The Role of Technology in Enabling Independent Living for People With Disabilities

Asha Neil

Written on 22 May, 2023
Technology can support people with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities in living independently, pursuing education, and accessing community-based services.

3 Types of Technology That Support People With Disabilities

Most of the conversation around technology for people with disability focuses on assistive technologies. However, other types of technology also have a role to play in supporting people in achieving independence. These technologies include:

  1. Assistive technology

  2. Smart home technology

  3. Communication technology

What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technologies help provide seniors and people with disabilities with improved independence. They enhance their ability to perform daily activities. In doing so, these technologies facilitate independent living and contribute to a higher quality of life.

They are often used to aid people with disability in accessing education and employment. Assistive technologies can enable them to participate in their community and do everyday tasks such as using the transit system.

Depending on the person with disabilities' needs, their assistive technology could be a software program, mobility aid, or other devices.

Assistive vs Accessible Technologies

The difference between assistive and accessible technologies is a common point of confusion.

Assistive technologies help individuals with disabilities do tasks that they would otherwise be unable to do due to their disability. For example, an adapted desk can enable a person with disabilities to access employment.

Meanwhile, the NDIS defines accessible technologies as equipment or devices that help people with disabilities to more easily or safely complete tasks they were already capable of doing. 

Assistive Technologies and the NDIS

The NDIS funds assistive technologies that are considered to be reasonable and necessary supports. NDIS plans provide participants with choices; participants can often select their preferred technology and provider.

Technology that does not fall under this category can also potentially be purchased using other funds. For example, Job Access funds could be used for technology that will assist a person in achieving employment.

How Smart Technology Can Form Part of Physical Disabilities Support

Smart technology can provide individuals with disabilities with greater control over their environment, and in doing so, facilitate independent living. 

Smart home devices can allow users with physical disabilities to control lighting, temperature, and appliances through voice commands or mobile applications. This reduces the need for constant assistance and allows for greater self-reliance. 

Smart technology can also provide real-time health monitoring and alert systems. This can be a major benefit for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as physical disabilities. Support like this can alert caregivers to potential emergencies while still allowing individuals to live independently. 

Communication Technology's Role in Supporting Independent Living for People With Disability

There are various ways that modern communication technology can provide seniors and people with disability with the ability to live independently, access community-based services, and participate in the workforce.

Speech recognition and text-to-voice technology have revolutionised the way individuals interact with their surroundings. They enable users to have conversations, obtain information, and gain informal support from their local community. 

Virtual assistants can also facilitate tasks such as scheduling appointments and making calls, supporting daily living. These innovations help people with disability live independently while also providing peace of mind for their loved ones and caregivers.

Disability plan management apps can also streamline communication between people with disabilities, their informal community, and their caregivers. These platforms allow for plan management updates and participant requests. They give users a greater say over their lives and lead to more personalised and informed care choices.

Participants benefit greatly from improved communication with their friends, employers, teachers and caregivers. It not only enables them to live independently but contributes to a better quality of life.

How Technology Enables Independent Living for People With Physical, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: 3 Examples

Let's break down the various ways technology can support people with disability in living independently.

#1: Power Wheelchair

For a person with limited mobility, a power wheelchair can help them navigate their home and town. In addition to supporting them as they live independently, it can enable them to use the transit system to reach a place of work so that they can achieve employment.

#2: Smart Door Locks

Voice-controlled door locks can provide a person with dexterity limitations with greater control over their lives. These smart devices allow them to access services, such as home grocery deliveries, without help from their caregivers. In doing so, these locks support them in living independently.

#3: NDIS Services Management App

By using an app to communicate with their caregivers, a person with disability can request additional services in line with their NDIS funding. For example, a person with developmental disabilities could ask for additional help creating their shopping list. Their caregivers would then know to do this during their next visit.

Technology That Helps Providers and People With Disabilities Communicate Better

Technology has a vital role to play in enabling people with disability to live independently, participate in the community, and achieve employment or enrol in further studies. By building assistive, smart and communication technology into a person's support plan, providers can help ensure participants achieve their goals.

ShiftCare’s NDIS software comes with a portal for participants and their friends and family members. Providers can use this portal to share updates on the participants' progress towards their goals. Participants, meanwhile, can request additional services, set their preferred support workers and caregivers, and view information about their funds usage.

Plus, the software comes with rostering functions, an app for caregivers, and NDIS integrations such as pricing limits and bulk billing.

Discover how better communication can empower your clients. Try ShiftCare for free.

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