Many icare participants and workers who have sustained a severe injury have difficulty accessing their home and controlling devices in their home environment due to problems with mobility and upper limb function.
The recent growth of the home automation industry and widespread availability and cost effectiveness of new smart home technology and voice controlled hands-free devices are rapidly becoming a game changer for people with disabilities.
In recognition of these changes and the potential they hold, icare initiated a pilot to trial these technologies to determine the most suitable solutions to meet the needs of people with a severe injury.
Life for Christine
58-year-old Christine from Sydney is one of the first Lifetime Care participants to benefit from the pilot. Christine sustained a high-level spinal cord injury in a motor vehicle accident ten years ago. She uses a powered wheelchair and has limited hand function.
A wife, a mother of three and a businesswoman with a very active life, she says the accident left her feeling completely disempowered.
“I no longer felt I had a role. I wasn't able to do all the things that I'd once done. I virtually had to ask somebody to do everything. I couldn't be left alone. I couldn't answer my phone. I couldn't get out of the house, I couldn't get into the house. I couldn’t do anything.”
Christine needed 24-hour support and until recently, only had some basic environmental control equipment, allowing her to open her front door and offering limited control of the other devices in her home.
After hearing and reading about new smart home technology, Christine became curious and contacted her icare coordinator who told her about the new icare home automation project.
The team put Christine in touch with a specialist home automation occupational therapist who came to visit to assess her needs, provide advice about the different options and technologies available and made a plan.
We interview Christine, a Lifetime Care participant with a spinal cord injury, about her new home automation system incorporating voice control. She explains how it works, and the benefits it provides to her independence around the house.
Gaining control and independence
Christine now has a fully integrated system that includes control of door openers, a video intercom for the front door, lights, TV, Foxtel, music, air-conditioning and heating, and her electric adjustable bed, all operated through an app on her iPad and iPhone and including voice control through Amazon Echo with Alexa Voice Service.
Though it has only been a matter of weeks, for Christine the changes to her everyday life have already been transformational.
“With home automation I do feel like I've got more control over my life and a sense of ownership, determination and confidence.”
The installation and programming of technology can normally be completed within a few days with minimal impacts to the house. Christine says she found the entire experience surprisingly easy.
“It was no hassle to have it done and it's been no hassle to learn how to use it. It's been actually quite straightforward!”
With technology advancing so quickly, for Christine it’s now a case of staying in the know and discovering new ways to enhance her life and expand her horizons. “It sounds a bit corny but I’m excited about learning what else there is out there.”
For those who may be considering home automation, Christine’s message is clear.
“I would advise them to contact their icare contact and ask what's possible for them with their disability. You don't know until you ask the question. You might be surprised what you can do to just give you that little bit of independence."
"Home automation and technology, I think is just one way of bridging the divide between normality and disability. It's just one step to making our world all encompassing.”
If you have a severe injury that’s impacted your mobility and upper limb function and you have difficulty accessing your home or controlling devices, a home automation system is one solution that could enable you to regain control of your home environment.
If you’re a participant in Lifetime Care or a worker in the Workers Care Program and you’re interested in exploring if home automation is suitable for you, please download our Home automation information sheet below and speak to your case manager or icare contact who can discuss your needs and make a referral for an assessment.