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Image shows an adult man who has SMA, sitting in his wheelchair at his desk, surrounded by assistive technology.I wanted to write and let you all know how technology supports me, as a person with SMA, in my home, just doing stuff in my normal day-to-day life. What makes me qualified to write this article? Well, honestly, I’m a bit of a technology junkie but there is a bit more to it than that…

Apart from my own personal inclinations, I’ve worked using many forms of cutting-edge technology from the start of my career. These days, I deal daily with commercially available technology professionally, running my own consultancy offering services to organisations, businesses and individuals to help them scope out their requirements and advising on suitable technology to achieve their goals.

This article is about technology and being a disabled person, but not about some of the things that are probably most associated with that. I’m not going to talk about powered wheelchairs, hoists, electric beds or anything like that. It’s going to highlight technology that’s available to make everyone’s lives easier, and by “everyone” that means even me and you (which makes a very pleasant change).

Apart from a wheelchair, probably the thing I use the most around my house is my network of Intelligent Personal Assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home devices. I use these in conjunction with other small bits of technology that you can buy fairly cheaply to create a truly “smart home” environment.

Image shows an adult man who has SMA driving around his hallway in his wheelchair.Some of the things I can do is turn on and off lights, fans, TVs, amplifiers, satellite boxes; answer incoming landline calls, make my own phone calls; turn on and off the heating and hot water; see who’s at the front door and talk to them without moving; call my children all over the house (UNBELIEVABLY tiresome family job); listen to music; get updates on news, weather, time, reminders; this is by no means an exhaustive list.

If you combine this with some easily available software packages that are very easy-to-use and don’t require much in the way of technical knowledge, you can literally automate your entire house. You don’t even have to command things once you set up certain routines using some of this equipment… It’s truly liberating and very simple, relatively cheap, readily available everyday technology that nobody thinks of as being for “the disabled”… But it is.

Image shows an adult man using his computer with assistive technology.There’s an unbelievable amount of other equipment I could talk about; Eyegaze technology that can warp your mouse across the screen with barely a movement of your fingers, or indeed move it without any movement from anything other than your eyes at all; Bluetooth wheelchair joysticks which can completely revolutionise your use of computers, tablets and mobile phones; Voice recognition software on mobile phones and computers to activate functions within a computer environment or just to type your email. But this is just a quick article to give you a flavour of what’s out there.

Every day I learn about new things that are available, most of them I try because they are very liberating, useful and make my everyday life much easier. You should too.

First published: 10th July 2019