"Help, I've fallen and I can't get up" - Community-based response networks to ensure inclusive access to disability services
The right help at the right time for the right individual - available on any phone.
Ambulances and other transport vehicles with specialized and appropriate equipment for persons with disabilities can be coordinated with simple mobile phones, ensuring that resources are allocated and distributed according to needs.
This vehicle was regularly used to provide transport to and from a physical rehab clinic for a young man who was severely injured in a motorcycle collision. Because Beacon dispatches through personal mobile phones, and not through expensive mobile data terminals as traditionally used in the wealthiest countries, any type of responder-vehicle combination can be seamlessly integrated into the response system.
What problem does your idea solve?
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) face daily threats to their quality of living and health, often being excluded from access to basic social services due to the specialized resources and assistance required to meet their needs. In wealthy countries PWDs can request assistance through a range of public service access points. Our solution allows resource-limited communities to build scalable response networks so PWDs can quickly and reliably request and access the specialized services they require.
Explain your idea
We developed Beacon, a text-message based dispatching platform that allows local communities to crowdsource assistance from the nearest and most appropriate service providers. Created originally for prehospital emergencies, we regularly see Beacon being used by PWDs to access basic services from local volunteers, similar to a digital upgrade of the classic "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up" alerting system. The potential application to the larger disability to create inclusive resource networks appear limitless: A recent amputee is unable to reliably access appropriate transport to get to physical rehab appointments; a wheelchair-bound person living alone falls from their chair and needs help get back into it; a blind person needs help going to the market. In each case, Beacon can ensure that appropriate, specialized help is always accessible. By relaying requests for assistance from a PWD to appropriately-trained and equipped providers throughout the community, Beacon allows the nearest available resources to be quickly located and dispatched and remedy whatever challenge the individual is facing. Beacon's lowest-common-denominator design and easy-to-understand interface ensures that a wide range of local resources can be leveraged to strengthen and scale the formal and informal systems that are best positioned to attend to the unique needs of PWDs. Whether home health aides, specialized vehicles, or medications and supplies delivery, Beacon coordinates local resources.
Describes workflow for inclusive community response networks, as delivered through Beacon. Using the Beacon platform, any community will be able to deliver appropriate and specialized care and resources to persons with disabilities using any mobile phone, with or without internet.
Describes workflow for inter-facility transfers networks, as delivered through Beacon. To date, more than 13 hospitals and clinics in the Dominican Republic are included in the referral networks, providing a replicable model for care and transport services directed towards persons with disabilities.
Beacon benefits all individuals and organizations caring for PWDs by streamlining and then automating the end-to-end coordination of resources, from dispatch to delivery. Specifically:
1. PWDs who face significant obstacles in accessing specialized resources and assistance
2. Providers who lack adequate alerting and communications tools to efficiently coordinate response and delivery
3. Family members and advocates who are left to provide care and monitoring with minimal outside assistance
How is your idea unique?
Our approach is unique because it empowers local communities, essentially inverting the centralized call-center approach to create local networks where access to care and services is crowdsourced from community members and organizations. Designed to gain buy-in from the outset, our approach ensures that a range of organizations can be engaged as equal stakeholders in the system, while we offer the the tools and training needed to design, implement, manage, monitor and sustain their own community-based response systems.
Our software is unique because it eliminates the need for the expensive and inappropriate dispatching technologies that were originally developed for the public infrastructure of Western nations. Instead, Beacon leverages the people and resources that are already being used to provide care and services, and coordinates them on a platform that's universally-accessible on any type of mobile phone, with or without internet.
Tell us more about you
Tanzania Rural Health Movement (Mwanza) - Community health organization providing health care services, education and training to local residents. Lead implementing partner, oversees training, on-boarding and coordination of local response partners.
Trek Medics International (NYC) - Improves access to prehospital emergency care and transport in resource-limited settings through mobile phone technologies. Lead technology partner and technical advisors for system planning and development.
