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Using Technology for Accessibility when Renovating

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 16 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Using Technology For Accessibility When Renovating

There are many products and systems that use technology to aid disabled people and help them to live independent lives. Undertaking a home renovation is an ideal time to install much of this technology, as often it relies on wires around the house and installing those can be disruptive.

Challenges for Using Technology to Enable Access

The use of technology has increased significantly as technical items generally get cheaper over time. Also the number of people who are living with disabilities has gone up, as medical advances continue, so the market has increased, making it more attractive to manufacturers and designers.

But there are still problems with technology for disabled people. The market still isn't big enough to make these devices and systems, that improve access for all, as cheap as mainstream products. Designers also face a problem in that there are so many different types of disability so they have to design a range of products rather than one generic one. This keeps the cost high too, and it's compounded by the fact that many disabled people are unable to find gainful employment, so money is tight.

Technology for Communicating Need

Communications products for the disabled and elderly are often referred to as 'telecare' products. Some are designed to work inside the home, perhaps to request assistance from a live-in carer to a need, or to summon help in an emergency. There are products that can act as a warning, door detectors or floor mats, that can alert a carer to the fact that a person is on the move. There is a second category that can link up to telephone lines to summon help from central services, either commercial or public.

Installing these systems isn't particularly difficult as often these days they are wireless, so there's no need for cabling except to attach to a telephone line if necessary. But in older properties with thick stone walls, wireless may not be reliable enough and in this case you could be looking at putting wires throughout the house to connect the various technology components together. Many systems are available commercially and can be found through the local social services, and in fact many of the systems that dial out will be installed by the provider too.

Smart Homes for a Wider Application of Technology

Smart home technology takes that a little further and will almost certainly involve putting a cabled network around the home. There are various different systems and they don’t usually work together, but standards are emerging that mean that it is beginning to be possible to mix and match different manufacturers components.

With smart home concept everything in the home that can be automated, is automated, either by motors or electronics, and controlled by a central computer that's operated by control panels sited around the home. This can be anything from the heating to the opening of doors and windows, even cooking and washing facilities. The control panel can, in some cases, be attached to a wheelchair and integrated into a laptop, so that a wheelchair-bound person can control the home and do computer work using the same device.

Using a Provider to Install Smart Home Technology

Setting up a system like this can be very technically challenging and it might be better to employ a company with experience in the area. One of the good things is that the technology is not restricted to the disabled market, it's being used to automate houses to provide centrally controllable entertainment or automated heating and ventilation in eco-homes, so market forces are bringing prices down, albeit slowly.

The other advantage of using a company to install a system such as this is that it will come with a maintenance schedule and guarantee. This will give you access to upgrades as well as repairs and with the way technology advances it might be worth it for that alone.

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