Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there stood a house that one could turn on the outdoor lights with a remote control, open and lock the door with the push of a button, open the windows with the same remote used to turn on the TV, and move around the house on a chair hanging from a motorized track. Wait a minute, this isn’t a fairytale–this is real! Welcome to some of the many environmental controls that are part of a Smart Home.
A home that uses technology to control devices and systems may be termed a Smart Home. The level of control within the house is determined by the preferences of the resident, the cost of the technology, and the type of building for the controls installation. The assistive devices and environmental controls utilized in someone’s home can range from Good Grip utensils, plate guards, and shower/toilet bars to automatic doors, lights, and faucets, electric beds, and tracking systems.
To look at some of the many, many assistive devices and environmental controls, let’s take a tour through our Smart Home, pausing in each room to discuss some of the options available.
The Exterior of the House
Motion sensored lights: These lights can be mounted on the exterior of your house and will turn on when triggered by nearby motion. The lighting, while providing the means to see your way into the house, will also alert you to the presence of others.
Remote-control lights: In addition to opening your garage with a remote control, you can now turn on your exterior and even interior lights as you pull-up to your house.
Lever door handles: Try replacing your standard doorknob with a lever knob. The lever doesn’t require grip, just a downward pushing motion. It’s great for when your hands are full or if you have difficulty grasping objects.
Portable ramps: With a portable ramp, you will never have to worry about stairs again!
Automatic door openers: With the push of a button, your front door will unlock and open – no messing around with doorknobs! And don’t worry, many doors have battery back-ups in the case of a power outage.
The Living Room
Front door lock: Lock your front door using a remote control or a code. Control your entire home with the touch of a button. With “Active Home” from Smart Home, your whole home can be controlled through a computer-based system. Put your lights on a timer, automate your thermostat, it’s up to you!
Easy lift chairs: Do you have trouble getting out of your recliner? The easy lift chair tilts forward and gives you the extra help that you need to stand after watching the game.
Scanning Relax III: >From Tash, the Relax 3 interfaces with your regular remote control, allowing you to control 30 infrared functions, such as your TV, VCR, DVD and stereo, as well as 10 X-10 functions.
Thermostat Controls: Control the temperature of your house from your bedside! The thermostat has both a local and remote control that responds to and receives X-10 commands. Check out www. smarthome.com.
Touch Lamps: With a single touch to the lamp, the light will go on. No more messing around with tiny, twisting switches buried high in the lampshade!
The Talking Microwave: This microwave from AbleData uses voice output to confirm the selected times and functions of the user. The user can press a button at any part of the cooking time to find out how much time is left. When the function is completed, the microwave uses voice-output to let the user know.
Oxo Good Grips Utensils: These sturdy utensils have a wider, padded grip designed to make the handle easier for the user to hold as well as absorb some of the pressure created during use.
Plate guards: These guards wrap around the edge of your plate, either all or half way around. They give you a raised edge to press your utensil against to get the food onto your fork or spoon without assistance.
Recipes: Rather than turn the pages in a book, try out www.allrecipes.com. This site has a plethora of recipes without the hassle of the cookbook.
Electronic Lazy Susan: Not only does a Lazy Susan maximize space but it also provides easier access because it’s lower to the ground. The remote control allows you to turn the shelves at the touch of a button.
Kitchen cabinets: Rather than swing the doors open, pull the cabinet down to you. These cabinets pull down to the counter and automatically close once you let the “handle” go.
Adjustable stove top: With the flip of a switch, move your stovetop up or down to the appropriate cooking height that’s easiest for you when preparing hot foods.
Bathtub: Want to take a bath but have difficulty climbing over the side of the tub? Try out a bathtub that has a swinging door, allowing you to walk straight in and enjoy your bath—don’t forget to close the door behind you!
Automatic faucets and soap dispensers: You’ve probably seen these at restaurants and shopping centers. Rather than turn on the water or get soap with a handle, use the motion of your hands to activate the faucet and soap dispenser.
Shower heads: To avoid getting the water too hot or too cold, use a showerhead with an automatic temperature control. This safety feature will keep your shower at the perfect temperature. Also, try using a shower with a detachable head. This will allow you to control the direction of the water without having to change your position.
Shower/Toilet rails: To aid in balance and safety, mount rails in your shower and next to your toilet.
Heating lights: These automatic lights are great for people that are frequently cold.
Electric bed: A control allows you to raise and lower the height of your bed, making it easier for you to get in and out.
Security system: The alarm will alert you to danger or problems within your house or in the exterior of your home.
Heated mattress pads: Rather than use an electric blanket, the heated mattress pad will keep you nice and warm. And, it’s safer!
Rotating clothes hangers: Not only will you be able to maximize your closet space, you’ll also be able to access your clothes easier. With the push of a button, your clothes rack rotates, allowing you to stay in one spot.
Clothes tags for colors: These are great for people with vision impairments. Each tag represents a different color and allows the person to differentiate between articles of clothing.
Shure Hands Tracking System: This system allows for a person with little to no independent mobility to move from one area of the house to another without the use of a wheelchair. This track system carries a hanging chair for the person to sit in and can go throughout the entire house. It can raise and lower the person to and from different rooms.
Wow, what a tour! And this is only the surface of all of the environmental controls available! The important thing to remember when choosing a device is your own needs. You should choose the device that meets your needs, is within your price range, and will function appropriately within your house. Good luck and happy shopping!
Able Data: www.AbleData.com
Freedom of Speech: www.freedomofspeech.com
Smart home: www.SmartHome.com
Home Automation: www.makoa.org/ecu.htm
Dynamic Living: www.dynamic-living.com
Private Door: www.privatedoor.com/ad/ad_overture.html