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Smart Home Technology is Helping People with Disabilities Live with Greater Independence

These days, most of us are using some form of generic smart home technology to help manage our lives and control our environments, whether you’re asking a smart speaker to review your day’s appointments, or remotely checking the video feed from your smart doorbell on your phone, tablet, computer, or laptop. While for some people these devices fall in the category of “nice to have” (or even “really, really helpful”), for people with disabilities smart home technology is becoming “essential.”

Smart home technology connects wirelessly (the Internet of Things) to control lights, fans, televisions, thermostats, doors, devices, and more. These devices help an individual with reminders, listening to music, communicating with employers, and connecting with family and friends. Amidst the COVID pandemic, with people with disabilities at higher risk of illness and facing gaps in attendant care and medical services, smart home technology has proved even more critical, helping people increase their independence and safety in their own homes, and allowing for easy communication with friends, family, caregivers, doctors, colleagues, teachers, and more.

With technology rapidly evolving and flowing into all aspects of our lives, individuals with disabilities have access to a wide range of devices and digital tools to better control and manage their environment. When presented with countless options, selecting the right smart home technology, and successfully installing a customized network can be confusing and overwhelming. And while the cost of individual devices is sometimes relatively affordable, expenses often quickly add up as you begin working with IT and assistive technology professionals to design, build, and maintain an integrated smart home system that works for you.

When Suria Nordin was injured a few years ago, her husband Kirby Smith began researching ways to adapt generic (off-the-shelf) smart technology to give Suria more independence in their home. They were so successful that they launched SunKirb Ideas, a company that focuses on identifying, adapting, and installing affordable products that provide greater independence. Last year, the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF) visited Suria and her smart home with film students from the Academies at Roxborough to showcase how Suria is using smart home technology to increase her independence at home and at work.

Full transcript available at https://patf.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/MeetSuriaVideoTranscript.docx

Suria is a member of the PATF’s Generic Smart Home Technology Project Advisory Committee, which is funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council. In 2017, PATF launched the Smart Homes Made Simple campaign to help people with disabilities who want to live more independently and with greater autonomy using new types of smart home technology. You can learn more about smart home technology at Smart Homes Made Simple and then connect with PATF for information and assistance with funding the smart home devices you need and want.

PATF staff are well-versed in the funding options available in Pennsylvania for this and other assistive technology. As a consumer choice organization, we are here to provide you with the information you need to make your own financial and assistive technology decisions. In addition to connecting you with funding resources you may be eligible for, PATF also provides flexible financing for assistive technology in the form of no- and low-interest loans as another funding option. Applicants need only explain how the device is assistive technology for them and demonstrate the ability to repay the loan. PATF does not charge any fees for any of its services and serves all ages, all income levels, and all disabilities / health conditions. Learn more about PATF loan programs.

This project is supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council; in part by grant number (1901PASCDD-02) from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.