When filmmakers released Back to the Future II in 1989 they predicted that we’d have homes that greeted us when we walked in the door and could help us change television channels by 2015.
They didn’t know it at the time, but their predictions would become a reality. The idea of a ‘smart house’ is still a relatively new concept here in Australia but there’s already millions of people using smart home technology around the world.
Undoubtedly, people with disability can benefit most from smart home technology. Gone are the days of needing to rely on others or purchase expensive disability-specific equipment. Thanks to smart home technology we now have more independence than ever before.
Here’s six smart home technologies that are enabling people with disability to have greater independence in more accessible homes.
1. Smart speakers
Amazon Echo and Google Home are the two leading smart speakers on the market. Both are new to the Australian market however their popularity is set to grow, with 56.3 million smart speakers expected to sell worldwide in 2018 (1).
These voice-controlled speakers are an ideal starting point for any smart home setup. They act as virtual assistants, allowing you to control devices in your home using your voice. You’re able to do everything from checking the weather to turning on your television – all hands-free.
People who have disabilities that affect their hands, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, can now do many things through a smart speaker without having to use their hands. For example, you can create a shopping list without having to write or type and you can change the television channel without having to press buttons on a remote.
2. Smart lights
Pairing a smart speaker with smart bulbs means that you can control the lights in your home using your voice. Smart bulbs can also be controlled through your smart phone.
You’re able to adjust the brightness and even the colour (to any colour in the rainbow with some bulbs) without having to go to a wall switch. Some smart bulbs can also be scheduled to turn on and off at specific times, which is great for added security.
It can be frustrating having to rely on others to do seemingly simple tasks such as turning on a light. Smart lights give people with disability greater independence, as the lights are able to be turned on and off from anywhere, including from in bed.
3. Smart plugs
Smart plugs let you turn on and off any appliance that plugs into a standard wall socket via your smart phone or speaker. For example, you can use it with a lamp, television or slow-cooker. Most wall sockets are awkwardly low and difficult for many people with disability to use. Smart plugs make turning your appliances on and off through your smart phone or speaker easy.
4. Smart curtains and blinds
Curtains and blinds can be difficult for some people with disability to use. Smart curtains and blinds allow you to open and close your curtains and blinds through an app on your phone. You can even schedule them to open and close at specific times.
5. Smart doorbells
Smart doorbells have a motion-sensor camera that can show you who is at your door via your smart phone. If you’re like me and use a wheelchair, seeing who is at the door through the peephole is impossible, so smart doorbells give you the added security of knowing who is at the door before opening it.
Some smart doorbells even let you talk to the person at the door through your smartphone. This is incredibly helpful if you can’t get to the door quickly.
6. Smart locks
Smart locks are useful if you have family, friends or support workers who visit regularly. You’re able to let them into your home without having to go to the door. Access is granted to visitors through their smart phones. You can even limit the days and times they have access to your home.
Some people with disability have support workers visiting each morning to assist them in getting out of bed. They may have to give their support workers a key for the front door or leave the door unlocked overnight. Smart locks give people with disability more security, as you can control who you let into your house and when.
Smart homes and the technology within them are giving people with disability more independence than ever! As smart home technology becomes more mainstream and affordable we’re excited to see more and more people with disability living in smart homes that meet their accessibility needs.
Some people with disability may even be able to get smart home technology funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to make their homes more accessible. Click here to learn more about the NDIS. (https://www.tipping.org.au/ndis/what-is-the-ndis/)