11 Jul 2016 | 10.01 am
Virtual Assistant Helps With Disability Struggles
Avail produces step-by-step instructions, using pictures and sounds
11 Jul 2016 | 10.01 am
E-learning has considerable potential to improve the lives of people with disabilities, which is why Lisa Marie Clinton took to founding Avail in 2015. The startup is built around an app and web portal that provides step-by-step instructions, using pictures, sounds and text, to guide a person with an intellectual disability through particular activities.
The web portal holds a management and monitoring system that records the learner’s activities, assessments and generates reports on their progress. Clinton (29) is pitching Avail for the disability sector but the technology could also be used beyond that, such as teaching children to dress, teenagers to cook or older people to improve their independent living skills.
Clinton has worked in the field of disabilities for over ten years, in education, family support and residential services. She says that Avail is essentially a virtual assistant. “It is very personal and designed to adopt to the learner’s ability and goals,” she explains. “Recently, one of our learners mastered how to use her cooker and make her dinner independently.”
The traditional method of creating a visual schedule for learners could take up to an hour, Clinton adds, between taking pictures, printing, laminating and placing the instructions. “With Avail, this could be completed in ten minutes with only the use of the app on a smart device.”
While doing postgraduate study in 2014, Clinton developed and completed a prototype of her Avail system to pilot with some organisations. “We already have key services benefiting from it, including Rehab Care, but it will be made available to everyone in Q3 of this year.”
Clinton bootstrapped the startup herself before securing support from Monaghan LEO. “In January, we successfully secured investment from Enterprise Ireland, and will be seeking further investment to launch into new markets,” she says.
Clinton participated in various startup support programmes, including New Frontiers and the Acorns initiative for female entrepreneurs, to acquire the skills to grow her business, which she runs from her home office in Monaghan.
“Seek advice and support if you struggle with a certain area, such as software development,” she advises. “Link in with other startups about companies they have used and learn from them. Look for recommendations and ring up their past customers.”