The Woody Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3)
not for profit organization formed in 2011
to raise funds for the recovery of people
with spinal cord injuries. (read more)
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Assistive technology greatly improves my quality of life as a C5 quadriplegic power wheelchair user that has a spinal cord injury. Sometimes, I receive blank stares or silence from people when I start talking about different types of assistive technology. I think individuals that don’t need these devices probably just don’t understand what I’m rambling on about or why these adaptive items are so important to me. So let’s start with what is assistive and adapted technology? Wikipedia defines assistive technology as ‘an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. People who have disabilities often have difficulty performing activities of daily living (ADLs) independently, or even with assistance. I consider assistive technology to be any device that makes my life as a quadriplegic power wheelchair user more independent, better and/or easier.
I own various different types of assistive technology like my wheelchair, shower chair, an electric hospital bed, adaptive silverware, countless wheelchair attachments, even my iPhone and many more specialized or non specialized devices. These devices greatly enhance my independence and quality-of-life. When I don’t have to ask someone else to do a task, my life is better. Some people prefer not to ask others for help. I’ve been there. I still occasionally attempt tasks to this day that I probably should not be doing myself before asking for assistance. At the end of the day, I need help in many instances especially because I have limited hand and finger function.
I try to minimize the amount of assistance that I need by implementing solutions in my day-to-day life. I have created solutions in my home like a roll in shower and sink that I can wheel my Permobil wheelchair underneath. I drive an adapted Dodge Grand Caravan with specialized Aevit hand controls with a touchscreen computer to start the car or change gears. These technological solutions are fantastic. There are many different ways to integrate technologically advanced solutions to improve your life. Selecting the right equipment or device is vital to this process. Sometimes, you need to attempt several different ways of doing something or different products to find what works best for you. Unfortunately, it can be costly to buy items that don’t work well for you so try to avoid that by doing your research. Individuals with disabilities have unique and different preferences and needs just like any person. Finding something that is the right fit for you is the goal. Mainly, I just found problems in my life that I thought could be solved. Then, I figured out solutions (that are unlikely to fail) to my problems with other individuals assisting to install these devices for me. Today, I want to focus on unique solutions that I’ve implemented with my smart home technology.
I have been creating a smart home over the years to make my quality of life better. Integrated into my home, I have an Amazon Echo speaker with Alexa voice control, a Schlage Connect smart lock on my front door, an Ecobee smart thermostat, a voice controlled (through Alexa and my phone’s Five TV app) Element smart TV, a Samsung smartthings smart home hub, a Aeon Labs Z wave technology key fob, a Quadtools Cripper (which is a reacher for individuals with limited or no hand functioning), a computer, a tablet and applications on my phone like Alexa, Fire TV, Ecobee and Smartthings (check out some of the links below for product details). These pieces of technology are incredible in allowing me to create solutions to many tasks that I may not have been able to do independently.
How do I unlock my front door with a key with limited hand and finger functioning? I skip the key instead using a key fob or an app on my phone to unlock the deadbolt. I can even unlock the door from my bed if someone is at my front door. Want to change the temperature? I go into my app or ask Alexa to change the temperature. If I drop the tv remote on the floor because of my malfunctioning hands how do I pick it up? Now, I can control my TV through my phone or voice activation. Plus, if I do drop the tv remote or my phone I can pick it up with my reacher called the cripper. I ask Alexa if I want to know the weather or if there will be traffic today. The capabilities of these technologies are awesome! And I have not even gotten into the safety features like integrating my phone into Alexa to place phone call or text messages if my phone is inaccessible. If something catastrophic happens like I fall out of my wheelchair onto the floor, now I can ask Alexa to call or send a message for me to get help.
These are just a few of the many examples and possibilities these smart home products are capable of. Inside the phone applications, there are many customizations and integrations to enhance your life. An able bodied individual might see these added conveniences as luxuries but I see them as life changing and potentially life saving. I’m excited for the Smart home technology for future internet connected devices that’ll hopefully make its way into my home soon. I am keeping my eye on those smart light switches, automated smart blinds and the smart vacuum cleaners.
Assistive technology and smart home devices greatly impact my daily life by improving my quality of life and independence. Many individuals with disabilities can be implementing these solutions into their lives to make several tasks easier. I hope individuals with a disability reading this try to increase their independence by implementing some of their own solutions to improve their lives. The possibilities are endless!