5 innovations that are helping people with disabilities


By: Gerri Miller

Israeli nonprofit’s programs benefit adults and children worldwide by simplifying everyday tasks

Beit Issie Shapiro is an Israeli nonprofit organization that is known for providing services and assistance to people who face difficulties due to disabilities. There are more than 1 billion people in the world who have some form of a disability, making Beit Issie’s programs critical around the world. From the Grapevine explains the need for these products and services.

1. Google/Sesame Enable touch-free smart phone

Sesame Enable will now be available for free to people who need it. (Photo: Basti Hansen)

Sesame Enable will now be available for free to people who need it. (Photo: Basti Hansen)

An app developed by Google and the Israeli company Sesame Enable has made hands-free technology available to smartphone users via the Sesame Phone, a device that turns on by voice-activated command. The phone’s camera tracks a user’s head movements and allows them to navigate the phone’s menu, use applications, make calls, text and play games. People in Israel can get the device for free via assistance from Beit Issie Shapiro’s Go Ahead program, which may also soon be duplicated in other countries.

2. Hydrotherapy services

Since its debut in 2010, the iPad has helped those with special needs. (Photo: Courtesy Beit Issie)

Since its debut in 2010, the iPad has helped those with special needs. (Photo: Courtesy Beit Issie)

The benefits of water for people with such disabilities as cerebral palsy, stroke damage, and motor and orthopedic impairments have been medically proven, which led Beit Issie Shapiro to open Israel’s first standalone hydrotherapy center in 1992. It now runs more than 120 hydrotherapy pools in Israel and trains hundreds of students in aquatic therapy around the world. In 2013, the Williams Island Therapeutic Swimming and Recreation Centre became the first facility to utilize iPads to communicate with cognitively disabled children in the water.

3. Special-needs dental services

Going to the dentist doesn't have to be a stressful experience for kids. (Photo: Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be a stressful experience for kids. (Photo: Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

Some people with disabilities like cerebral palsy don’t have the strength or skill to care for their teeth properly, and that neglect can lead to bigger problems. In 1989, Beit Issie Shapiro opened the Naomi and Shimon Ditkovsky Dental Clinic, Israel’s first non-hospital dental facility catering specifically to patients like these and children with developmental conditions like autism, for whom dental procedures may be particularly stressful. It introduced a form of therapy called Snoezelen that includes soothing music, soft lighting, pictures projected on the ceiling, bubble-filled tubes and a comforting weighted vest to “hug” the patient. It proved so effective in reducing anxiety and the overall experience that researchers at the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are conducting a pilot study of the method in the hopes of implementing the program here as well.

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