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THE SMART HOME EMPOWERING THE DISABLED

When we talk about smart home technologies having social applications, it means we’re looking at how we can exploit their potential to make them safe, simple and convenient for people with disabilities


Our homes are becoming smarter thanks to the winning combination of home automation and the Internet of Things (IoT). Amongst the many benefits to be gained new technological developments make homes more accessible and easier to use for people with disabilities and the elderly, restoring their autonomy and freedom, with a significant improvement in their quality of life. But what innovations can the smart home offer to the disabled?

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY “SMART HOME”

The phrase Smart Home is becoming a buzzword but not everyone is completely clear what it means exactly. A house can be defined as Smart when it is equipped with a Wi-Fi network that is capable of connecting various sensors, technologies and devices and allowing them to interact with each other, thus making them manageable remotely.

In the context of disability services, the smart home helps to break down a series of barriers that constitute an obstacle for those with reduced or impaired mobility, allowing them to live within their home environment with independence, comfort and safety.

SMART HOME TECHNOLOGIES ASSISTING DISABLED PEOPLE

The Smart Home technologies that empower the disabled can be divided into three macro areas. There is a vast range of solutions available. For example, there are:

● devices specially designed for autonomy that enable people with mobility problems to move around and manage their home environment independently, without the need to rely on assistance from others;

● safety technologies designed for the elderly or for those with mental disabilities: difficulties which often make direct control over devices impossible;

● devices designed to assist, such as robotic aid systems for indoor mobility, movement assistance or physical rehabilitation;

● health-monitoring devices that continually check the person’s vital parameters or carry out remote monitoring or video inspections.

A SMART HOME MEANS FREEDOM

The first step in creating a smart home for people with disabilities consists in the correct ergonomic design of all domestic spaces, with the aim of eliminating any architectural barriers and in the implementation of devices as well as user-friendly furnishings that offer a reliable solution to the specific needs of the user.

Overall, the domestic environment must be capable of ensuring:

● the automation of external accesses with keyless opening and locking systems;

● automatic control of components such as lighting, windows and shutters;

● access monitoring, through the use of video and intercom systems;

● internal doors equipped with automatic opening and closure systems;

● Voice commands for home automation

● Remote video-monitoring systems;

● automatic temperature control of all domestic spaces;

● provision of safety detectors and sensors to proactively intervene against hazards such as gas leaks, the presence of carbon monoxide, small fires or flooding;

● Passive alarms that alert the carer of the disabled person of any possible intruders;

● assistance management with life-saving devices equipped to send a distress call, by means of special emergency buttons.

The combination of these technological components makes it possible to create a home environment that is inclusive, functional and fully responsive to the needs of the disabled person, who may thereby enjoy an increase in autonomy and, consequently, a degree of freedom.

The resulting benefits also have a positive impact on care requirements, reducing the workload of family members and carers in general of persons with a disability..

PERSONALISED ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

As the years pass, research and innovations have evolved, ensuring that those people affected by disabilities can enjoy life with more independence and comfort. Within a context that is continually changing, assistive technologies are becoming increasingly personalised on the basis of the clinical condition of the disabled person. The technological choices made by the designer of a smart home arise from close cooperation not only with the family of the disabled person but also with those medical specialists who care for them. The designer therefore knows in advance about the condition and any possible development of the pathology that the user is affected by, and thus apply solutions optimised on the basis of residual abilities and abilities that may be recovered in the future.

The smart home can therefore be precisely customised to the needs of the disabled person who can then enjoy a high level of interaction with their domestic surroundings.

The future of the disabled empowering Smart Home is showing itself to be very promising. It’s not only voice commands that can activate the functions of the smart home, switching on lights and connecting to the internet can be achieved through a simple eye or head movement, or even by thinking about it. Smart home technologies applied to disabled needs are becoming increasingly flexible and efficient, empowering the disabled person such that they feel independent, relaxed, safe and in tune with their home environment. A real revolution that’s accessible to everyone. 

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