Technology and Special Needs Workshop

IB Robotics co-organized the IDEATION WORKSHOP with the Technology and Special Needs Innovation Booster and Research Foundation for People with Disabilities during the Accessibility Week 2023. The aim was to identify ideas to help overcome challenges of blind and visually disabled people that could be potentially answered by technology, including robotics.

We ideated on challenges already identified:

  • Challenge 1: Automated machines and touch screens in public spaces and especially in public services are difficult or impossible to use (e.g. SBB)
  • Challenge 2: The signage at pedestrian crossings is not always clear (bell volume too low, vibrator not working, signage arrow in the wrong direction, etc.)
  • Challenge 3: Household appliances –> depending on the model, it may be difficult to use hobs, ovens, washing machines and dishwashers, coffee machines at home, etc

Some of the solutions have been more tailored towards robotics, while others are listed to be considered for future device and technology designs.

Explored solutions for Challenge 1: Automated machines and touch screens.

Problem: One of the challenges discussed by the workshop participants was the difficulty in navigating hospitals, particularly when using touch screen elevators and changing places and levels. Among the proposed solutions, we chose those related to robotics.

  • Solution: One of the identified solutions was to have a robot that greets individuals with disabilities at the entrance of the hospital and assists them in reaching their desired destinations. The robot would need to interact with both the individuals and the hospital systems.

Problem: Another challenge that was discussed was the usability of touch screens, such as those found on SBB ticket machines. While apps can be used to read the content, there is a lack of interaction with the user, resulting in limited responsiveness when it comes to selecting from the available options.

  • Solution: One proposed solution involved the implementation of an audio guide that could be integrated into the machines or provided as an assistive device in order to address this issue.
  • Think about a robotic assistant like a guide for blind people that can communicate with the other machines

General consideration: The inclusion of various disabilities and age groups was discussed as an essential aspect to consider when proposing any devices or solutions. It was recognized that accommodating the diverse needs and abilities of individuals with disabilities and individuals of different age groups is crucial for ensuring effective and inclusive technology.

Explored solutions for Challenge 2: The signage at pedestrian crossings

Problem: The existing pedestrian crossing systems in Switzerland are considered poorly adapted and often malfunction. Additionally, it is difficult and unhygienic to locate and push the buttons.

  • Solutions:
  • Use a remote or a device that automatically activates the pedestrian crossing lights upon arrival, implement sensors for adaptive lighting.
  • Enable the lights to visually communicate the color and specify the name of the road.

Problem: Lack of announced stair railings.

  • Develop a device that provides information about the presence of stair railings and potentially other relevant details.

General considerations:

  • Improvements in the cane were extensively discussed, as it could incorporate sensors and automation capabilities for multiple functions, including: Detecting changes in ground levels, Identifying potential hazards, Activating lights.

Explored solutions for Challenge 3: Household appliances

In greater detail, the solutions explored for this previously identified challenge were not primarily focused on robotics-based solutions but on addressing the identified needs.

Problem: The challenges discussed involved the lack of responsiveness in devices such as the cooktop. For delicate foods, it was often too late to take out the phone with dirty hands and make temperature adjustments. There is a need to:

  • Manage the cooking temperature more responsively.
  • Set the oven temperature according to the type of food being cooked. Adapt the apps to different types of food and temperature settings.
  • Provide notifications for high temperatures.
  • Alert users to potential accidents, such as a high temperature, that could cause burns if no action is taken.


  • A suggestion was to make devices more inclusive in their design.

Instead of standardizing appliances for handicapped people; standardize one robotic device or system that speaks with the other devices.


If you want to further explore the above solutions or you have other ideas to address the problems, apply to the next call for proposals.