Automatic window openers were design to meet the need of inaccessible windows that are out of reach such as skylights on roofs. Using a wireless remote to activate the window opener we can open and close the window at ease. For people with a mobility restriction window openers can give independence to control ventilation in their living space. The ACK4 Window Opener is suitable for aluminium and timber windows. It has an anti-crush control board to prevent trapped fingers. To control the window, you can either use a wall switch, an infrared remote control or a 433 Mhz radio control transmitter. The window actuator with remote costs about £240.
Using a Broadlink RM Pro could make a window opener become part of your smart home setup and hence then possibly voice controlled.
Motorised blinds and curtains have been around for many years, providing easy access to control blinds and curtain rails. Control of these motorised devices was usually with the use of a radio remote control, which made such devices particularly of interest for people with mobility issues. Internet of Things (IoT) has now extended its internet connectivity to these everyday objects. Embedded with technology, these devices can communicate and interact over the internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled.
An example of this is Somfy motorization systems. These systems consist of a range of motorised blinds, curtains and roller shutters. The Somfy myLink™ is a device that turns your smartphone or tablet into a remote control for motorized products featuring Somfy Radio Technology. For voice control, Alexa now works with myLink!
Purchasing new blinds or curtains rails could work out to be quite expensive, and possible wasteful if you already have good blinds in place, however, there are a number of options available to retrofit existing blinds to also consider. They are able to transform your standard home blinds into smart electric blinds and do so at an affordable price. Like the Somfy blinds, they also provide a way to raise, lower and choose an intermediate position of the blind.
The Brunt Blind Engine can motorize your existing blinds and connect to your smartphone, allowing remote control and scheduling of your blinds anywhere, anytime.
It is designed to be compatible with most roll-type blinds available on the market,
allowing blinds of all different shapes and sizes to be successfully fitted.
The Blind Engine comes with two different gears designed to accommodate string cords and ball chains. With the Brunt App, you can raise and lower multiple blinds at the same time. (No extra monthly charge for the Brunt application)
You can use the Brunt Blind Engine with various voice recognition speakers. Cost online $129
AXIS Gear is an affordable and easy way to motorize your window shades. Gear is a smart device that lets you easily control and schedule when your shades open and close. Axis say the install and setup of Gear takes minutes and guarantees to fit your shades or your money back.
Included are a solar panel and backup AA batteries. The App allows the creation of schedules and smart home integration.
The SOMA Smart Shades is designed to fit your existing shades and curtains with a continuous-cord. Continuous-cord shades have one looped string or beaded chain that allows you to raise and lower the bottom of the shades. Attach the device to your shades or blinds with a beaded chain or string, download the mobile app, follow the instructions and you’re ready to go. Automated schedules can be created and it is possible to control multiple windows from one mobile app. It is Android & iOS supported. Smart Shades are solar powered with a built-in lithium battery. By installing the SOMA Connect, you can control your shades with your voice, as it works with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit.
Most smart locks are installed on mechanical locks such as deadbolts. They typically upgrade the ordinary lock. Recently, there have been a number of smart locks that have appeared on the market that provide the convenience of being able to lock and unlock your door from anywhere, or passing on to people you trust a passcode to open the door.
Smart locks, like the traditional locks, need two main parts to work: the lock and the key. In the case of these electronic locks, the key is a smartphone or a special key fob configured explicitly for this purpose which wirelessly performs the authentication needed to automatically unlock the door. With some smart locks, the physical key may still be used in case the batteries of the lock have run too low. Generally, the smart door locks operate with 4 AA batteries, so no hard wiring is required.
Most smart locks will feature access by entering a code, instead of fumbling for keys. It is easy to share access with trusted friends/family. They are battery-operated and so should still accept access codes on the touchscreen during home power outages. They all claim to be easy to install with just a screwdriver (providing holes for the lock are already installed in the door).
Smart Lock manufacturers generally have their own app to set up and control the door locks but can often be controlled by other smartphone apps such as Samsung Smartthings or will work with Apple HomeKit, which is software on Apple iOS devices that lets users configure and control smart-home appliances.
Some locks you can use hands-free voice control with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices or Google Assistant-enabled devices. This includes verbally locking or checking the status of the front door. This may require the addition of a wifi adaptor for the lock.
Smart locks can be used with a smart doorbell to allow the user to see or communicate with someone at a door before unlocking. These are now mainstream products, available in computer and online stores. These types of products can help support independent living for people with disabilities.
Below is a range of the newer smart door locks.
Nest x Yale Lock
With Yale known for their secure locks and Nest known for their connected home, they have come together to make a key‑free deadbolt that connects to the Nest app. As with many smart locks you can lock and unlock your door from anywhere or give people you trust a passcode, instead of a key.
