Accessibility and Assistive Technology

In March I spent several days at the SXSW trade show promoting accessible web design in the Knowbility booth and gained new perspectives about building websites for accessibility and my own site, Modern Health Talk. While I’ve written many articles here about universal design and products built for various disabilities, actually using that advice myself is a different matter, so it was enlightening to hear how a blind person navigates this site with a screen reader that speaks the written words. I also learned to include text descriptions of photos and images, but sometimes there’s so much content that doing so is difficult, such as with an infographic. And I learned that watching movies & videos can be a challenge for the blind, especially when there’s no dialog. That’s why I was happy to learn that Regal Entertainment Group announced that it’s starting to support special goggles for vision or hearing impaired patrons to they can see captioning that doesn’t display on the big screen or hear video descriptions of scenes with no voice.

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Universal Design Makes Home Accessible

Houzz Tour, by rom architecture studioThis Houzz home tour is about beautiful design that also addresses the mobility needs of all the family members — two of whom are wheelchair users. It offers more space for wheelchairs, easier access to appliances and a curbless shower that fits this Seattle family’s needs.

Karen Braitmayer and her husband needed more square footage and were resigned to building a second story before connecting with an architect who understood structural modifications and was able to provide more livability and accessibility in the same 1,830 sq.ft. footprint. The architect knew that “Adding a second story would have ruined the architectural character of the home and required multiple elevator trips a day.”

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U.S. Should Make ‘Life-Long Homes’ A Priority

U.S. Should Make ‘Life-Long Homes’ A Priority – Henry Cisneros

Henry CisnerosBy Judith Graham (original article at Kaiser Health News)

What will it take for Americans to age successfully in place? This question has immediate importance for policymakers and families as an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 years old every day. It’s the subject of a new book, “Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America,” authored by more than a dozen leading aging and housing experts and co-edited by Henry Cisneros, a four-term mayor of San Antonio and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Cisneros, who now runs a company specializing in urban real estate, spent an hour discussing his thoughts about aging in place with reporter Judith Graham. That interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. You start this book talking about your elderly mother.  Tell me about her.

A. My mom and dad bought the home across the alley from her mother’s home in 1945.  It was a lower-middle-class neighborhood of civil service workers — all Latinos. It had the feeling of a Norman Rockwell picture, only all the faces were brown.

My dad passed away in 2006 at age 89, having had a stroke some years before. But my mom, 87, lives there still. The house is essentially the same as it was, with some adjustments. We put a ramp on the side of the house leading to a deck. We raised the toilet, lowered the sinks, created a walk-in shower.  Changed the lighting in the den so my dad could read. Put in window guards, an alarm, and outdoor lighting for my mom because the neighborhood is somewhat in decline. Read More …

Singing in the Shower – More than Accessibility

A great hand-held shower unit hits the right note in any bathroom.

EDITOR: Last September I posted an article about the Universal Design Living Laboratory. Well now the home is finished and its occupants have moved in, so there’s more to write about, including universal bath & kitchen designs and landscaping. You’ll understand later why I so look forward to the article on landscaping.

Singing in the Shower

The shower is something most of us use every day, and it can be a bit challenging when living in a wheelchair. The right handshower can make getting clean an easier and more enjoyable experience.

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Universal Design: Homes That Work for Everyone

These photos showing Universal Design principles were posted on houzz.com by Kerrie Kelly, a ASID, MBA, and CAPS certified interior designer, certified aging-in-place specialist, author, and thought leader. She collaborates with publishers, manufacturers, homeowners and builders to inspire beauty and simplicity because…Everyone Deserves Great Design. TM Kelly authored “Home Décor, a Sunset Design Guide” published by Oxmoor House. The book was released in September 2009 and is still a defining guide to all styles of home décor. Visit Kerrie at http://www.kerriekelly.com and http://www.kerrielkelly.blogspot.com.

