When you or a loved one becomes disabled, the world changes around you. This post focuses on disability technology that has been developed to make your life easier.
Your new limitations don’t always have to mean drastic changes, thanks to those out there developing ways to help.
This list is a mix of products I use, ones I used to use, and ones I plan to try. I want to give you a brief overview of the technology that’s out there.
Most of the fancier (read: expensive) pieces of disability technology out there are typically covered by insurance, or at least some of it will be. I’m no expert on this topic, but I play one on TV.
I do not receive any financial incentives from the manufacturers I mention, though I wouldn’t complain if an offer was tossed my way!
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Disability Technology – Kid Tested, Mom Approved
The disability technology in this section below are things I have tried and found helpful in one way or another. I will update this list with new tech I get to demo or purchase.
If you see any cool disability technology you think I should try, leave me a comment or contact me here.
The SureHands Lift & Care Systems is a thoughtful redesign of the traditional patient lift often seen in hospitals.
Using this system in my house has been a game changer for my care team and I. Difficult transfers are a thing of the past due to this incredible disability technology. (Again, they aren’t paying me, it’s just that great!)
The railing spans the width of my bedroom into the bathroom. The SureHands rail that is mounted to the ceiling takes me from the bed to the toilet or to the shower.
The cradle is lowered from the ceiling by remote control. Leg supports go under my thighs and the body supports go under my armpits.
It was an odd feeling at first, being lifted from those areas with my ass swinging freely in the air. But after a few minutes, I felt completely secure.
Having been subjected to the traditional Hoyer Lift on several occasions, the SureHands lift was a desperately needed improvement. Sure, there may be the need for a traditional sling, but SureHands offers that too.
If you’re curious, check out the video below to see this piece of disability technology in action:
The SureHands systems range in cost from completely covered by insurance to tens of thousands of dollars. No surprises. It is a useful disability technology in the healthcare industry.
When you are ready to try out one of their products, SureHands will send one of their sales reps out to your home. The salesperson sent to your home will be with you through the entire process. They even come to the installation to ensure everything is working properly.
When I decided to try SureHands, I had the pleasure of working with Tom Buckney throughout the process. Since we were in the process of remodeling projects at home, Tom was flexible and helped us make it work.
From start to finish, the experience was fantastic. Please reach out to me if you have any other questions about this product. I find when it comes to disability technology, it’s best to hear from actual users with real opinions.
As experts in eye tracking technology, Tobii serves three different markets. Tobii Tech integrates eye tracking hardware into laptops and gaming platforms, Tobii Pro is used for understanding human behavior, and Tobii Dynavox, which I care about, is the leader in Assistive and Augmenting Communication (AAC) technology.
ALS robs you of your ability to speak, making this type of disability technology a requirement, rather than something fun to play with, or collect dust on your desk when you’ve grown tired of it.
I’ve used three different Tobii Dynavox products. The Tobii 4C, Tobii Dynavox i-12+, and the Tobii Dynavox PCEye Mini.
The Tobii 4C was purchased from Tobii Dynavox directly for about $160 in early 2019. The price jumped to $229 recently, though the reason isn’t clear. I initially purchased this device based on the announcement that a team at Microsoft launched eye tracking technology in the latest Windows 10 release.
While the 4C is inexpensive and has the same hardware as its more expensive counterparts, there is very little support for this device and the user interface is not meant as an AAC device. It’s also worth noting that the Microsoft team isn’t actively working on the software.
The second Tobii Dynavox device I tried was the i-12+. I was evaluated for a speech generation device by a local speech language pathologist (SLP). Upon initial inspection, it seemed like a great device.
Once the grueling insurance process was complete, I received the device with all the accessories, including a rugged mount for the wheelchair.
Setup was fairly straight forward, with a similar look and feel to any Windows machine. Where the limitations surfaced was in control over the entire computer. This was important to me since I am used to a regular computer for day to day tasks.
This system is better suited for someone who may not have spoken from birth or has not used a regular computer at any point in their lives. I didn’t fall into either category.
The sales rep painted a picture of this device as the be-all-end-all to AAC devices. Take it from me, ALWAYS do your homework before buying any piece of disability technology.