When the Nest/Yale Lock is connected to the Nest app, you can unlock your door from your phone or create passcodes for family and guests. Even set times when passcodes expire. You can get alerts whenever someone unlocks and locks the door. And when Nest knows you’re away, your door can lock automatically.
Yale Real Living® Touchscreen Deadbolt
The absence of the cylinder provides a “clean” appearance and means that lock picking is virtually impossible. It completely eliminates the need to manage keys
In the event the batteries die – a 9V battery provides enough power to enter the code and gain access to the lock.
The touchscreen keypad illuminates for night time access.
It is available in ZigBee® or Z-Wave® configurations
As with all the smart locks, the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt claims to be easily installed with just a screwdriver. It has a pre-set, unique 6 digit programming code, and a capacity for 30 access code (4-8 digits)
What makes it different from the other smart locks is that it features a built-in alarm to sense potential door attacks.
It works with Apple HomeKit. With the Schlage Sense Wi-Fi Adapter plugged into an outlet within the home and connected to the home Wi-Fi, you can lock/unlock from anywhere using an iPhone or Android smartphone.
You can use your lock hands-free, through voice control with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices like Amazon Echo and Dot if you pair your Schlage Sense WiFi Adapter with your Schlage Sense lock. Learn more about Alexa features here and similar to Alexa, you’ll be able to use hands-free voice control with Google Assistant-enabled devices like Google Home.
This electronic lock features a battery-operated keypad or touchscreen, eliminating the need for keys. Enter your home with a unique access code or lock your door with the touch of a button.
Kwikset’s SmartCode electronic locks offer an easy-to-install touchscreen and touchpad for a keyless entry that fits on any standard door. Z-wave and ZigBee options available. The touchpad with buttons may have the advantage that it consists of raised buttons for someone with a visual impairment. The back-lit keypad provides increased visibility.
The SmartCode touchpad smart lock with Home Connect technology enables the lock to wirelessly communicate with other devices in the home. The lock allows the user (through a third-party smart home controller) to remotely check the door lock status, lock or unlock the door and receive notifications via email or text. SmartCode is easy to install, program and use, and operates on 4 AA batteries. It also features SmartKey Security as the back-up keyway.
Video doorbells bring both convenience and security to your home by streaming a live view of the doorstep to your smartphone, whether you are on the other side of the door or the other side of the world. For someone with a disability, these could be quite useful products as they let you check who is there before answering. Your smartphone is notified the moment motion is detected or the doorbell is pressed. You can speak to visitors through the doorbell’s microphone and speaker.
Used in combination with a smart lock they could replace older technologies such as a video door intercom for door entry. There are now a number of smart video doorbells products available, as can be seen below.
Ring video doorbell
Nest video doorbell
Blink Video Doorbell
The good: You wont miss another call on the door whether you are on the other side of the door, or the other side of the world.
The not so good: If your home Wi-Fi stops working so does your doorbell.
The verdict: Promotes living independently for people with disabilities by providing a secure door entry system.
One of the dangers for people with disabilities living independently are the risks associated with cooking which can result in a fire. However, there are a number of devices we can use to reduce or even eliminate this danger in cooking. These devices can promote independent living when using the cooker is risky due to old age, memory disorders, disability, or learning difficulties. These devices aim to protect the area of a home most at risk of catching fire, the kitchen.
lnnohome Stove Guard
The lnnohome Stove Guard is a cooker safety device that monitors the hob use and registers when the user is not present. If the cooker has been left on the Timer turns it off. The Stove Guard will also identify a dangerously high temperature or steep temperature rise, and recognizes the alarm signals of fire, gas and carbon monoxide alarms. An Automatic Safety Lock ‘locks’ the cooker so that it cannot be turned on accidentally.
Stove Guard SGK510
lnnohome Stove Alarm
The Stove Alarm is a more affordable solution than the Stove Guard that will improve the kitchen’s fire safety significantly. The Intelligent Heat Sensor, attached underneath the cooker hood, signals an alarm, that alerts the user to a hazardous situation happening on the cooker before it produces toxic gases or starts a fire. The alarm also sounds if it is removed from its location.
Enable Ireland’s Garden, ‘Beyond Boundaries’ was an award winner at Bloom in the Park this year. With a focus very much on Access for All, we wanted to see how we could make the garden more easily accessible to Bloom visitors with vision impairment. So we decided to make a tactile book with a small selection of the plants featured in the garden, printed using a 3 D Printer. Here are the results. We got a lot of really good feedback from visitors, and now the book is located in our Garden Centre in Sandymount, where customers can check it out for themselves.
What do you think of this idea? Have you used 3 D printing to enhance access to other services/facilities? We’d love to learn from your experience!
Tactile book cover with map of Enable Ireland Bloom Garden
A few weeks ago, Lee Ridley (a.k.a. Lost Voice Guy) became the first comedian to win Britain’s Got Talent, now in its 12th year. As well as outshining his competitors along the way, and winning with a clear margin, Lee was a favourite with both the judges and the public.
