Written by Shannon Taber
As the Director of Inclusion and Accessibility at UCP of Eastern CT, I had the pleasure of working with Bin (pictured) and his wife, both of whom are wheelchairs users. They moved into an accessible home in the past year and with the support of staff from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), they lived fairly independently. I had the chance to work with Bin to provide a comprehensive Assistive Technology evaluation to help identify Assistive Technology devices and Smart Home Technology to increase their independence in their home, particularly for when they didn’t have staff there.
For example, Bin mentioned that he didn’t like going to bed at 8pm when staff were leaving for the evening because staff would lock the door and turn off lights on them. He also mentioned that his wife struggled to open their front door which had a traditional doorknob on it.
Recommendations were made to provide and install smart plugs and smart lights like the Philips Hue, the Ring Doorbell and Ring solar lights, an Alexa enabled microwave, the Nest thermostats, and Smart Blinds. I also recommended a lever door handle with biometric and keypad lock that also works with an app.
After installing these items and providing training, Bin and his wife were able set the lighting in their home to turn off with scheduled events, such as having the lights turn on one hour before “sunset” and turning off at 10 pm allowing them to stay up when staff left for the evening. This way they didn’t have to leave the lights on all night or sit in the dark at 8 pm at night. We also set their lights to turn on under the bed with motion detection providing safety lighting in case Bin got up in the middle of the night. Lastly, we also connected the smart devices to Alexa so that they could be used with voice commands. Bin was super excited to be able to open and close his blinds with the power of his voice!
Little did we know that within a month of installing these devices, and specifically the door handle, Bin would need to call 911 in the middle of the night for help for his wife. Bin was able to tell his Alexa to unlock the door for the fire department and police, from his bed, so they could get inside and provide the help his wife needed.
Needless to say, the smart home devices provided to Bin and his wife have not only increased their independence but allows them to stay safe in their home, sweet home!