Smart home technology is revolutionising the way that all people can live in their home, but more importantly. is playing such an important role in creating accessible homes for people with a disability.
Smart home technology is an umbrella term for home-based technology that can be integrated into the home network, allowing devices to control functions remotely. This may include lighting, appliances, security systems, heating, toys…basically anything that can be plugged into power!
These technologies not only make your life easier as a parent, but also can help all people including those with limited mobility, sensory disabilities, and intellectual disabilities.
- For people with limited mobility, smart technology can be automated to turn on and off at certain times of the day, can be controlled remotely (through the app off an iPhone) or controlled by voice (via a voice assistant like Google Home/Amazon Alexa.) This takes the ease out of ‘simple’ tasks such as getting up to turn off a light switch and allows more independence in the home.
- For people with limited hearing, vision, spatial awareness, these devices can allow easy and safe control of the home with voice control and automation features.
- Automation is especially helpful for people with intellectual disabilities to increase their independence. Automation of home appliances can increase safety in the home – such as heater being programmed to switch off at a certain time each night. One touch shower systems, automatic cooking systems, reminder and to do list functions on voice assistants really support independence.
Let’s have a look at three simple and affordable smart home items and how we may use them.
- Voice assistants are smart devices such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home.
- These devices can make life easier for all, including increasing independence for children with disabilities.
- They can be activated with your voice and also respond to speech generated via alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices.
Voice assistants can do the following:
- Set to-do lists
- Set alarms
- Help you follow recipes
- Control home devices that are connected via smart plugs
- Control lights- turn on and off, dim and brighten
- Listen to breaking news
- Make phone calls
- Hear the schedule for the day
- Play a TV show
- Smart lights are light bulbs that have Wi-Fi built in and connect to Wi-Fi. Home hubs are not required for this, and they can be purchased as a standalone item. There are a range of options including standard bulbs, lamp bulbs, down lights and strip lighting.
They can be helpful to:
- Turn on and off the lights remotely
- Control via a tablet/phone or with voice control (with a voice assistant)
- Reduces need to get up and change lighting for those with limited mobility
- Brighten and dim the lights
- This helps create better lighting environment throughout the day
- In the evenings, you could create dim/warmer lighting environment to prepare the body for bed
- If your child is overstimulated by light, dim the lights from the phone to support regulation
- Set up lights to automatically turn on and off
- Control the lights in the home so that they turn on and off automatically and your child doesn’t forget to turn light switches off at end of the day.
- Use to turn on as an alarm to wake up your child if they don’t respond to auditory alarms, are hearing impaired or naturally wake up better with light,
- Smart plugs are power outlets that are connected to Wi-Fi. Anything that can be plugged into the mains power can be plugged into a smart plug and controlled remotely.
- Smart plugs can be automated to turn on and off at certain times of the day and can also be controlled by voice when connected to a voice assistant.
Smart plugs can be helpful to:
- Control the heater- automate the heater to turn on/off at certain times of the day, or turn it on and off with your voice
- Limit children’s screen time by automatically turning off devices (TV, PlayStation) at the power during certain times of the day
- Automate your lamps to turn on and off or even your Christmas tree
- Turn on cooking devices automatically- set up the slow cooker to turn on automatically while you are at work or running errands so that dinner is ready on time at the end of the day.
About the Author
Lisa is a creative and enthusiastic Occupational Therapist who is passionate about working with children with physical disabilities. Lisa loves finding fun and playful ways to support children to engage in therapy. She also likes coming up with creative and practical ways for families to support their children’s goals outside of therapy.