This week it’s Acquired Brain Injury week and it’s seen UK charity Headway release some statistics from their recent study as part of their ‘Brain Drain- Wake Up to Fatigue’ campaign.
Their surveys found that a whopping 90% of people living with acquired brain injury are negatively affected by ‘pathological fatigue’, with 80% saying their lives would be improved if people had a better understanding.
At Access Technology North, we regularly work with clients who live with an acquired brain injury. Many of our clients have a visible physical disability as a result of their ABI. For these guys, assistive technology has a huge impact by enabling independence, making practical tasks accessible and sometimes the impossible possible. Whilst we always consider optimal access methods for these clients, fatigue is not something that only affects those living with the physical effects of an ABI.
Injury? Disability? Learning difficulty? or not? Assistive technology has the power to support everyone.
We’re all about empowering individuals through technology and when it comes to fatigue there are a couple of ways we can offer help. The first is offering some tech solutions which may make daily life a little easier and less tiring, the second is to consider how we set up and use our tech to ensure efficiency and reduce the chances of eye strain and fatigue.
How can assistive technology help?
When it comes to reducing mental and physical load, outsourcing to a tech solution can be extremely useful. You could try freeing up headspace and conserving energy by using:
Google calendars and setting up reminders. This is useful not just in terms of calendar events but also managing daily routines.
- Try setting aside times and reminders for movement breaks & naps.
- Write reminders for things you may need to remember to take or to do in advance of specific events.
- Organise and schedule your life in to more manageable chunks, if you know a daily living task or a piece of work is going to be particularly effortful, break it down into its component parts and use your calendar to set up reminders and set aside time to complete them with plenty of time to spare. It’s remarkable the impact that outsourcing the things you need to remember and banishing the fear you might forget something can have on reducing mental fatigue.
SmartSpeakers. The Amazon Echo and Google Home need a blog post dedicated to themselves to be honest. The functionality of these devices is beyond incredible. Whether you want to set an alarm to allow you a 20 minute cat nap in the day, check and add something to your calendar, call people, add something to your shopping list, play some relaxing music to help you wind down at the end of the day or turn off your lights… there’s not an awful lot that these devices won’t allow you to do from the comfort of your bed! With new functionality being added every day, they’re definitely an addition to your home worth considering.
Mind Mapping and list apps. Again, reduce the effort involved in holding and organising ideas and tasks in your head by outsourcing to an app. Whether it’s writing a shopping list, a daily task or routines list that you can tick off as you go or organising your thoughts for an email, phonecall or written report, apps like 'Xmind’, ’iThoughts’ and 'Wunderlist' allow you to get all your thoughts out and are useful not just as a reminder but also by allowing you the time to edit, manipulate and organise your thoughts whenever you like.
Meditation and Mindfulness apps. Whether you’re an iOS or an Android user, there are several mindfulness and meditation apps out there, with many such as 'Headspace' 'Calm' and 'Aura' offering free versions. The idea behind these apps is to allow you the opportunity to tune into your body’s thoughts and emotions, not only helping you become more aware of the signs of stress but giving you the opportunity to deal with them.
Home Automation. Whether it’s utilising simple solutions like timer plug sockets that turn your lights on in the evening and off in the morning or an automated hoover through to more complex devices and set ups which automate more complicated and nuanced daily living routines, finding ways to automate your home can certainly help you make steps towards making life a little less physically taxing.
How to reduce fatigue when using technology:
So, you’ve got the devices, you’ve got the apps that are all designed to help make your life a little easier, but how can you make sure that using them isn’t adding to your fatigue?
Use screen readers. If reading from a screen proves particularly difficult, software which reads from the screen for you can make life a lot easier. Mac devices come with 'Voiceover' and Windows with 'Narrator' or similarly there are software solutions like Jaws or NVDA (free!) available which do the job too. Headphones for use in the office or at school are advisable!
Use predictive software and word banks. Using software such as ‘Lightkey.io’ and ‘Clicker 7’ to use prediction and word banks for your word processing allows you to focus energy on content and composition rather than the physical act of typing.
Reduce visual clutter.
- Organise your desktop, folders and home screens and keep backgrounds simple.
- Utilise add-ons like The Mercury Reader extension for Chrome which removes ads and distractions, leaving only text and images for a clean and consistent reading view on every site. (Also very useful for screenreaders!)
Learn how to use shortcut keys. Shortcut keys help provide an easier and quicker method of navigating and executing commands in computer software by using the keyboard rather than mouse clicks. Learning to use these shortcuts may take a little time initially, but long term it may significantly reduce the amount of effort required to use your computer.
Adjust your display settings and minimise glare to reduce eye strain and fatigue.
- Anti glare screens and matte screen protectors are available for most devices to reduce the strain caused by glare.
- Adjust the brightness of the display so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding workstation. As a test, look at the white background of this Web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and grey, it may be too dark.
- Experiment with text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents.
- Change the colour temperature of your display. Colour temperature is a term used to describe the spectrum of visible light emitted by a display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. It is also thought to negatively impact upon sleep. Reducing the colour temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a colour display for better long-term viewing comfort. You can also set your device up to alter it’s display as the background environment changes throughout the day, dimming and changing when it gets darker in the evening for example.
Modify your work station.
- Adjust your furniture to enable you to position your computer screen 20 to 24 inches from your eyes. The centre of your screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable positioning of your head and neck.
- Think about lighting, use lamps rather than overhead lights and try to position your computer monitor or screen so windows are to the side, instead of in front or behind it.
For further information about assistive technology please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us (firstname.lastname@example.org.) You can also get future updates, follow us and get in touch via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.