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

Houzz Tour: Universal Design in San Francisco Home

For general contractor Jeff Kann, universal design goes beyond outfitting the space for wheelchairs. It’s about letting people participate in family and community life for much, much longer. Sound universal design avoids premature moves and creates sustainable and safer spaces, she says: “It’s about making the living spaces easier and safer for all ages.”

This remodel was conceived to create a comfortable and expanded living space on the first level of a two-story home in San Francisco’s Sunset district, creating an option to avoid the use of stairs entirely as the clients grow older. In the meantime, the homeowners can use the renovated first level now as a guest suite for visiting family and friends.

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

Home Elevators: A Rising Trend

One of the nicest things my grandfather did for my grandmother was to have a home elevator installed. They lived in a two-story home with the main living area and bedrooms on the upper floor. My grandmother had become frail enough that getting upstairs from their main entrance on the ground level was a daunting task. My grandparents were not wealthy people, and their home was not large — maybe 1,800 square feet. But my grandfather knew how much she wanted to stay in her home, so he put one in. Now that’s love!

Pangaea Interior Design shows examples of the various types of home elevators and discusses their benefits.

 

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

Doorless Showers Open a World of Possibilities

I’ll never forget my first experience with an open shower. On a French-class trip to Paris at the innocent age of 14, I arrived at my hotel tired, jet-lagged and longing for a good, hot soak. I pushed open the bathroom door and looked around, flummoxed. Where on earth was the bathtub? Then I glanced up and gaped: I was standing in the shower, which was just a handheld faucet and a grate in the floor — no tub, no door, no curtain, no threshold. The entire time I was there, I never mastered the art of soaping up and rinsing off without drenching the whole room.

It turns out, the French were onto something. Doorless showers have become a design darling in recent years. Not only do they create an open, expansive feel in a bathroom, but they also lend themselves well to universal design and aging in place. And while they’re a little more sophisticated now than my Parisian puzzler, they still require careful planning. Lisa Frederick shows us eight things to consider if you’re thinking about the doorless approach. (from houzz.com)

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

 

Bathroom Safety Features That Support Your Style

Even if you are fit as a fiddle, it’s a good idea to provide as many safety features as you can in your bathroom. But does a bathroom that incorporates safety into the design have to look like it belongs in a hospital?

Absolutely not! Fixture manufacturers are now offering attractive designs that blend into your décor. Whether you love sleek, minimal design or are hooked on traditional, you can provide safety without sacrificing style. Pangaea Interior Design shows us several examples below, from houzz.com.

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

 

Universal Design: for All Members of the Family

These photos showing Universal Design principles were posted on houzz.com by Kerrie Kelly, a ASID, MBA, and CAPS certified interior designer, certified aging-in-place specialist, author, and thought leader. She collaborates with publishers, manufacturers, homeowners and builders to inspire beauty and simplicity because…Everyone Deserves Great Design. TM Kelly authored “Home Décor, a Sunset Design Guide” published by Oxmoor House. The book was released in September 2009 and is still a defining guide to all styles of home décor. Visit Kerrie at http://www.kerriekelly.com and http://www.kerrielkelly.blogspot.com.

 

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

 

 

Healthcare Robots – Eldercare in the Hands of Machines

Robots and other assistive technology may be inevitable in aged care moving into the future, but can they replace the human touch? Annie May reports. Reprinted from Aged Care INsite, Apr/May 2011, and expanded greatly since.

Matilda the robot can read emotions

Click image to watch video: “Matilda the robot can read emotions”

Standing at just 40cm tall and looking suspiciously like the latest toy their grandchildren have been dropping hints about for their upcoming birthdays, Matilda the robot doesn’t give the impression that she has much to offer in the way of care for the elderly.

So when placed in front of an aged care resident to talk about her diet, the resident doesn’t have high expectations. But on admitting to having a love of sweets, Matilda is quick to inform her about all the negative health impacts this indulgence can have. Becoming slightly anxious, – whether a result of being lectured by a bright orange robot or at the thought of having to cut back on her sweets – the resident is then shocked at being reassured by the robot.