Actual and simulated footage taken from Tanzania (and DR) programs. Video describes Beacon dispatching sequence for prehospital emergency medical response, which can also be applied to non-urgent resources and assistance appropriate to persons with disabilities.
What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?
There are three principal questions we have regarding the future path of Beacon:
1. When does it become necessary to have a mobile app version for caretakers/responders? (MMS/push notifications vs. SMS-only)
2. When does it become necessary to have a mobile app version for the public to report incidents?
3. What's the best way to design a smartphone version of the app so that it's accessible to the greatest range of disabilities?
1. A mobile app for caretakers/responders would improve experience, but not necessarily accessibility
2. If it were conventional 9-1-1 emergency response, we're very against this. But for non-critical response networks, it's much more feasible
3. Physical vs mental vs cognitive vs mobility vs ...
Where will your idea be implemented?
Experience in Implementation Country(ies)
Yes, for more than one year.
Expertise in Sector
I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.
We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.
Mature Growth/Currently Operating: I am currently implementing this idea but may still be iterating.
How has your idea changed based on feedback?
Feedback has helped us identify two questions to use to best determine when and how our platform can be adapted to meet the specific needs from among all disability types:
1) Who will be calling for help? If it’s caretakers requesting assistance, then Beacon can function effectively in its current state to coordinate community-based response networks and provide inclusive services. If PWDs will be requesting assistance directly through Beacon, we have a second question:
2) How accessible is the current platform to specific disabilities, and what modifications are needed to make it truly accessible to each disability?
At present, Beacon would be most accessible to paraplegics and persons with auditory and verbal disabilities. Persons with visual and moderate cognitive disabilities and quadriplegics would require minor modifications to ensure accessibility. For severe cognitive disabilities and multiple sensory impairments, major modifications would be required.
Who will implement this idea?
The idea would be implemented through partnerships with community-based organizations already providing support services to PWDs. Partners could be a school, a physical rehabilitation center, an NGO, or small network of family members and other caretakers among others.
In each case we would provide training and technical direction during implementation, and then offer on-going technical support and assistance with monitoring and evaluation and quality improvement efforts as needed.
Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?
At the beginning of any project, whether for software development or a new program, we work through a process that outlines the project’s purpose, the desired objective, the strategic goals and the values we want to adhere to. Using these parameters, day-to-day decisions are made according to open dialogue with our partners, staff and volunteers. Larger decisions are made with input from the board of directors and technical advisory board. Regarding the platform, final say used to come from senior management. However, now that Beacon’s core functionality and underlying architecture are where we want them, our development priorities have changed to adding new features which we solicit from our partners in the field who see the impact of future development most clearly.
What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?
What attracts us most about Amplify is its focus on strengthening early-stage solutions that fall outside the traditional development mold. As a non-profit tech startup building software solutions for community-level response systems, we've found it difficult to find our "niche" for support. Amplify is consistently getting behind partnership opportunities that cater well to out-of-the-box solutions like our own, and seem to be willing to take bigger chances than traditional aid partnerships.
What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?
For both PWDs and caretakers, a major challenge is being able to alert and access the right kind of help when and where it’s needed. Someone has a physical rehab appointment but can’t find a ride; someone fell out of their wheelchair and can’t find anyone to help them back in; someone has had a seizure and doesn’t know what’s going on. Each instance, and many others, require specialized and appropriate response services. To provide services, however, a second, systems-level challenge exists: Without a reliable way for available resources to be dispatched and coordinated, their services become under- or ill-utilized, resulting in a supply-demand mismatch that negatively impacts the formalization of reliable response networks.
Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?
1) By 2022, 1 billion people will have 24-7 access to on-demand emergency care and transport services such that 90% of persons requesting assistance in communities using Beacon will be attended to by trained responders within 10 minutes in population centers and within 30 minutes in peripheral communities
2) What is the proof point needed for governments to fund system scaling?
How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?
How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?
Under 5 paid, full-time staff
Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?
We are seeking registration in order to implement in additional countries.
My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:
Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD
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