Progressing neatly. 

Originally published on bespoken

Gavin Neate has featured on bespoken many times before with his innovative Neatebox, an app with the functionality that allows visually impaired people or those with severe mobility issues to use pedestrian crossings more easily. 

When he last spoke to us his product was in its early stages, things have been progressing steadily since. 

Last summer he had a trial run at the crossing outside the Scottish parliament; we were curious to see how things had developed.

He said: “Our pedestrian crossing is still there; I was down there the other day giving a demonstration, so we know it can work and that it doesn’t just break.”

A promising beginning for sure, but like any new product it needs to gain momentum, traction and impetus.

“After [speaking to bespoken] I put a paper towards the JCT Conference at Warwick University about the challenges faced by disabled people at pedestrian crossings. I delivered it and won the award for the most thought provoking paper; it was basically explaining how the positioning and the installation of an adaption can positively or negatively affect how they are accessed.”

Having spoken to traffic engineers Gavin was taken aback by the fact many of them had no real idea of how a crossing was used in practice; they seemed to just have a tick list of things that should be present without truly understanding the situation.

He said: “If you are using a tactile cone, when the green man comes on, you’ve got to get the kerb edge; if you’re a long cane or guide dog user you’ve got another set of procedures when you get back to the kerb edge. It seemed so obvious to me but they didn’t seem to understand it.

“Having done the talk at Warwick University, I realised that this was a problem not just in Edinburgh but the whole country, if not the world. It was highlighted by the one question; who is the tactile cone for? Everyone in the traffic industry has answered me with the same answer: ‘for blind people,’ and that’s the underlying problem here because it is actually installed for guide dog users and long cane users, there is no other blind person who will use it; if they are blind with a sighted guide, they are going to tell them when to cross.

“I pressed them and said you have to understand how it’s actually used in order to understand where it has to be and where it needs to be positioned, the height and those sorts of things, and everybody started taking notice and with more people taking notice it got a whole lot easier for me to get heard.

“Leading on from that I was invited by Imtech – a large Dutch company – to install at a Roads Expo at Ingliston, all the local authorities from Scotland were there and came to see it working; one of our board members [at Neatebox] who is a guide dog user – David Keenan and his dog Royal [were there] and that drew people to the stand because they had never seen that before and yet it seemed so obvious.”

Upon seeing a crossing work in practice, people appear to be given a stark lesson in how it actually works and are shocked by how they had handled the crossings under their own jurisdiction.

He said: “At Warwick University one of the traffic engineers actually said ‘I feel really embarrassed and I’m incredibly sorry, but I believe we’ve been installing crossings wrong for many reasons. I’m going to check all of the crossing I’m responsible for.’ That was a moment, an epiphany and I thought I was onto something and could make a difference even just with education.”

Shortly afterwards Gavin was invited by the RNIB to do a presentation at the SNP conference and just before Christmas was invited by a member of the council in Edinburgh to help apply for a grant [offered by Edinburgh and Lothian Health Board) to install a crossing in Edinburgh as a proper trial at Lauriston Place.

He said: “We were just told last week that we’ve given the go-ahead for the crossing to be installed, so the idea is we can put in two crossings controlled by our app and Imtech are going to be involved in order to get some traffic engineers along to see what’s possible. We’re looking for wheelchair users, elderly people and visually impaired people to come along and trial it and I want people to come along, bespoken can help with that.”

Where do things progress from here with the app, perhaps something more integrated or wearable?

Gavin said: “Right now we want to put it onto mobile phones because we recognise that most people who are independently mobile are relying more and more upon them. Ultimately what we really want to be able to do is actually have it included in a power chair as an add-on.”

Clearly Gavin is passionate about helping the disabled overcome the physical barriers placed upon them by society; one of the areas he is turning to now is tourism and the access to information.

“I did a talk recently at ETAM (Edinburgh Tourism) about beacon technology because I see that as one way of breaking down the barriers, getting phones into tourism for example. Although I can’t tell you about the venue I’m working on just now that going to be released in mid-May – but it’s probably one of the biggest employers in Scotland and they’ve given me a contract for a very prominent street; It’s going to have a system on it that will help people not only with crossings but with tourism and how they access information about where they are. Working in the tourism industry you might have people from other countries speaking other languages – so you might want Pashtun or Hindi – we want to be able to say we can offer every language using the phone.

“If we place Neate beacons around the place and someone walks past, that can give us access to information that’s relevant to where they’re standing. For example, we could put beacons in different room in a castle and when a person walks around or in their wheelchair, they then get information on their devices about it. They can also interact with it and carry it with them when they go home and follow up on things they’ve learnt, but the massive part of it is that the people who own the attraction also get the information.”

Gavin Neate appears to be a very busy man; new ventures, talks; there appears to be no end to his endeavours. So what next for him?

He said: “I am down to Birmingham at Traffex, demonstrating kit for pedestrian crossings to many companies. In July I am presenting in Montreal at the International Mobility Conference to talk about pedestrian crossing systems. I did a talk in Gateshead just recently and they’re looking to install a crossing there and I’m entering into work with Imtech and Telent – a large British company – who are tendering 40% of London’s traffic systems. 

“I was in the final of Pitch to Rich with Richard Branson last year and this year we’re hoping to put in a new entry which will address issues that I’ve identified with access to retail for people with disability. We’re hoping we can put forward an argument that this could be rolled out across the country and maybe we can win this time instead of being runner-up!

“The three projects that I have, I identified when I was working in my previous job. The strapline for this is: ‘the solution starts with the people who understand the problem.’ I’ve looked for the technology that would fit the problem rather than running around going, ‘here’s a great bit of technology lets all use it.’

