April 25, 2018

Live More Independently with Smart Home Technologies

by Beth Casey

Smart Home Technology and Adaptive Technology

Living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability is not without its challenges. Individuals with disabilities have the right to live as independently as possible, but some aspects of homes can make that difficult. Light switches, ceiling fans, door locks and other switches and controls are out of reach for some. For others, having voice-activated assistance devices can make a world of a difference between living at home and living in a care facility. That’s where smart home technology comes in.

Smart home technologies, while still new, are gaining ground and helping people with disabilities live more independently. According to the CDC’s most recent report, there are over 56 million Americans living with disabilities. Pew Research reports that more than half of American adults with disabilities have a computer or smartphone. Considering this, smart home technological advances and the rise of IoT should be considered as an option to empower those living with disabilities to live more independently. So, what are some of these smart home technologies? We’re glad you asked.

At the touch of a button…

Where would smart home technology be without the aid of smartphone apps? Today, we rely on our smartphones more than ever before. There’s an app for nearly everything. Now, smart home technology is included among those choices. Some smartphone apps allow you to turn on or off your lights, check the contents of your refrigerator, turn on or off a fan, lock your doors, and more. Yet, smartphones aren’t the only things that can empower a more independent life.

My voice is my password…

Smart home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo are now the rave. They allow you to voice your questions or commands to discover the weather, temperature, schedule appointments, order online, play music, and more. The best part about this technology is that there are no specific commands to memorize. Simply talk to your smart home assistant like you would a person and it will respond in a similar manner.

Connecting your smart home assistant to Samsung’s SmartThings Hub makes your home more accessible by allowing you to adjust the lights, the thermostat, lock the doors, receive problem alerts, and more – all with your voice.

The land of the robot…

With robotics, you can do everything from cleaning the floors to having a surrogate for many of your daily tasks. There are other types of robots available today to help people with a myriad of disabilities. Some, like the Roomba vacuum or the iRobot Braava Jet mop, are more task-specific, but they are far from the only ones.

The DEKA arm, now approved by the FDA, is a robotic arm that’s making waves among amputees. Through an inspiration to serve the human spirit, inventor, Dean Kamen created the DEKA arm with 10-degrees of freedom. This allows it to pick up things as small as a raisin or a grape without damaging them and can assist you with carrying heavier loads of up to 20 lbs, like a bag of groceries.

The PR2 was created by Willows Garage, The Healthcare and Robotics Lab at Georgia Tech, and The Man and Machines Group at Oregon State. It serves as a personal surrogate and allows accessibility of many daily tasks like shaving, picking things up, and much more. The PR2 empowers people with disabilities like Henry Evans, a person who is nonverbal and lives with quadriplegia.

Although there is a cost disadvantage for some, there are organizations willing to help if you meet their criteria. Organizations like Tunnel to Towers Foundation help veterans with severe service-connected disabilities. Meanwhile, Living Resources helped build a smart home for six individuals. If you’ve been considering smart home technologies, take a closer look. They may be just the answer needed to empower you to live  a more independent life. If you would like to learn more about home automation devices, the “A Connect Home” website has great information on the multitude of technologies that are available.