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How smart home tech is empowering users to help disabled family members

Smart home technology can be a great convenience to any of us, but is often particularly valuable to those with disabilities.

We recently heard blind people talk about the life-changing nature of things like Apple’s Siri and VoiceOver, and one 9to5Mac reader has now told us how he uses two pieces of smart home tech to help keep a disabled family member safe …

Brian Morris told us that both his uncle and his roommate have cognitive disabilities. They wanted to have the independence of living in their own place, but Brian obviously wanted to ensure that they were safe – and to be able to provide help and support from his own home, a few blocks away.

He said he wanted something that would fill the gap between the drop-in support they receive from healthcare providers and the things they are able to do without assistance.

One ever-present concern with a cognitive impairment is the risk of visitors taking advantage of them, an issue which was addressed with a Ring doorbell. This also provides a number of other benefits.

The Ring 2 allows us to monitor who comes and goes. Any movement in the targeted area sets off an alert to our phones through an app and when their doorbell rings we also get a ring at our house. We can review video of these movements or buzz in for a live view. We can also talk to anyone in the area through the doorbell system as we view the area. This lets us make sure no one is taking advantage of them at the door (and also make sure they remember to tip the pizza delivery guy), see that their work ride picks them up and that they get into the house okay upon their return.

They like to visit the video store, mailbox, gas station convenience store and we can see that they’ve left the apartment and also see that they return a short while later.

Brian also invested in a Nucleus smart intercom system, which is used as a video-conferencing system between his own home and that of his uncle. A key benefit of this over something like FaceTime was that Brian can activate it remotely, while still protecting his uncle’s privacy.

The Nucleus allows for video and audio communication both ways.It works through our smartphones via an app. They can push a button to make a call to us which allows us to view and interact through a live feed. They can let us know what they want or need, show us a coupon or a food container’s instructions they need help reading, get help choosing clothes, let us know they got an injury, or get a reminder that it’s time for them to watch for a ride.

We can also buzz into their place to get the live feed. It has a privacy mode they can engage when they want to.

Brian said that devices and services pitched specifically at disabled people are often prohibitively expensive, while smart tech aimed at the general population can offer the same benefits at a cost affordable to families. The Ring 2 video doorbell costs less than $200, while the Nucleus Anywhere Intercom is less than $400 for a twin-pack.

Do you use any smart home tech in a similar way? If so, do please share in the comments.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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