Assistive technology and home automation is providing a new lease on home life for many people with disability.
There’s been a revolution in smart home technology over the last few years. And while it originally might have been aimed at gadget-loving technophiles, it’s proved to be truly life-changing for people with physical challenges.
So what does Assistive Technology (AT) encompass? And what does the future hold? We spoke to Jocelyn Stocker at Spinal Life’s new Healthy Living Centre in Brisbane, to find out more.
You’re the AT guru at Spinal Life Australia – what does that entail?
“In my role as Assistive Technology Mentor, I provide impartial information and guidance about AT and/or home automation. I’m here to help people make informed decisions. It’s not about recommending or prescribing, but rather guiding and supporting them to find the best AT solutions that suit them, and then connect them with suitable therapists, where required, who will be able to assist them even further.”
When people come to you for advice about AT in their home, what are some of the steps you take them through?
“When you book a consultation with Spinal Life’s Assistive Technology Mentoring Service, you’ll get unbiased information, guidance and support to help you to make informed, educated decisions on what the best options may be for you. We don’t sell products, but we can recommend retailers who stock the product you might be searching for. We also consider product compatibility, to enable home automation to continue to evolve as your needs change. Plus we offer home installation, product education, set-up help, programming and trouble-shooting. This is a great part of the service – how many times have you bought a product only to find you need assistance to set it up or install it, or require another part to make it work?”
AT sounds inherently expensive. Can most people incorporate it into their lives somehow? Is it funded through the NDIS?
“Assistive Technology is basically anything that a person can use to perform everyday tasks that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. There are different categories of AT, so you can have something inexpensive but super-useful (like a jar opener or a modified eating utensil), right through to a high-tech item like voice-control software to control a computer instead of a keyboard. People with disabilities have traditionally been early adopters in the use of assistive technology and a large number of our members already use some form of AT. The great news is, because home automation is now being widely used in the mainstream community, the mass production of products means they’re now more affordable than ever before. NDIS participants can also access funding for most of these types of products.”
What are some technologies that you’ve heard about that excite you for the future?
“In recent years there’s been an explosion in the home automation market, of products that can really enhance the lives of people living with disability, and help them gain back the independence to control their environment. The list of new software, innovative technologies and smart
devices is expanding all the time, and what makes things really exciting is the affordability of products available on the mainstream market.”
What’s the one AT device that lots of people find super useful in their home?
“Most people with quadriplegia have a love/hate relationship with keys, particularly house keys. Holding a key at just the right angle and turning it at the same time can be complex for anybody with any hand dexterity issues. Home automation – adopting the use of a digital deadbolt – provides keyless entry (so there’s no need for those pesky key safes any more), generally with the ability to store up to 40 pre-programmed pin access numbers.”