What I also found out was the computer’s processor was almost seven years old and couldn’t keep up with daily tasks as easily as my other technology could.
I ended up donating the i-12+ to the local ALS Equipment Loaner Closet. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s an important resource for anyone affected by ALS. They have locations around the country and can provide many ALS essentials at no cost to you.
They generally have a supply of different disability technology such as power wheelchairs, speech generation devices, folding ramps, shower safety items, and oftentimes home automation technology.
This is the ALS Loan Closet for DC/VA/MD.
Finally, I settled on the PCEye Mini. This thing is a game-changer. Its USB connection to my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is infallible. The mounting bracket makes it easy to take anywhere with seamless performance, and I couldn’t ask for a better piece of disability technology.
The winner by a long stretch is the PCEye Mini for its compact design and versatility.
A word of caution with insurance. Typically, you will be allowed to receive one speech generation device in a given period of time. Same with a wheelchair. I cannot stress enough to do your homework and choose the right disability technology for your needs.
Each disability comes with its own unique challenges. Hygiene and dignity should be high on the list of No Compromise items. When my arms and hands began to lose strength, one of the first things I panicked over was going to the bathroom.
It seemed like an odd concern considering everything else that was happening, but when you can’t bend or twist in certain ways, it felt like time to panic.
When you think of a bidet, the first though is typically a European bathroom. The bidet, however, is an indispensable technology anyone with a disability should have in their home.
If you live in North America, it can take some getting used to. But once you do, you will sing its praises to anyone who visits and insist they try it.
There are hundreds of models and styles to choose from. And the prices vary just as widely. I chose the Smart Bidet SB-1000 because of its straight forward design, remote control, reviews, and equally important, price.
See it in action below:
Installation wasn’t difficult. It helps to have an electric outlet next to the toilet. You can always run an extension cord if you don’t.
This little invention has been valuable in preserving my dignity, hygiene, and saved my caregivers from the unnecessary stress of lifting me every time to clean up.
It’s a dirty job that no one should have to do!
Toto Portable Washlet
This thing deserves a Nobel Prize. I shit you not! I know, I know, toilet humor isn’t for everyone, but I don’t give a crap!
When you have gotten used to the cleanliness that only a bidet can offer, you won’t want to go anywhere without one. Since you’re already working with limited mobility, let’s not add dragging the bidet around to your list of daily challenges.
The fine folks at Toto have outdone themselves. Watch this review from Mashable.
Toto Portable Washlet Review
While I have an arsenal of disability technology products that help me daily, I have compiled a wish list of products I’d like to try and share with you.
I’ve been looking forward to adding something like this to my Guide to Thrive for quite some time. EksoBionics created an external skeleton primarily for stroke rehabilitation, though it makes sense for a variety of conditions.
While ALS destroys the nerves, the muscles can maintain strength, only needing assistance from someone, or in this case, something.
Standing for My Own Motion, Myomo falls under the category of an orthosis. This external wearable device augments your own strength. Whether you’ve lost a little or a lot of it, Myomo can help you with daily tasks that you struggle with.
The evaluation consists of one phone screening, and a Skype evaluation. The questions they asked during the phone screen ran the gamut from “What is the maximum range of motion you have in your right arm versus your left arm?” To “How has your sex life been affected by not having full use of your arm?” So, be prepared to answer anything they throw at you.
While the range of motion question makes a lot of sense, they took me by surprise asking about my sex life. If this robot arm can improve my sex life, I’ll buy three.
Anyone that has been stuck in a wheelchair for any length of time will tell you it sucks. Not being able to stretch your legs or change your position wreaks havoc on your lower extremities. This can cause swelling, DVTs, loss of circulation, and inability to fit in your favorite shoes.
A standing frame is a piece of disability technology that uses mechanics to aid the user in standing up for a short period of time.
I am also being evaluated for this. The one I tried was made by EasyStand, and at first glance, the product was cumbersome. It was a bit of a challenge to transfer from my wheelchair to the frame’s seat, but it felt great to stand up without fear of losing my balance and hitting the ground.
This list only scrapes the surface of disability technology out there, but they are the products I have found useful in my life and hope my experience may help you.
If there are other disability technologies you found to improve your life, send me a note or leave a comment below.