How can it be that this baby-face robot can read emotions and give a sensitive response? The result of a breakthrough by Melbourne and Japanese scientists, Matilda is one of two robots, the other her brother Jack, which has been developed with ’emotional intelligent’ software.

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How Universal Design is influencing Architecture

Could Universal Design Be the Next Mainstream Movement in Architecture, Planning?

Click on book image, Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments, to learn more at Amazon.comNew textbook provides the first comprehensive introduction to a growing field

Release Date: April 20, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Universal design, which employs design to encourage health and wellness and other quality-of-life improvements, may be poised to become the next mainstream endeavor in architecture and planning, according to two leading experts in the field.  (I hope they’re right. – Wayne)

Edward Steinfeld, director of the University at Buffalo’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center), and Jordana L. Maisel, the center’s director of outreach and policy studies, are authors of a new textbook, “Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments.”

“We believe we are close to a watershed moment,” the authors write in the preface to the book, which was released on April 10 and includes chapters on housing, interior design, transportation and more. “Whether they know the term or not, the work of leading architects and design firms reflects the adoption of universal design concepts.” Read More …

Occupational Therapists Help Modify Homes for Life

This article was originally published at 1 Call Bath Solutions and is re-posted with permission.

Click image to visit 1 Call Bath Solutions website at http://www.1callbathsolutions.com/I love working with occupational therapists. Why? Because we have the same goal of helping people live longer, fuller and more comfortable lives at home.

Occupational therapists are big picture experts.  Let’s take Mary.  She’s 85, lives at home and is challenged with Parkinson’s.  Sue, her occupational therapist, assesses her physical strengths and weaknesses, how the natural aging process is affecting her (things like eyesight and hearing that affect everyone over time), her medical condition and any psychological issues.  And the psychological part doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Mary—it could be just the typical fears of losing control over her own life and the lack of privacy that comes from depending on others.

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Promoting Accessible Web Design at SXSW

The event's logo is shown with the words "South by Southwest" in Braille belowI spent several days this week at SXSW promoting accessible web design in the Knowbility booth and gained a new perspective of Modern Health Talk in the process.

South by Southwest (SXSW)

“South By” is a week-long music & film festival with over 2,000 bands and dozens of movie premiers from all over the world, as well as a fairly new SXSW Interactive segment for web, mobile and social app developers. Downtown Austin is closed to traffic all week and mobbed by an entirely different and very creative, live-fast, party-hard, and die-young species that thrives on alcohol, energy drinks and a high-energy vibe that can over stimulate older people. Bloomberg described it as “Woodstock for Geeks.”

Making traffic and parking even worse, Austin holds its annual rodeo during the same week. So each year I avoid the mess and have never attended even the tech conference, although it is credited for launching Twitter, Foursquare and other web hits and might normally have been interesting to me.

I just found the whole thing too loud, wild and geeky, and with way too much purple hair, tattoos & body piercings for my taste. But this year was different. Some of its attention shifted to Health, and that’s why I was there with Knowbility, taking the Metro Rail from near home to avoid traffic and parking hassles.

A New Look at Web Design (new for me anyway)

Universal access to education, jobs, government and society today means going online on the Internet, but imagine what it’s like for someone who’s blind, has severely limited vision, has some other disability that makes access difficult, or where English is not their primary language. I sat down with a blind person to get a critique of Modern Health Talk and listen to the text read aloud with JAWS screening reading software.

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Home Improvement Trends

eLocal Home Improvement Badge

 

Modern Health Talk founder Wayne Caswell is an eLocal.com home improvement expert and contributes to their industry surveys. Their first survey for 2012 is the same as for 2011 – What are the top Home Improvement Trends.  Below is an infographic that summarizes answers from 50 eLocal experts, followed by what I submitted for this year’s survey.

 

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Accessible iPhone Apps

screen shot of VoiceOverThe following article is adapted from some iPhone training material that Pat Pound created for special education teachers in June 2011. It describes over 70 accessible iPhone apps, and I thank her for permission to publish it here.

