The top 10 Innovations in the Disability Sector in the Past 10 Years.

From scientific and technological innovations to new-age policy on accessibility and inclusion, the world is moving ever closer towards equality and opportunity for all. These Innovations, which are happening on both global and local stages, are resulting in greater access to support, services and resources and the removal of barriers for the billion people living with disability worldwide (1).

There are far too many innovations in the past ten years that could be listed in a single article. Instead, we can look at ten broad, innovative categories with examples for each. These innovations have altered how we interact with the world and might even give insight into what the future holds.

1.     Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a technology that uses living organisms or biological systems. It ranges from baking bread to genetic engineering like CRISPR-cas9 and is used in agriculture, manufacturing, and medicine.

Engineering Tissue Grafts

An estimated 2.2 million Australians have osteoarthritis, a chronic condition characterised by the deterioration of the cartilage in the joints (2). Scientists have found ways to replace damaged cartilage for people with degenerative joint disease by using biomaterial scaffolds in conjunction with living cells. These scaffolds serve as templates for developing cells to repair and regenerate new cartilage and restore function to joints. A lot of progress has been made in the past ten years, with one of the prevailing difficulties—hosts rejecting treatment—becoming largely resolved. So, participants who receive these grafts can bear loads on their joints and better support themselves, gaining greater mobility, and giving hope that this technology can do so for a greater number of conditions in the future.

Ksandrphoto, [Online]. [Accessed November 2022]. Available from:

Targeted Drug Therapies

Currently, treatments for neurogenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia can only offer limited alleviation of symptoms. This is because these are multifactorial conditions requiring medicines to cross over the blood-brain barrier, which very few therapies can do. Now, new targeted drug therapies allow for the delivery of medication across this barrier and can target multiple aspects of disease (3). Using advanced nanostructures, we have safer and more effective treatments that can reach the central nervous system and offer long-term treatments for people with chronic diseases.

Lipikstockmedia, Pouring the pills from the orange bottle into the plam [Online]. [Accessed November 2022]. Available from:

2.     Medicine

Medicine is both the science and practice of diagnosing, preventing, and treating disease. Innovations in managing disability in medicine can see people avoid bad outcomes of their medical conditions as part of their disability.

The Seizure Monitoring and Response Transducer (SMART) belt.

The SMART belt, developed by engineering students at RICE University, is a wearable device that can detect epileptic seizures (4). The belt detects oncoming seizures with electrodes placed on the chest that monitor breathing and electrical conductance. Since seizures invoke characteristic changes to the conductance of the skin and respiratory rate, the sensors can pick up these changes and transmit a warning signal via Bluetooth to either a parent or carers phone or computer. The device is a way to keep people with epilepsy safe, particularly while they’re asleep. It is part of a growing wearable technology trend to monitor conditions that require 24/7 care.

Author unknown, [Online]. [Accessed November 2022]. Available from:


The temporary telehealth services introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic have become a permanent aspect of our health care system (5). It was a program that allowed GP’s, specialists, and other health professionals to consult with patients over the phone and the internet. It improved access to healthcare for people with chronic conditions by reducing the financial and physical burdens of travel (6). Having faster, more available access to healthcare minimises adverse health outcomes and reduces the likelihood of iatrogenic infections, which are illnesses caused by medical treatment and examination.

Dcstudio, [Online]. [Accessed November 2022]. Available from:

3. AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence.

Seeing AI

Seeing AI from Microsoft is a free app that narrates the world around you. It was designed for people with low vision or blindness and utilises AI and camera technology to identify their environment (7). It can read digital and handwritten text, give audio indications to locate product barcodes for identification, identify money placed in your hand, describe scenery recognise friends, and can even describe people around you (including their emotions).

Author unknown, [Online]. [accessd November 2022]. Available from:

Phone Voice Controls

Smartphones have become an essential part of our lives. They keep us connected, link us to supports and services, and provide us with nearly limitless information. At first, people living with paralysis or Parkinson’s disease, or low-vision and blindness, had limited experiences with these technologies. However, that’s changing with the rapid development of sophisticated voice commands over the past decade. Today, with the utterance of a simple word or phrase, a smartphone user can use voice commands to read out and reply to messages and emails, browse the internet, or describe what’s on their screen (8).

