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Technology designed by young people

We asked deaf young people to share their ideas on designing the technology of the future or improving existing technology in our Design Your Own Tech competition and invited the winners to present their ideas to  product manufacturers.

Last autumn we ran our first ever Design Your Own Tech competition for deaf young people aged 12–18. We asked young people to describe their ideal technology to help overcome challenges they experience due to their deafness. 

Thirty-seven deaf young people from across the UK submitted their  most innovative and creative ideas. The judging panel, made up of deaf young people, was amazed by the entries and with a rigorous list of selection criteria they shortlisted ten entries and selected two winners: Patrick and Jonathan. Both were awarded a prize for their schools and the opportunity to present their ideas to a group of 40 manufacturers, technology designers, audiologists, Teachers of the Deaf and other professionals at our Technology and Innovation – the Future for Deaf Young People event last November. The attendees discussed the winning ideas, along with the other shortlisted entries, and some are taking steps to investigate making them a reality. We asked Patrick and Jonathan to share their experiences of the  competition and event.

Patrick (14) who is moderately to severely deaf

Patrick’s ideal technology was an upgrade of an existing product: a keychain that dispenses hearing aid batteries. Patrick’s alterations included adding storage for a larger number of batteries, a means of quickly checking how many batteries are left in the keychain and a compartment to store used batteries to be recycled and making it more customisable. 

How did you come up with your idea?

I thought about the main problems my brother and I have and the concept of a battery holder sprung to my mind because both of us have been caught on a number of occasions without batteries and so haven’t been able to hear. 

What did your school and family think of you winning the competition?

They were surprised and very pleased to find out I had won.

How did you find presenting to a large audience?

It was very nerve-wracking but also very interesting to try something new that I hadn’t done before and the audience was very supportive. 

What are your hopes for your design idea?

I hope it will be taken on by manufacturers and be really useful to deaf people.

How are you and your school planning to use the gift vouchers?

The prize has been split between the design and technology department and the computing department to spend on new equipment for the school.

Jonathan (15) who is mildly deaf

Jonathan’s innovative idea was an app that shows (often difficult to hear) public transport announcements on a deaf person’s phone. The app, ‘AppDate,’ sends notifications to alert the user to updates or changes that affect their journey. 

How did you come up with your idea?

I have a mild hearing loss, so to help me think of an idea that could assist deaf people in everyday situations I asked others with a hearing impairment what they find difficult. The main theme was difficulties using public transport and hearing the tannoy announcements.

What did your school and family think of you winning the competition?

My school were over the moon and felt very proud of me. My parents were really pleased for me. Once I knew I’d won, my friends and professionals at our school helped me to prepare a presentation. It was great to have so much support from everyone.

How did you find presenting to a large audience?

I felt very nervous but after practising my presentation at my school I felt more confident. I felt very proud of myself. It was a good experience presenting to an audience with a British Sign Language interpreter and transcriber. 

What are your hopes for your design idea?

I hope AppDate will be available for people to use on public transport to help deaf people and reduce their anxiety. 

How are you and your school planning to use the gift vouchers?

The vouchers will be used towards something for our Hearing Support Centre. I’ve been promised a treat too!

Families Magazine Spring 2018