Blackwood Back Budding Inventor’s ‘Out of the Box’ Idea

by Heather Peebles

Monday, July 14th, 2014

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App for pedestrian crossings, for disabled.A new invention designed to make crossing the road safer and easier for people with disabilities has gone on trial outside the Scottish Parliament.

The ‘Neatebox’ is the concept of former guide dog mobility instructor Gavin Neate, who has been supported by the Blackwood Foundation in turning his innovation into reality.

After 18 years working with visually impaired people, Gavin wanted to create a simple aid to help them cross the road, harnessing technology in easily accessible smart phones.

The result is the Neatebox which allows people with disabilities to activate a pedestrian crossing by using their smartphone. The first trial unit is now undergoing live tests.

Gavin, from Roslin said: “This has been more than three years in planning and development so to finally have a Neatebox operating outside one of the most important buildings in the country is an amazing feeling.

“I’ve never wavered in my conviction that this will make a major difference to people with all sorts of disabilities. It remains my ambition to see a Neatebox on as many crossings in the UK as possible.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the Blackwood Foundation and others including Scottish Enterprise, Entrepreneurial Spark and my Non Executive Director Dr Biju Krishnan, who have supported and encouraged me through the past 4 years.”

Gavin, who gave up his job and ploughed his life savings into his invention also told how his passion for the Neatebox helped him recover from a brain haemorrhage he suffered just two months ago.

He added: “It may sound mad but when I first discovered I had a brain haemorrhage my initial reaction was fear that I might not be able to finish the project. My girlfriend thought I was crazy but after a few weeks I couldn’t resist getting back to the project and really think having this focus has helped speed up my recovery.”

The Blackwood Foundation in Edinburgh is dedicated to helping disabled people, their families, care professionals and other experts to identify and develop technology which helps transform lives by helping people live independently.

Colin Foskett, from the Blackwood Foundation, said: “We couldn’t be happier for Gavin. He had a fantastic idea and has been determined to see it through to reality. He is due hearty congratulations, not just for his foresight, but for his doggedness.

“We are proud to have supported him and given him advice and access to all sorts of expertise and opinions which helped him shape the product this is today. This is exactly this kind of invention we want to be involved with.

“It is beyond any doubt that technology and innovation has the power to help people live far more independently. Even small breakthroughs can have a radical impact on the lives of people with disabilities, giving them greater freedom, dignity, access or peace of mind.

“Everything we do seeks to encourage the development of such technology, by involving disabled people, their families, carers and equipment manufacturers to get the best possible results. The Neatebox is a brilliant example of that in practice.”

Blackwood has been a leading name for 40 years in the housing and care sector, operating all across Scotland and is renowned for its work in adapting properties to let people who are disabled, elderly or have sensory impairments, to live independently.

The Foundation is its research and development arm and aims is to be a catalyst for innovation, development and improvement for those with disabilities, and says good design can transform lives.

It shares information, stimulates innovation and puts disabled people at the heart of the design process, particularly through its free online service,, which offers product testing, review and advice service for disabled people, their families, care professionals and equipment manufacturers.

A daily task as simple as using a pedestrian crossing can be daunting for those with disabilities, particularly those with impaired sight or mobility issues. Disabled users often find it difficult to locate the crossing button, press it and then get into the safest point in the centre of the crossing prior to crossing the road.

The Neatebox, uses ‘Proximity Aware Technology’ which acts as a portable signal box and triggers the button, giving users time to get themselves into the optimum position for crossing. User also receives a signal from their mobile device – a vibration, sound/voice alert or a visual depiction of the ‘Green Man’ – so that they can cross safely and with confidence.

Gavin added: “I first identified this problem years ago, but at that point there wasn’t the technology to do anything about it. However recent advances have changed everything and I wanted to make the most of the technology already built into smart phones.

“So I created the Neatebox using an app, which can be easily downloaded at no cost to the user onto smartphones so that’s it’s accessible to all.”

The potential to use this type of technology in numerous solutions is incredibly exciting and Neatebox aims to be at the forefront of this inclusive design and development.

Established by Dr Margaret Blackwood in 1972, Blackwood now has 350 staff across and manages 1600 properties across Scotland.

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Private: Heather Peebles

Based as a PR in Edinburgh, Heather Peebles is a highly-valued member of the team at Holyrood Partnership. Her work with the Scottish public relations consultancy sees her advising clients in healthcare, construction, renewables and logistics. As well as delivering numerous successful PR campaigns, she is also experienced in crisis PR and reputation management.

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