Brand new SMART Platform gives Royal Blind School students power to navigate independently

Posted: 26/09/2016 | Education,

Students with visual impairments and complex needs can more easily navigate the Royal Blind School independently after funders contribute towards a new state-of-the art SMART Platform.

Royal Blind School student navigates the school using the SMART PlatformThe SMART Platform allows pupils to navigate along a virtual ‘track’ in the school’s corridors in their own wheelchair without having to be hoisted into another chair.

Staff help students onto the platform in their own wheelchair. The user is then able to navigate along the track, made from light-reflective tape which is detected by sensors in the platform. They can use a joystick or switch to move forward or stop, allowing them to travel to different classrooms

Royal Blind School Occupational Therapist, Claire, said the Platform has given six students new independence and control.

She said: “Being able to simply place and secure a pupil’s wheelchair on the platform, as opposed to transferring them into a SMART chair, has made getting around the school much quicker and simpler, as well as making it more comfortable for the pupil.

“The pupils can now travel independently to classes, as the transition is much faster and the pupil is totally in control of their journey.”

SMART sessions tend to be activity based with a purposeful goal beyond the operation of the chair, for example, visiting other people in the school to find out the daily news, doing messages for teachers, carrying out surveys for classwork and checking the plants in the gardens around school.

The SMART Platform also comes with outdoor tracking, which the school is planning to lay outside in the courtyard in due course. This will add a further dimension to the experience of using the SMART Platform. Those with a visual impairment will be able to travel outside independently, with the multi-sensory experience of moving outside in the elements.

Occupational Therapist, Nicola, added: Occupational Therapist, Nicola, added: “We’re very grateful to those who donated the money for the SMART Platform. It has already made a huge difference to the lives of the students who use the platform.”


Hope’s Story

Hope was using a SMART chair but it is no longer appropriate for her needs, with the SMART Platform offering better support and comfort. She uses her head to press a single switch which enables her to control the movement of the SMART Platform.

Hope is a sociable pupil and really enjoys the opportunity to travel through the school interacting with the people she passes.

The therapists have devised a project called Hope’s News, where she plays the role of a reporter, gathering recorded snippets from her conversations around the school.



Robbie’s Story

Robbie uses a joystick to control the SMART Platform and enjoys speeding along the track around the school.

Although Robbie has a visual impairment and has additional support needs, he can control the platform and visibly enjoys travelling around the school. He looks forward to sessions and is working on various goals during his sessions with the Occupational Therapists.