“As we get more money to put into this and we’re putting buttons on wheelchairs or are making the app itself more accessible or we’re changing its functionality, it will be because we are being led by the people who are using it. We don’t want to steamroll people’s opinions; we want people’s opinions in order to make their lives better.”


Stop! Beware of the disabled people.

Muscular Dystopia

On my leisurely stroll through Edinburgh a few afternoons back I was confronted with an odd sight – a sign offering me a warning.

It’s good to be warned of any upcoming dangers or hazards but you know, from genuine dangers and threats.

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Reasons why Game of Thrones is good for the portrayal of the “disabled”

Muscular Dystopia

Normally the disabled are only good for playing Bond villains or being portrayed as circus freaks on Channel 4 documentaries, whereby viewers engage in a pseudo-perverted voyeuristic ritual as they watch through gaps in their fingers as they cover their eyes, through both shock and embarrassment. Some disabled roles aren’t even played by disabled people, I mean at least let us have our own niche.

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It’s all just an act anyway. 

Muscular Dystopia

The Theory of Everything certainly brought many theories to the fore.

One of the most notable, perhaps, was an opinion piece featured in The Guardian by Frances Ryan, which suggested it is wrong for non-disabled actors to be “cripping up” in disabled roles.

Citing Eddie Redmayne’s role as Stephen Hawking as a key example, she believes that it merely amplifies society’s prejudicial views of the disabled.

While understanding why an able-bodied man was necessary to portray Hawking’s younger years, Ryan suggests that were actors to “black it up” there would be a wholehearted uproar.

The recentGods and Kings controversially had white actors playing the roles of ethnically darker people; let’s not forget the fact that popular culture portrays Jesus as a white man – religious or not, I’m sure we can all agree that a man from the Middle East would not be white.

The director Ridley Scott…

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5 things we learnt in the first month of the EPL


1. There may life for Arsenal after all; no RIP after RVP.

They are in the top four, although very early it’s a promising start.

There were doubts about their goal scoring ability following consecutive no score draws, but 8 in 2 seems to have silenced those.

Another bright fact is 3 clean sheets in 4, most likely due to Steve Bould being appointed assistant. Going back to the 1-0 to the Arsenal days, boring boring Arsenal. Or not.

2. Life for RVP after Arsenal is also looking very fruitful so far; 4 goals in 4 show little problems of integration at his new club, though doubts remains about his assimilation, and ability to strike a fearsome chord, with Rooney – the Englishman currently injured. One or the other it might come to be.

3. The overinflated value of British players transferring domestically doesn’t seem to be decreasing. Recent activity…

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5 Things We Learnt This Weekend


• The title will not be going to the capital this year. With both Manchester clubs beating their North London rivals, it effectively rules out Tottenham – their players looked as if they had conceded after the late defeat at the Etihad – and Arsenal. Add to this Chelsea’s inconsistency and you have an unsavoury ending to London’s hope of Premier League success.

• Why always him? Because Mario Balotelli yet again cannot keep himself out of the spotlight for varying reasons; his coolness under pressure with the last minute penalty winner; his stamping upon Scott Parker. Even if it were accidental, his reputation precedes him. For a man with illusions of Lionel Messi level ability, he certainly has not mastered the art of making headlines for the right reasons. Messi rarely finds himself in trouble, nor does he suffer from such narcissism. They do say there is a fine…

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Clint Westward


Clint Dempsey has been a North American pioneer as the first outfield player to perform consistently well across the European frontier.

While his much lauded international teammate Landon Donovan is widely regarded as the best American footballer, he has largely failed in Europe, preferring instead to remain within the confides of his homestead.

Dempsey has ventured east and plundered much success, but his adventure has seemingly reached its conclusion as his move to Seattle Sounders draws ever nearer.

The USA international had only joined Tottenham a year ago and while his goal count last season stood at 7, as opposed to 17 from his previous at Fulham, it would be ridiculous to suggest he’d had a bad season.

His performances in the two fixtures against Manchester United caused mayhem as he and Gareth Bale created chances galore, especially at Old Trafford in their 4-2 victory.

Dempsey celebrates his late equaliser against Man Utd last season. Dempsey celebrates his late equaliser…

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What next for each 12/13 EPL team?


What the Gunners really require is solidity in the middle, defensively and in the engine room. Perhaps the return of Alex Song – who’s career at Barcelona has not gone to plan – may help ease some of the concern. Or maybe a defensive midfielder from France can be acquired – if Newcastle haven’t already.

A centre-half in the mould of Mats Hummels is what Arsenal really require, but perhaps in Thomas Vermaelen – if can recapture his initial success – they have a ready made answer, if not, maybe Ashley Williams?

Another area to strengthen should be the centre forward role, the addition of highly-rated Yaya Sanogo is most definitely one for the future, therefore someone established needs to be added, however unlikely Wenger is to spend much in that department.

Verdict: Champions League contenders

Aston Villa
A key component to Villa’s short term success is whether they…

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6 players who could make a big impact in next season’s EPL


Right Facing NavasJesus Navas
The Spanish winger has finally decided to leave for the big time and unfortunately for Spanish fans he has left his home country for Man City. He would not look out of place within the ranks of either Barcelona or Real Madrid, such is his ability. He differs from the stereotypical Spanish pint-sized passing maestro – though just as technically gifted – he can be a tricky explosive dribbler, in contrast to many a Spaniard and should City win the title, you can assume he will have played a huge part. Navas’ ability should make the likes of Milner, Nasri, Sinclair (if he was ever given time) and previously Adam Johnson, look particularly average.

Shinji Kagawa
The diminutive Japanese playmaker will be hoping he has more game time in his – and Jurgen Klopp’s – favoured position, behind the central striker to demonstrate his true ability. A lot…

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