The future is a marvelous treasure trove of dreams waiting to evolve into a reality. This is true for people with special access needs as well as others. Comfort, retrieval, utility and efficiency should be the core of any blueprint ambitious enough to make life even better for people with accessibility requirements. The realm of what can be done will always be balanced with what is economically feasible. In this aspect, innovative home automation will definitely play a vital role in this future system.
To discern the technology, one must discern the need. How many times have you had to exert extra effort in reaching that carton box above the cupboard? How many times have you had to pull yourself up to get into a bathtub? Countless minutes could be saved if these "ordinary" things just made it easier for everyone to use. Technology should adapt to the needs of the people who use them rather than the other way around.
Much of these home accessibility requirements depend on the furnishings that people use every day. There are existing innovations that already make them usable to a certain degree. There's always room for improvement and a merging of technologies to take the next step forward.
The Automated Home:
Sure we've heard about adjustable chairs, stairs, tables, beds and others. But imagine a home where your mere presence is heralded by a bevy of networked furnishings pre-programmed to suit your needs. Go inside the kitchen and the cupboard that's normally raised on the wall slides down so that you can reach it. Go to the living room and the sensors on the walls whir into life waiting for your voice to command every single furnishing or appliance into compliance.
If you're on a wheelchair, "sentient" furnishings move out of the way when you need the extra room to maneuver. Like Captain Picard of the Star Trek enterprise, you simply command with an authoritative voice:
"Make it so, table."
The Value of Simplicity:
Sometimes however, the most ingenious of inventions are also the simplest. Unarguably, dealing with the laundry is one task that challenges everyone. Now, imagine a clothesline that's just a bit easier to adjust. A simple mechanism that raises or lowers its height should be sufficient for making it easier to hang clothes.
How about opening windows? Breathing happy with a dose of fresh air shouldn't be a gargantuan effort requiring you to perform amazing feats of acrobatics. Now imagine, push button windows. You push a button, it opens. You push it again, it closes.
Changing Light Bulbs:
Perhaps this is one thing that's a challenge not just for people with access needs but also for people who are vertically challenged. Oftentimes, a ladder is needed. But what if you just can't bear waiting for someone to change the light bulb for you? Again, several possible innovations can be supplied. Wall lamps low enough to be reachable that focus and disperse light on the ceiling could be one. Add mirrors beneath the ceiling to the equation and we have a sure winner. If one has a certain aversion to having mirrors on the ceiling then a simple lamp with a hook and pulley could also be devised. Of course, having a light bulb that lasts a lifetime solves this challenge immensely.
The technology and invention to make living in a house feel homier and accessible does not always have to rely on fancy gizmos and expensive hardware. Oftentimes, some challenges can be solved with a little imagination and dreaming.
Creative Commons Image via Flickr