Master1305, [Online]. [Accessed November 2022]. Available from:

4.     Extended Reality

Extended reality describes the human-machine interactions and environments generated by a computer.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality refers to the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional space. For instance, Eye Play the Piano is a head-mount eye-tracker developed by the Japanese VR headset creator FOVE taking advantage of this technology (9). It’s a device designed for anyone living with quadriplegia or a neurogenerative condition that affects motor function, allowing the wearer to play the piano with nothing but their eyes. The user can select notes and chords using subtle head and eye movements and blinking.

Fove / JustGiving. 2015. Eye Play the Piano helps physically disabled children play music. [Online]. [Accessed 17 February 2022]. Available from:

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality works by overlaying computer-generated images and sounds over our physical world. One such program is Xogo, an assistive wearable that allows users to control technology in their homes, schools, and offices (10). They can turn on lights, open doors, and program the device to do almost any task they like. Using headsets, phones, or tablets outside of the home, users can direct a camera towards items on store shelves to get information on products and then put them into a virtual cart to be picked out by a store employee at the checkout.

Macrovector, Shopping with virtual and augmented reality apps. [Online]. [Accessed 17 February 2022]. Available from:

5.     Robotics

Robots are machines designed to do tasks performed by humans. But in this case, we use them to perform tasks for humans.

Liftware Base Stabiliser

The Liftware base Stabiliser is a utensil attachment that allows people who live with Parkinson’s disease or essential tremors to feed themselves more comfortably (11). It helps stabilise hand tremors by detecting motion and directing onboard motors to counteract the movement. Such technologies provide greater autonomy and independence, and future iterations of this trend could see people living with a disability require less aid from carers.

Author unknown, [Online]. [Accessed 17 February 2022]. Available from:

The DEKA Robotic Arm

Developed for injured soldiers, the DEKA Robotic Arm is the first prosthetic arm capable of carrying-out multiple, simultaneous movements (12). The robotic arm can translate these signals into specific movements by detecting electrical activity in the region where the prosthetic is attached. While this product is still in the clinical stage, it shows that future prosthetics and mobility aids are becoming more sophisticated and accessible.


6. Crowdsourcing and Public Initiatives

Public initiatives are programmes taken by average citizens to settle an issue, initiate action, or fulfil a public need. In other words, it’s when people come together to help one another.

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is a mobile app that connects people who are blind or have low levels of vision with sighted volunteers from around the world (13). These users can ask for help navigating the streets, describing a photograph, or checking the expiry date on a bottle of milk. It demonstrates that more and more people worldwide are coming together with community-minded initiatives.


Crowdsourced Wheelchair Accessibility Maps

Wheelmap is a crowdsourced platform where volunteers gather information and rate locations based on their wheelchair accessibility (14). Starting in 2010, it helps people with a mobility disability to plan and engage with their days more effectively. It’s available in 14 languages and logs places like cafes, bars, swimming pools and parks. It provides information on how to access locations and whether travelling to a cinema will require more or less planning. It also makes businesses owners more aware of the issue and encourages more accessible designs of businesses.

Andi Weiland. [ONLINE]. [ACCESSED November 2022]. AVAILABLE FROM:

7. Policies

Policies are ideas, plans, and actions taken up by individuals, organisations, and governments. It reflects the attitudes someone has regarding these choices.


The National Disability Insurance Scheme was an initiative started in 2013 to provide greater access to—and better choice over—the kind of disability support Australian’s receive. It includes information on the disability support available in each state and territory of Australia, offers funding to assist participants with their independence, and sets up connections to community services such as schools, libraries, sports clubs, doctors, and support groups (11). The scheme is in addition to other disability benefits and is part of Australia’s commitment to supporting our disabled community (15).

8.     Infrastructure

Infrastructure refers to the organisational facilities and structures found throughout society like roads and buildings.

Smart Cities

Governments around the world (including Australia) are looking to build the cities of tomorrow today. These are cities designed to adapt to the needs of their citizens in real-time (16). Smart cities do this by placing communicative and informative technology in the control of citizens, coming in the forms of real-time updates for transport, navigation systems linking traffic in the street to your phone, and intelligent buildings designed with disability access in mind.

Macrovector. Smart City Technology Isometric Flowchart. [Online]. [Accessed November 2022]. Available from:

Adaptive Homes

Using assistive technologies and communicative tools to control different aspects of a person’s home and the kind of care they receive. For instance, using a combination of sensors, automation technologies, and voice-activated equipment, Australian company Smart Home Solutions build homes that connect different aspects of a house (17). The sound of your alarm might turn on your coffee machine, or the ringing of your doorbell might prompt you to use your smart device to see who it is and use a voice command to open the door.

