Plan Ireland Teams Up with Enable Ireland to Debut “BodhránBot”


To mark today, (3rd) which is International Day of Persons with a Disability, Enable Ireland and Plan Ireland have released an AfroCelt jamming session between a teenager in Cork playing the BodhránBot – an accessible Bodhrán controlled using only the movement of his eyes, and a group of children in a school for the disabled supported by Plan Ireland in Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa.

See the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP319xJLGPA

As well as being fun, this event is meant to highlight the theme of this year’s International Day of People with Disabilities which is Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology

Enable Ireland has developed a Bodhran that their service user Cillian McSweeney plays using only his eyes – this is made possible by EyeGaze technology which allows people with limited movement to control their surroundings using eye movement.

To play the Bodhrán, Cillian’s own assistive technology is supplemented by open source hardware and music software that allows him both compose beats and control various parameters of the playback in real time using his eyes. The physical playing of the Bodhrán is achieved using a range of solenoids and actuators controlled by a microprocessor.

This event was filmed both in Ireland and in a school in Guinea-Bissau where Plan Ireland runs a programme for disabled children

Cillian says “I really enjoyed the event. Music is my life and technology makes it possible for me to express myself through music in ways that would not be possible otherwise due to my disability. The promise of technology, for me, is endless”

Karl O’Keeffe works with Enable Ireland’s Assistive Technology Service and he built the BodhránBot for Cillian. He says ‘We see every day in our work in Enable Ireland that technology has the power to change lives and this is a perfect example. Cillian can play the BodhránBot using only his eyes and jam with a group of students in a school in Guinea. What an unforgettable experience it was for Cillian and for all of us watching.”

peaking from Guinea Bissau, Frank Velthuizen, Plan Ireland’s disability co-ordinator said;

“Tragically, children with disabilities in West Africa are widely excluded from education and denied access to protection services and basic rights enjoyed by other children.

Regularly, people believe that children’s impairments are punishment from God; result of “sins” committed by parents or an act by the devil.

Plan Ireland is aiming to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access to quality education in their communities. Through music and technology, this collaboration will emphasise that children of all abilities can show off their talent and skills.”

 In 2015, Plan Ireland will introduce aspects of the assistive technology used by Cillian to play the Bodhran to enhance children’s learning experience.