Englewood, Colo. – (Dec. 14, 2017) – With the holiday season just around the corner, Craig Hospital, a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital for people with spinal cord and/or brain injuries, developed the following hands-free tools gift guide for family members and friends.
“Assistive technology is making all of our lives easier at home and in the work environment. These tools not only provide greater independence, but they can also help improve self-esteem,” said Jill Baldessari, OTR/L, ATP, Assistive Technology Specialist at Craig Hospital. “Some of the intelligent products available now can also give caregivers a break by allowing them to leave to run errands, while knowing that the individual at home can reach out if there is an emergency, turn on the lights if it gets dark or have access to entertainment, like watching TV.”
Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment, software program or product system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of people who have physical and cognitive impairments – including those who have sustained a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury.
These hands-free tools are becoming less expensive and easier to install. A home environmental control used to cost thousands of dollars. Today, assistive technology tools like voice control products can be purchased for under $100.
The hottest products this season include Electronic Aids to Daily Living (EADLs) such as personal assistance/artificial intelligence products, which are accessed via voice control to interact with services via an intelligent personal assistant. The more you use these products, the more they adapt to the user’s speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences. And because they are always connected, updates are delivered automatically. These include:
- Amazon Echo
- Google Home
- Apple Homekit
There are also Smart Home devices that can be controlled by a smartphone, tablet or computer and can be used for turning on/off lighting, changing thermostats, unlocking or locking deadbolts/smartlocks, accessing wireless doorbells or opening/closing blinds.
EADLs can be “low tech,” too. These include items such as:
- Vocca smart light, a voice activated light adapter
- Foot switch extension cord. This can be purchased with an indicator light and is an easy foot- or hand-operated on/off light control that can be used to turn lights and appliances on and off.
- Zap module/remote, a wireless remote control electrical outlet switch for household appliances
- Push, pull or rotate door handles, nobs and levers. These provide an easy way to open a door. With just one finger, an elbow or a hip, a person can simply push or pull his/her way through a door.
Beyond EADLs, having phone access is at the top of the must-have list according to Baldessari. “Smartphones allow people to be safe but also allow them to access their calendars, send and receive text messages and email, and open apps using voice commands,” she added.
Additionally, computer access is important for allowing people to manage their homes, families and work. “Computers provide people with tools to communicate with home health agencies, schedule appointments with physicians and access pharmacies for prescriptions. They also help people return to work with tools like speech recognition, mouse and microphone options,” Baldessari said.
The following are a few examples of assistive computer products:
- Speech recognition like Dragon Naturally Speaking, Dragon Dictate, Windows Speech Recognition and Mac Dictation
- Personal assistants such as Windows Cortana or Mac Siri
- Microphones that are compatible with Dragon, have noise cancellation, are physically accessible and can be portable
- Insynch buddy products for the desktop
- On the go, portable products such as Samson Go Mic or a Bluetooth/USB adaptor
- Hand access tools like a trackball, trackpad or wheelchair joystick
- For alternative access check out mouth joysticks, head/face tracking cameras or eye tracking tools. For the wheelchair, look for a sip/puff, head array or chin joystick.
“At Craig, we introduce our patients to a variety of products and provide them with the opportunity to trial them. These products can be essential to achieving the highest level of independence and quality of life,” commented Baldessari.