Macrovector. Person controlling smart home with tablet. [ONLINE]. [ACCESSED November 2022]. Available from:

9.     Education

Education is the process of instruction. Innovations in education make information and the acquisition of skills more accessible to people living with a disability.

Braille Learning Kits

The Read Read enables people living with low-vision or blindness to learn how to read braille without an instructor (18). Students can move large braille tiles that give audio feedback as you manipulate them. It’s a new way to encourage self-directed learning and provide accessibility to people who may not have access to instructors.

Unknown author. [ONLINE]. [ACCESSED 17 November 2022]. AVAILABLE FROM:

Tools for Accessible Publishing

Launched in 2011, the All Children Reading is a joint venture by World Vision, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Australian Government to ensure books are accessible to all readers (19). By optimising the production of books, innovators have reduced the costs, increased the quality, and expanded the accessibility of books worldwide. And these books are translated into braille, audio, large text print, and sign language to ensure there are no barriers for anyone looking to read a story or learn from a textbook. Diverse kids reading books. [ONLINE]. [ACCESSED November 2022]. Available from:

10. Play

Usually, we play for enjoyment. But innovations in technology and breakthroughs in scientific fields like psychology and neuroscience means we now know we can use play for more than just pleasure.

Autism-Specific Smart Glasses

The Brain Power Autism System packs life skill lessons into a pair of Google-made smart glasses. It uses augmented reality and AI to coach people living with autism on maintaining eye contact and recognising social cues and the emotions of others. It does this by gamifying practical life skills, rewarding uses with a point system for maintaining eye contact with peers or recognising emotional prompts given in the display.

Author unknown. [ONLINE]. [ACCESSED November 2022]. Available from:

Future Innovations

Much has changed in the past ten years. But many of the innovations we have spoken about are simply precursors to bigger and better things to come. Biotechnology, AI, and robotics are changing the world at an ever-faster rate. Advances in education and extended reality are transforming how we learn and interact with the world. And new policies and public initiatives are altering the landscape of what is possible as we move towards the future.

Raise Your Spirit’s is moving towards a future where everyone has fulfilling and happy lives. It’s at the core of what we do and why we developed a Disability Performance and Wellness program called The RYS Acceleration SystemTM, a practical at-home guide to help our clients determine the tasks, schedules, and key milestones to reach their personal goals faster. We hope to see a world where everyone feels great about themselves and their lives by taking steps together.


1.              Disability and health [Internet]. World Health Organization. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

2.              Osteoarthritis, What is osteoarthritis? [Internet]. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

3.              Goldsmith M, Abramovitz L, Peer D. Precision Nanomedicine in Neurodegenerative Diseases. ACS Nano. 2014 Mar 25;8(3):1958–65.

4.              Tiwari S, Sharma V, Mujawar M, Mishra YK, Kaushik A, Ghosal A. Biosensors for Epilepsy Management: State-of-Art and Future Aspects. Sensors (Basel). 2019 Mar 28;19(7):1525.

5.              Health AGD of. Ongoing MBS telehealth services [Internet]. Australian Government Department of Health. Australian Government Department of Health; 2020 [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

6.              Noel K, Ellison B. Inclusive innovation in telehealth. npj Digit Med. 2020 Jun 25;3(1):1–3.

7.              Seeing AI App from Microsoft [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

8.              Digital accessibility and speech recognition for people with disabilities [Internet]. Authôt. 2020 [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

9.              Eye Play the Piano [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

10.            Banks D. Xogo [Internet]. Hundred. 2021 [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

11.            Liftware – Eat with confidence [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

12.            DEKA Robotic Arm Approved For Amputees [Internet]. PPM Editorial. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

13.            Be My Eyes – See the world together [Internet]. Be My Eyes. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

14.            Mobasheri A, Deister J, Dieterich H. Wheelmap: the wheelchair accessibility crowdsourcing platform. Open Geospatial Data, Software and Standards. 2017 Nov 29;2(1):27.

15.            NDIS. Understanding the NDIS | NDIS [Internet]. National Disability Insurance Scheme. [cited 2022 Feb 13]. Available from:

16.            PricewaterhouseCoopers. Smart Cities: Why Australia’s cities of tomorrow start today [Internet]. PwC. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

17.            Smart home technology for people with disabilities [Internet]. LERA. 2019 [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

18.            Haar J. Braille Learning Kits [Internet]. TrendHunter. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

19.            Three ways you can support the development and use of accessible books for children with disabilities [Internet]. All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from:

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