What also makes Lee’s win even more incredible is that fact that he is the first person with a disability to win the show. For a stand-up comedian, being able to connect with your audience is essential, and he did this with self-depreciating humour, fantastic delivery and some killer one-liners, all done through the use of Alternative and Augmentative Communication(AAC).
AAC provides a means of communication for those whose speech is not sufficient to communicate functionally in all environment and with all partners. Lee uses a combination of two devices to support his communication – an iPad with apps, and a dedicated device called a Lightwriter.
Lee has been on the comedy circuit since 2012, and has won prestigious prizes, including the BBC Radio New Comedy Awards in 2014. Below is an interview that Lee participated in, via email, with Karl O’Keeffe back in 2013, which gives some insights into his process and the unique challenges that using a synthesised voice can present.
Karl: You are the first person ever to do stand up comedy who uses a communication device, so you had nobody to learn from. What are the most important techniques and tricks you have learned so far that you wish someone had told you when you were starting?
Lee: I think one of the most important techniques that I have learnt is how to deal with timing. Obviously it’s pretty hard to know when to leave pauses for laughter and stuff, especially as I have to pre plan this. I can pause whenever I want but you have to be ready to pause when people laugh otherwise the start of the next bit gets lost or they don’t laugh as long. You sort of have to know when it’s coming so you’re ready for it. Obviously every audience is different so I’m never going to get it right every time. I think I’m getting better at anticipating when to pause though.
Karl: I see from your videos that you use both a LightWriter and an iPad. Can you tell me which it better for stand up comedy?
Lee: I use my iPad for my stand up and I use my Lightwriter for day to day conversations. I just find that my iPad is easier to understand slightly. It is also easier to find my material on the iPad and because it backs up to the cloud, it’s a bit more secure and means i can use any Apple device. It’s also a bit sexier than my Lightwriter.
Karl: Do you always use the same voice? Why is the voice important in your performance?
Lee: I use the same voice mostly yes. However I do use other voices in my act as well for comedy purposes. For example, I use a woman’s voice to do an impression of my mother. I think that my main voice is important to me because it has become ‘my’ voice. It’d be weird if I changed it now.
Karl: What app do you use on the iPad for communication?
Lee: I use Proloquo2go, which is a brilliant app. It is very complex but easy to use at the same time. It does everything that I need it to do really.
Karl: What is your favourite app on the iPad?
Lee: I tweet quite a lot so I tend to use Tweetbot all the time. I couldn’t get through long train journeys with the Spotify app either!
Karl: Do you use any other Assistive Technology (computer access etc.)?
Lee: No. I only use Proloquo2go on my iPad and iPhone and then my Lightwriter.
What is your vision of a sensory room? A room with a soft mat, bean bags, bubble tubes, fibre optic lighting? Switch everything on when someone wants to use the room?
Wouldn’t you like to see a little more thought as to how to control the room’s special lighting, music, and objects so that it can be more immersive? How about a projection of a motorbike on the wall while you feel the vibrations in your cushion? Or a picture of an animal while you hear its name, or its sound? Or even a projection of a beach in a blue-coloured lit environment while you feel a breeze? Well, next-generation sensory rooms are here.
The SHX system developed by BJ Live allows all resources and solutions present in the room to act in coordination to create integral stimulation environments. A single control system allows integration of all the interactive and multimedia element of the room.
The SHX system supports 2 projections as well as 4 vibroacoustic elements in the room. There is a range of scenes provided by the SHX control software, combinations of videos, images, noise, lighting, vibration or effects that can be customised to the user.
The good: The system allows you to control the level of stimulation and the method of interaction to adapt the space for each user.
The not so good: Needs time to set up a sensory room installation.
The verdict: With a range of scenes provided by the SHX control software, combinations of videos, images, noise, lighting, vibration or effects can be customised for any user child or adult.
Many of us agree that eating is one of life’s pleasures. Sitting down to a delicious meal with cherished friends or family is as about as life-affirming as it gets but what happens if you have a difficulty in eating independently?
Luckily there are a number of products that can assist with eating. A new product called Obi works by automating the movement of the human arm, allowing the user to select food of their choice and dictate the pace at which the food is fed to them.
Obi allows the caregiver to quickly position the device for optimal use and modify the food delivery location for each user.
The Obi plate consists of 4 individual food compartments. The obi arm is controlled by two switches, one switch controls the compartment Obi picks up from and the other switch then picks up the food. The plate can be easily removed and cleaned and is also microwavable. Weighing just over 3 kilos and being equipped with a built-in rechargeable battery means that it can be taken anywhere
Microsoft has announced the Xbox Adaptive Controller, an Xbox controller designed for people with disabilities. It has two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. This is an exciting development and has the potential to radically transform the gaming experiences of individuals with different access needs.