Assistive technology and tools for the home

Being disabled in 2023 brings one big gift: innovations in smart tech can help us stay independent and safe at home.

Below, award-winning journalist, author and disabled activist Frances Ryan explores the options.

1. Kitchen

Few rooms are more packed with smart tech ideas than the kitchen. Think talking food scales, or controlling appliances with a smart device such as Alexa.

If you have brain fog, a smart fridge can help you plan and remember: the display panels do anything from tracking expiry dates to organising meal plans. With a smart dishwasher, on a low-energy day you can wash up remotely from the sofa via an app on your smartphone. (Unfortunately, the app will not load the dishes for you.)

2. Television

Thanks to smart tech, even visual entertainment like television is now open to people who are blind or partially sighted. Most standard TVs now have accessibility features and tools built into them. For example, the Voice Guidance feature announces on-screen information such as channel names and upcoming programmes.

If you’re Deaf, devices such as TV streamers, receivers and hearing loops can be connected to hearing aids, so you never need miss your favourite show.

3. Phones

Few of us can be without our mobiles, and there’s no need to miss out because of disability. 

If you’re partially sighted or blind, there’s now a range of software available to enable you to use a smartphone. For example, Synapptic has built-in magnification and voice recognition.

For Deaf customers, many mobiles now come with hearing aid compatibility. If you need a landline instead, amplified telephones enable users to increase the volume on calls.

4. Bedroom

The bedroom should be the most relaxing space in the home, and with assistive technology it can be safe and easy to use too.

If pain or mobility issues mean you struggle to move your heavy-duty or high curtains, a smart curtain track could be the answer. With a remote, app, or hand-free voice control, you can let the light in to start the day while still being comfy under the covers.

Speaking of which, an electric adjustable bed can be a great solution if your disability means you struggle to physically get out of bed. Features include an adjustable height, so your feet safely touch the ground, and a reclining top and bottom; perfect for extra comfort or simply reading in bed.

If you have hearing loss, a traditional alarm clock might leave you late for work – after all, many people who use hearing aids take them off overnight. Luckily, there are alternatives for this too: from amplified alarms to clocks with vibrating pads and flashing lights.

Bathroom with assistive rails

5. Bathroom

Even the bathroom now has plenty of technology to offer disabled people. Smart toilets can be ideal for people with mobility or dexterity disabilities, providing anything from self-cleaning and drying to touch-free flushing.

If your disability means you’re sensitive to heat or cold, a smart shower could be a solution, allowing you to set the water temperature and even the flow rate for a comfortable wash.

For people who are visually impaired, talking bathroom scales can be an easy bit of tech. Smart scales can also help you monitor your wider health, even telling you your resting heart rate.

6. Financial help

While assisted technology is more affordable than it used to be, some gadgets can be pricey, so it’s useful to look out for any financial help you may be eligible for.

Personal Independence Payment is a non means-tested benefit from the government designed to pay for the extra care and mobility costs that come with disability. If you’re not currently in receipt of it, it’s worth considering applying.

To get a bigger picture of government funding you may be entitled to, use this online benefits calculator by the charity Turn2us.

You may also be able to receive help through a Disabled Facilities Grant, which is awarded by your local council and funds certain home adaptations.

You can also sign up to the Priority Services Register, a free service that provides support for disabled and older people if they experience sudden changes to their gas, water or electricity supply.

Further reading

  • There is a variety of ‘home sensor’ technology available that enables you to have a loved one notified if you’re unsafe.
  • The RNIB has a useful guide for accessibility features on phones and tablets for blind and partially sighted users.
  • Scope has lots of advice on how to apply for Personal Independence Payment.

Additional support at home

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is an important, free support service which is designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply. If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help ensure you or they can access the best possible services at all times, and feel safe and independent at home. 

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