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On the face of it, 2020 has given us very little to be thankful for. However, we should all be thankful 2020 happened in 2020, as our world has never been better connected!
Countless smart devices help people work, learn, play and socialise digitally in ways that would have been impossible even just a few years ago.
You can trace the history of these devices back to 1971, when microcontrollers were introduced to electronics, causing the cost of buying equipment to plummet and kickstarting the tech revolution. So, although it may have only really been in the last few years that our homes and habits have been drastically changed by smartphones, smart fridges, smart pedometers and so much more, this has been a long time coming.
What is a smart device?
In the simplest terms, a smart device is a thinking machine/computer that can be connected to other devices through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or any other form of connectivity, wired and wireless. They are usually ‘context-aware’, which means they respond to their surroundings. For example, a smart camera might automatically adjust shutter speed based on the time of day. Smart devices are also capable of working autonomously, so they will perform some functions without direct instruction from you, the user.
How smart devices can help people with disabilities
Smart devices can help people with disabilities in countless ways, and much of this involves what we call the . This term is used to describe the ever-growing network of products, devices and home furnishings that have a connection to the online world. In fact, in a way, they have become great disability aids.
Using something like a smartphone, we can take control of things like the boiler and central heating system, lights, door locks, curtains – pretty much anything else you can think of! For someone with restricted or limited mobility, being able to stay on top of the day-to-day running of a home in this way can be hugely beneficial.
Many smart devices have communication functions, for example, internet access, email, or a telephone line. This is another area where smart devices help people with disabilities — allowing them to keep everyone from friends and family to carers updated. This could mean being able to make a video call to a loved one, or a healthcare device sending automatic notifications on someone’s current condition.
How smart devices can help people with learning disabilities
It is estimated that around 1 in 10 of Britons have a hidden disability, with some 1.5 million people living with learning disabilities. Smart devices may imply a degree of technical knowledge and complexity. Still, as smart products, applications, and services grow in sophistication, they are becoming far easier to use. This relative simplicity means many smart devices can help people with learning disabilities just as much as someone with physical disabilities, once they have been given some basic instructions.
Last year, Vodafone and Mencap launched , which centres on the MyLife app that’s available for smartphones and tablets. The technology is aimed at helping people with learning difficulties stay safe. There are also step-by-step walkthrough guides for everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning, boosting independence which, in turn, can help improve self-esteem.
What kind of smart devices can help people with disabilities?
The most recognisable smart device in the world is the smartphone (mobile phone). However, despite big-money advertising campaigns suggesting otherwise, famous examples like the iPhone and Google Pixel can be expensive. They may not be ideal for your needs, particularly if you have certain types of disabilities.
Something like the may be more useful. Its specialised features include senior-friendly touch buttons, built-in help screens, options for family members to listen in and join conversations, SOS button, hearing aid compatibility and extra-loud volume levels for the hard of hearing.
From small to huge, the is an example of a smart device that most people wouldn’t think is a smart device. Its basic job is to help people move between upstairs and downstairs in the way a normal home lift would, but its LCD screen and Bluetooth connectivity give a clue as to how advanced it is.
Other ways in which smart devices help people with disabilities on the mobility aids front include smart curtains and blinds, thermometers, locks and entry systems. The latter makes it easier to let visitors into your home without having to get up. The Bell Surface Mount and the are worth looking into at the affordable end of this market.
Where can I find more information on how smart devices can help people with disabilities?
We would recommend looking at , an organisation that works to assist people of all ages with disabilities in getting the most out of technology in the home, at work or in educational settings.
The Sense disabilities charity, which campaigns for inclusivity, is also a good organisation to contact.
If you would like any further information, don’t forget to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or get Amazon’s Alexa to call us on 0800 255 0498!