Nous for individuals with ALS
Co-designed by people with ALS, nous™ can help people access the tools they need to improve and maintain their quality of life
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) is a type of motor neurone disease (MND). In general ALS is rare, globally affecting 2-5 out of 100,000 people.
It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, called ‘motor neurones’, causing the muscles in the body to atrophy.
When the motor neurones start to atrophy, the ability for the brain to send signals to the muscles is lost. The loss of voluntary muscle action causes people to lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe on their own.
Assistive technology can be life changing for people with ALS
Assistive technology refers to any device or equipment that can be used to help a person carry out their daily activities or functionality and independence.
For someone with ALS there may be a number of different devices and equipment that can be used to improve participation in more activities, to enhance their quality of life, access to communication, and mobility. These can range from using a tablet with speech generating software installed, eye gaze for using a computer, and a wheelchair to get out and about.
The use of assistive technology can provide a number of benefits:
- Enable people to continue to work
- More inclusion in activities, recreation and games
- Enables people to continue being engaged in their social circles, and participate in their communities
- The ability to communicate, speak with others, express themselves and their needs
- A higher degree of independence
- Improve their quality of life
- Extend their life
How do people with ALS access computers?
People with ALS will often use eye-gaze technology. Eye-gaze technology allows people to use their eyes like a computer mouse, making selections and ‘clicks’ by looking at different things on the screen.
Different types of switches are also useful for people ALS. A switch access method is a simple device that has two states – on and off. They often come in the form of buttons that can be hit with a body part that a person can reliably and consistently move.
Switches require minimal physical input, so they can be used by people with physical disabilities, who can't use more traditional computer access methods, such as a computer mouse, touch screen and keyboards.
nous™ is a viable assistive technology for people with advanced ALS
“Not only has nous™ has been tested and used extensively with people who have ALS, but it was co-designed with them. That’s how we know that it is an assistive solution that works. ”
Because ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, a lot of existing assistive technologies will be difficult if not impossible to use, depending on what stage of the disease a person in. This is because they all require some form of physical input. As more and more of the person’s muscles atrophy, fewer options will be usable.
Although eye gaze is often the “go to” system, people can find this technology tiring and painful to use on its own. Some of the medication that people with ALS use can also alter the shape and size of the pupil, which makes eye-gaze technology ineffective.
Physical switches, such as buttons and proximity switches require people to be able to use different body parts repeatedly to access them. This isn’t always possible with ALS, as the muscles fatigue much faster than normal. With all of the available options, people need to be positioned in their wheelchairs in specialised ways, which can be an uncomfortable experience.
nous™ is a unique switch access method, which lets people control assistive software by blinking. It only uses intentional blinks, so people can still blink comfortably. Most people can blink intentionally or learn to do so over time. This makes nous™ a viable assistive technology for people who have ALS.
Not only has nous™ has been tested and used extensively by people who have ALS, but it was co-designed with them. That’s how we know that it is an assistive solution that works.
There are a number of benefits to nous™ over other assistive technologies for computer access
- minimal training required
- the only physical need is the ability to blink reliably
- positioning is not an issue
- compatible with other switches
- compatible with eye-gaze
- compatible with head-support/head-rests
- soft, comfortable sensors attached to a washable, breathable headband
- integrates with the most popular assistive communication applications for Windows OS
- can be used in all environments
- intuitive user-experience, that has been designed with people who have disabilities and their support network
Don't just take our work for it, here is some feedback from therapists who've implemented nous™ for their clients.
How does nous™ work?
nous™ is both hardware and software. The hardware component is a soft headset that houses the sensors which measure your blinks.
These sensors measure the electrical signals of eye movement, called "electrooculography"or EOG (this signal is independent of your eyebrow or forehead movements, and is only produced by the movement of your eyeballs). With nous™, the headset measures the EOG signals produced when a person blinks.
Everyone’s blinks are different. In fact, on any given time or day, even your own blinks will vary. The software part of nous™ needs to understand what a person's “blink signal” looks like before they start using it as a switch access method.This ensures that they get the most accurate experience when using blinks to control software applications.
nous™ can be used with all of the most popular assistive communication (AAC) apps available on Windows OS, such as Tobii Dynavox Communicator 5, PRC NuVoice and SmartBox Grid 3.
nous™ can also be used with other software applications that can be used with switch interfaces, such as the Windows on-screen keyboard, and cause and effect games.
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