There was a great news article on BBC South Today last week about how Smart technology is changing the lives of those with disabilities. The feature showed a man using Amazon Alexa to control his lights and was raving about the benefits of finally not having to rely on a care provider for basic tasks. It also featured an elderly lady with mobility issues who felt that having her Amazon Alexa made her feel less lonely. She was able to interact with it and play music through home speakers, this meant her husband felt more comfortable leaving her alone when he needed to leave her alone for short periods of time.
Inevitably there’s been some backlash from those who say that it’s an excuse for local authorities to reduce spending on care provision. But what’s better? If there is an opportunity to extend independent living through the use of technology surely that’s a good use of technological advancement?
In November 2017 the Innovate Trust, a welsh charity, began a £15,000 trial testing Smart speaker technology with five people with learning disabilities. Smart technology was installed in their homes and has enabled them to live more independently over the past year. In addition to this, they operate a Supported Living premises featuring a range of Smart technology with the aim of increasing the independence of residents and therefore enabling them to redirect staff resources more creatively. The direct result is the empowerment of vulnerable people who would otherwise rely heavily on care givers.
It seems then, that this is an argument for argument’s sake. So long as there’s continued monitoring to ensure complete safety for vulnerable individuals and emergency care, reducing cost and increasing independence is not only a good thing, it’s a great thing! If Smart technology opens doors (literally and figuratively) and minds for local authorities to think about how best they can use voice technology, sensors, Smart lighting, Smart heating, Smart blinds, Smart door entry…the list goes on…in turn they will be better placed to use care staff more effectively. In turn they will become more efficient in delivering personal care where it’s needed most.
Ultimately, local authorities should offer choice. Because a person is deemed as vulnerable – be that due to learning disabilities, physical or mental disabilities – it doesn’t mean they can’t have a choice, but the beauty of Smart technology is that is provides choice. There’s a whole range of products to make life simpler, let’s embrace it where we can!
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