Most people imagine that the disabled have benefitted from spin-offs from the space race and modern communications technology. This is indeed the case. However there are numerous occasions when the spin-off has gone the other way.

This page is devoted to those inventions which started of as aids to help the disabled. I am delighted to say that I, personally, have added to this list.

I am still working on this page!!!

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The Telephone
Alexander Graham Bell (1847 - 1922) had both a deaf mother and a deaf wife. He invented a means by which he hoped they would better communicate. It devoloped into the telephone. Excited at this application Bell predicted that, one day, there would be at least one in every major US city.
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The Typewriter
Pellegrino Turri, an Italian, invented the first typewriter in 1808 to enable his blind girl friend Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono to write to him.
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The Long Playing Record
The first long playing records were made as Talking Books for the Blind. The books were recorded on 12 inch discs made from shellac' and were recorded at 24 revolutions per minute. Each side lasted 25 minutes so that a typical book or novel would fit on to ten double-sided records. Later experiments were carried out using 16 rpm but groove wear was too severe. These low speeds had insufficient band width to do justice to music. The LP as we remember it revolved at 33 1/3 rpm.
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The Parking Sensor.
When I invented it, I called it ReverseAid. It is now common as original equipment on cars world wide. It goes under a number of names: Back Sensor, Parking Aid, Reverse Sensor etc etc.

It is a four transducer ultrasonic beam steered pulse echo interferometer with programmed digital filters.

I patented it way back in 1983. It is a direct spin-off from the Sonic Pathfinder - the travel aid for the blind - a five transducer ultrasonic beam steered pulse echo interferometer with programmed digital filters.

The Sonic Pathfinder uses a musical scale display to inform the vision impaired pedestrian about the presence of, and distance to, obsticles in his or her path. The Parking Sensor uses a beeper with a changing pulse repetition rate to inform the driver about the presence of, and distance to, obsticles behind the reversing vehicle.

Apart from the auditory display, there is very little difference between the Parking Sensor and the Sonic Pathfinder! In fact I progammed the software to perform one function, or tbe other, depending on the voltage on a single pin. The hope was that once the device was in production and dedicated integrated circuits were comming off the line at very little cost, I would squirrel a portion of them away to give to the blind. Sadly this hope never materialised.


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This web page has been written by Tony Heyes
of Perceptual Alternatives