Naidex: The biggest disability products event in the UK goes virtual

Naidex is the UK’s biggest disability products exhibition. On the 18th and 19th March 2021, the exhibition went virtual. The physical event was cancelled twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is normally held every year in Birmingham at the NEC. The venue has great access for people of all disabilities. There is flat access throughout, hearing loops, assistance dogs are allowed and there are accessible toilets, including Changing Places facilities. The complex is huge though so it is very easy to get lost, even though I go every year!

Putting my woeful sense of direction aside, it is a great event. People with disabilities are in the majority instead of the minority. Almost any disability product you can think of, and a few you can’t are displayed! I was very curious how this would be adapted for the virtual world.

NEC-Website

Registering for Naidex

Tickets to Naidex are free. Booking tickets is as simple as going online and filling in the registration form. This year, a username and password were emailed to me. In previous years tickets, accompanied by an event guide were delivered to my door through the post. A week before the event I received an email. This email contained teasers of disability products I could expect to see. Upcoming speaker seminars were mentioned as well. Companies selling disability aids of all types were showcasing their products: beds, wheelchairs, sensory equipment to name but a few. There was also a handy login link included.

Naidex-Registration-page

Accessing the event

Logging in was simple thanks to the link I was sent.

A top tip: copy and paste the login credentials to avoid mistakes.

The screenshot below shows the login screen. There is an icon that looks like a person in the top right corner. This icon opens the accessibility features, which I’ll go through in detail later. Next to that are text resize buttons and in the lower right corner is a chat icon.

Login screen

Having logged in there was a menu on the left-hand side where I could click on ‘sessions,’ ‘speakers’ or choose to view the ‘interactive product directory.’ There were thirty-four speakers and one hundred and nineteen companies taking part across the two days. I lost count of the number of sessions as many were duplicated for different access needs. A session was where a company had written or pre-recorded a video about themselves or its products. This could be a bit boggling as everything was in list view with a scroll bar to view more making it difficult to know what to look at first as I had to scroll to see what was available.

Accessibility options

To access the many accessibility options available on the Naidex portal involved clicking the icon in the top right-hand corner that looks like a person/stickman. This brought up a menu with more accessibility options than I’ve seen before! An event showcasing disability products should be accessible but it’s still impressive.

The screenshot on the left shows the top of the accessibility adjustments and has options to reset settings, view the access statement or hide the accessibility interface altogether. Below these options are access profiles for differing needs: seizure safe profile, vision-impaired profile, cognitive disability profile and ADHD friendly profile. The accessibility options are scrollable so I had to take six screenshots to show all the options. The right screenshot shows the last two access profiles available which are blind users (screen reader) and keyboard navigation. Underneath this are the content adjustments: content scaling, readable font, highlight titles, highlight links and text magnifier.

The above two screenshots show the complete options for content adjustments, which in addition to those mentioned in the paragraph above, are: adjust font sizing, align centre, adjust line-height, align left, adjust letter spacing and align right. In the right screenshot, the first three options for colour adjustments are shown: dark contrast, light contrast, and monochrome.

These last two screenshots above show all of the colour adjustment options on the left and the orientation adjustments on the right.

The colour adjustments are: dark contrast, light contrast, monochrome, high saturation, high contrast, low saturation, adjust text colours, adjust title colours and adjust background colours.

Orientation adjustments

The orientation adjustments are as follows: mute sounds, hide images, read mode, reading guide, stop animations, reading mask, highlight hover, highlight focus, big black cursor and big white cursor. There is also a ‘useful links’ option in the centre of these adjustments to give the user the option to place a useful link in a position on the screen at all times. For example a link to the homepage.

The disability products

Everything from smart home products, car converters, specialist beds, mobility battery specialists, occupational therapists, sensory specialists, wheelchair manufacturers and solicitors were present at Naidex.

Searching for a specific product

This event can therefore be very useful if you are searching for a particular item. A couple of years ago my main purpose for attending Naidex was to research WAV’s (wheelchair accessible vehicles) as I needed to choose a new car. This year I just wanted to see what new disability products and services were available.

Disability products wishlist

I was particularly interested in the smart home gadgets as I’m always on the lookout for a gadget to make my life easier but as I already have smart heating and lighting, most things weren’t of interest. I will be keeping an eye on how smart locks develop though. As I have someone who can open my front door for me it seems overkill to splurge just yet.

Smart-Lock

Similarly, if I had money to burn I would buy a turning bed to help me transfer in and out of bed easier. These beds not only move how my existing profiling bed does but the mattress also turns ninety degrees and puts you in a sitting position on the edge of the bed. This would make it easier for my PA’s/family members to assist me to transfer and get me dressed and undressed but as I require help anyway and I haven’t got a money tree, this will have to stay a pipe dream.

ChairBed

Interesting disability product ideas to keep an eye on

Another interesting piece of equipment I saw is something called a Showerbuddy. This shower chair comes with its own transferring platform which means that a normal shower cubicle, (those with a step/lip,) can be used. It’s aimed at older people and marketed as an alternative solution to getting a bathroom adapted. The chair is slid into the shower off of its raised base on wheels.

Showerbuddy

Chronus Robotics

Chronus Robotics is a robot wheelchair. It’s compact, slim agile and absolutely no good for me as I have little to no trunk control. I remember being asked years ago if I wanted to try the Segway chairs and having to painstakingly explain that as the chairs were controlled by body movement I’d crash in roughly three seconds! The chair is also able to go up and down so that you can reach things. If you have upper body control I imagine they are great! I wouldn’t want to guess the price though! I’m hopeful that soon one or more of these robotics companies will design a chair that can be controlled more like a conventional power chair.

Seminars

My favourite seminars were:

  • Making a Successful Application for a Disabled Facilities Grant by Paul Smith.

  • Take the chance out of going out with AccessAble’s Detailed Access Guides by AccessAble.
  • How technology can be used to revolutionise the lives of disabled people Shani Dhanda.

There were plenty of others to choose from, on a range of different topics.

Conclusion

Naidex this year has been more accessible than ever! This is due to the fact that the disability products and advice seminars were all available online. I really enjoyed the virtual version. I’m hopeful that the physical show will go ahead in September but I hope that content will still be available online. This would make Naidex more accessible and inclusive than it has been before. I’m definitely getting tickets for September.

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