Alan Craughwell has spent the last 20 years working with adults with intellectual disabilities and is passionate about inclusivity in life, sport and work.
Last June, he brought the international mixed-ability rugby tournament to Cork and earlier this year he launched a social enterprise initiative which uses technology, such as wearable devices, to help those with autism and intellectual disabilities to participate and perform well in the workplace.
“There are over 30,000 people in Ireland who could benefit from this technology and have fulfilling working lives,” Craughwell says. “From an employer’s perspective this is a pool of untapped labour who, with a little bit of help, can perform suitable tasks very well.
“There has long been a need for an intervention that supports the business owner who wants to employ someone with a disability but doesn’t know how to make it happen in practice and those with disabilities who want to work but need extra support to do so. Assistiv technology is that bridge and it will be offered to employers on a SaaS [software as a service] basis,” says Craughwell, who also points out that employers are eligible for workplace adaptation and employment grants if they hire someone with a disability.
There are currently two Assistiv products available. The first is aimed at the hospitality sector and called Service View. It can be integrated with existing order-and-pay systems and allows customers to tap a QR code which brings up a drinks order menu on their smartphone at their table. Their order then pops up on a smartwatch which the person with the disability behind the bar is wearing. They are helped to fulfil the order via a series of icons.
At the technology’s launch in March, Craughwell says three bar staff with intellectual disabilities successfully used Service View to serve drinks over three hours in a busy and pressurised environment.
“The technology brings those with an intellectual disability up to the same level as everyone else doing that job and the people at the table may never know they have been served by someone with a disability. The fact is they have, and that this technology removes barriers to employment, is what really matters,” he says.
“We believe there is a willingness by employers to be inclusive if they are given a way of doing so. And with the hospitality industry crying out for staff, it seems crazy that such a large cohort of people are sidelined when they could be linked into this technology and become productive in the workplace.”
The company’s second product is Task Manager. It is built around the needs of the individual worker to help them do a particular task. It also works through a series of prompts which can be audible or visual and acts a bit like a job coach to keep the person focused.
“Very often those with intellectual disabilities will wait to be instructed or won’t ask for help and this can be frustrating for employers. Task Manager helps them stay on task and finish within acceptable productivity guidelines,” says Craughwell, who recently participated in the Ignite incubator at UCC at which he won the Local Enterprise Office’s Revenue Ready Award.
“Ten years ago I founded the first ever mixed-ability rugby team for people with and without disabilities in Ireland and the inspiration for the Assistiv technology (which Craughwell has licensed for the Irish market with appropriate tweaks and adaptations) is rooted in what I’ve seen working in mixed-ability sport and is applicable across numerous business sectors and industries,” he says.
Craughwell has self-funded the start-up to the tune of about €50,000 and the technology is currently on pilot in Cork. The company is also working closely with Heineken to introduce Service View to the bar trade.