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Getting Creative with AT Smart Technology for Virtual Demonstrations

By Joanne Lambert, M.S. CCC/SLP, EASTCONN

There is so much technology available today to support users who have physical disabilities. For some, either being able to see the numbers on a thermostat or having the motor dexterity to manipulate the controls on a thermostat can be quite a challenge. As part of the Connect to Tech Program, a grant funded by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation National Paralysis Resource Center 2020 High Impact Innovative Assistive Technology (HIIAT), EASTCONN has teamed up with the CT Tech Act Project along with two AT partners and two local hospitals to provide patients with spinal cord injury or other paralysis-causing conditions access to assistive technology (AT) services and devices through AT demonstrations and AT lending. These individualized demonstrations will allow them to experience how AT can enhance their quality of life and help them to maintain and/or increase their independence as they return home after their discharge from the hospital. The Google Nest Thermostat is one item within the Smart Technology toolkit that can help.

Best practice recommends that products are demonstrated and selected based on feature matching between a tool and its user. The NEST, which is an item that would be installed in an individual’s home, sure is tricky to demonstrate as it would not be practical to install the unit in a potential user’s home to “try it out.” That’s when we had to get creative. Knowing that the features of the NEST could allow environmental control to its users, we had to find a work around to demo this product that we felt could help so many individuals to be more independent in their homes.

Installing the Nest on a board was the easy part, but how could we get the device to demonstrate its features? We could certainly show how to adjust and program the temperature settings using the app without attaching the “heating” and “cooling” wires, but we wanted to be able to demonstrate the full functionality of what this Smart technology can offer. The unit, out of the box, had two 1.5v AAA batteries, but those weren’t enough to fully power the device. We needed a separate power source that would mimic the unit being installed (hard-wired) in the home. We purchased an AC24V C-Wire Power Adapter from to act as the power supply. This two-wire unit with a power adapter was just what was needed in order to power the device and be able to demonstrate the features without actually installing it in an individual’s home. We could set up the device, customize settings for heating and cooling preferences and pair it with the Google Nest Hub Max in order to demonstrate how to operate the unit using the  voice and the wake command, “Hey Google.” These simple steps made it possible for us to provide virtual demonstrations for potential users to determine if the Google Nest Thermostat was a good fit for their needs.

Getting creative: Photos below illustrate the process of setting up Google Nest, in order to demonstrate its capabilities during a virtual demonstration to a potential user.

Step 1 of setting up Google Nest for AT Demo Step 2 of setting up Google Nest for AT Demo  Step 3 of setting up Google Nest for AT Demo Step 4 of setting up Google Nest for AT DemoStep 5 of setting up Google Nest for AT Demo