When Steve O’Hear moved into his new home in London fifteen years ago, he couldn’t turn the lights on and off: The switches were beyond his reach. O’Hear uses an electrical wheelchair, and even though the switches were built lower than usual to accommodate him, they were still too high. For years, he had to rely on someone else to turn the lights on –that is until he installed Internet-connected lights that he could turn on with his smartphone.
Smart homes, stuffed with futuristic appliances that can be controlled remotely, are being heralded as the wave of the future. They’re also a potential game-changer for the disabled.
An elderly woman who has trouble bending can use her smartphone to turn a floor fan on and off. A blind person could use a voice activated TV guide to change channels. And of course, for people with muscular dystrophy, pressing a button on their smartphone is easier than fumbling for tiny light switches.
There are 57 million Americans with disabilities according to Mark Perriello a spokesmen for the American Association of People with Disabilities. Yet only 5.6 million smart home platforms – the software required to operate appliances from a phone – have been installed globally, according to research firm IHS.
“Smart homes offer tools for people with disabilities to live more independently, allowing them to take control—turn on and off lights, find out who knocks on the door,” said Perriello. “They have the ability to be transformative.”
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