Assistive technologies allow people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to meet everyday needs and stay connected to their communities. Technologies (both high-tech and low-tech) can often make the difference between remaining independent and losing independence. For example, certain types of bathroom equipment, such as a rolling shower chairs, bath seats, or long-handled brushes, promote independent living for people with significant disabilities as they manage the most intimate activities of daily living. Other “low-tech” devices include easy-grip jars for food preparation, clothing with Velcro closures, baskets on walkers, book holders, and spring scissors. “High-tech” computer technologies such as environmental control units have the ability to create “smart homes” for people with disabilities.
- Environmental Control Units (ECUs). Environmental control units are hardware or software systems that permit programmed or spontaneous remote control of electrically operated appliances and devices in a person’s immediate surroundings. ECUs empower individuals with a range of disabilities by allowing them to maximize control of their environment. Using ECUs, a person can independently turn lights on and off, radios, and televisions, answer or initiate phone calls, adjust climate controls, unlock doors, or control essentially any other aspect of the environment depending upon the system’s complexity. These systems can be voice- or switch-activated, or can have a pneumatic “Sip and Puff” feature. ECUs also serve the important purpose of allowing the user to summon medical help in an emergency.