modern world. We no longer follow natural sleep cycles - we go to sleep and wake ourselves up at artificial times, and this results in a good deal of lost sleep and chronic waking exhaustion. Our lack of sleep - or lack of good sleep - also means that our brains do not get the opportunity to do the vital ‘cleaning out’ and ‘taking stock’ they need, which can in turn lead to problems like depression. To keep depression at bay, therefore, try to follow a natural sleeping pattern, and see a doctor if you’re having trouble with sleep.

Post written and submitted for publication by Anne Smith

Children with special needs much less likely to enjoy school

THOUSANDS of young children with special needs are much less likely to enjoy school than their classmates, a new report has found.

Primary pupils with learning difficulties, a physical disability, or conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are up to twice as likely to dislike school as other pupils.

Their more negative attitudes are linked both to poorer engagement with school and homework and their relationships with teachers and other children.

The divide shows up in a new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), using data from the Growing Up in Ireland study of 8,578 nine-year-olds.

According to teachers surveyed in the study, 14pc of the pupils had a special need, which, across the entire primary system, would represent about 80,000 children.

The ESRI research, the first of its kind, focused on pupils in mainstream schools, now attended by greater numbers of children with special needs as part of the moves to make education more inclusive.

But the study, by Selina McCoy and Joanne Banks, raises concerns about the integration of children with special needs and the barriers they may face, even with the supports that are provided in schools.

Overall, the research shows that children with and without special needs are broadly positive about school, but the findings highlight differences between the two groups.

According to the study, 7pc of nine-year-olds reported that they "never like school", compared with almost 12pc of children identified with some type of special need. Out of a total of about 80,000 primary pupils with special needs, it could mean about 10,000 are not happy at school.

Experiences varied depending on the type of need or disability, and a dislike of school was highest among those with learning difficulties (13pc), an emotional or behavioural disorder (14pc) and those with multiple needs (13pc).


The most disengaged are boys with special needs and children with special needs from semi-skilled and unskilled social class backgrounds. Researchers say the more negative attitudes are closely associated with low levels of academic engagement, in areas such as reading, maths and homework, and poorer relations with teachers and other pupils.

The study concludes that: "Inclusion cannot simply be a changed in location from special to mainstream schools, but something which involves a broader examination of the current curriculum, methods of teaching and school climate."

The Department of Education said the National Council for Special Education had recently commissioned research on the Growing Up in Ireland data with a view to providing a better understanding of how children with special educational needs are faring at school.

Irish Independent