Vision: A Guide for iPhone Users who are Blind was one of the first articles on this blog. It’s short but has several good links to more info, and this YouTube video demo shows how a blind person would use the VoiceOver feature.

And visit http://www.apple.com/accessibility to learn more about assistive features in iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV and to discover other 3rd party add-on products and apps for all sorts of needs, including visual, hearing, dexterity, and learning.

By Pat Pound

Apple’s iPhones (starting with the 3GS) are accessible to people who are blind as they come, complete with a screen reader, “VoiceOver”, and print enlarger “zoom”. As you know, the iPhone is famous for its touch screen so this is a very new experience for most blind users.  Apple reps are well prepared to sell these phones and to explain their accessibility features in their stores, although it’s a noisy environment so it can be somewhat challenging. Similar accessibility is experienced on iPod Touch and iPad devices.

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Aging-in-Place advice for Contractors

Don't just say, "Trust Me." Earn Trust.In this recessionary economy, home construction is slow, but one bright spot is home modifications for aging in place. I was happy to meet a reputable local contractor who is adopting Universal Design principals and embracing the Aging-in-Place market. They’re going to Houston next week for a Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) class, which covers low-tech construction projects but not high-tech solutions like environmental and medical sensors and telehealth services. Our discussion got me thinking about advice for builders and remodeling contractors that I created  several years as Communications Director for HOT. Homeowners of Texas is a non-profit consumer advocacy that helped get an abusive State agency abolished. But until we can produce our own video tutorials for contractors, I’m including several shorts (~5 min) from 5min Media, a leading syndication platform for broadband instructional, knowledge and lifestyle videos.

Housing Options: Retirement and Independent Living Communities

Housing Options: Aging-in-Place

How to Choose a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist

Peter Pan housing – for people who won’t get old

Peter PanNPR host Michele Norris explores housing options for America’s aging population in her interview with Jon Pynoos, a professor of gerontology policy and planning at USC. (Listen to the broadcast or read the transcript HERE.)

Pynoos describes the high costs of nursing homes and assisted living facilities and the insurance options that pay for them, including Medicare & Medicaid. He then promotes aging-in-place at home as a much lower-cost option, but most homes were designed for people who aren’t old. He calls them Peter Pan homes. They have stairs, inaccessible bathrooms, and inadequate lighting, and they lack many of the safety features that would help people avoid falls.

“I won’t grow up.    I don’t want to go to school.
Just to learn to be a parrot,    And recite a silly rule.”

To help you assess your home and make modifications, contact a certified aging in place specialist (CAPS).

Related Articles:

National Demonstration Home for Universal Design, Part 1

Rosemarie Rossetti

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. (used with permission)

Thirteen years after a freak accident left her paralyzed, Rosemarie found a new mission in life: sharing what she has learned about Universal Design. She founded Universal Design Living Laboratory and is building a national demonstration home that will be opened to the public this fall. I’ll be writing a series of articles about her project and start with this, her story.

About The Demonstration Home Project

My Story

By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

On June 13, 1998 my husband, Mark Leder, and I decided to celebrate our anniversary by going on a bicycle ride. It was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky, perfect biking weather. I was riding down the path ahead of Mark, when he heard a loud crack and yelled, “Look over there something is falling!” I glanced back at him and suddenly a 3 1/2 ton tree came crushing down on me, leaving me injured on the bike path. My life was changed in that instant! I was paralyzed from the waist down with a spinal cord injury.

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MIT Assistive Technology: Universal Access

This video and the following text are from YouTube, where it was uploaded by assistivetechideas on Jul 31, 2011

MIT’s Assistive Technology Group is actively working towards implementing state-of-the-art solutions in order to make cutting-edge technology accessible to those who need it the most. The team develops low-cost and robust methods of plugging in any adaptive switch to fully access all software, apps, and functions on Windows computers and Android-based smartphones and tablets. These platforms, once unlocked, have the potential of becoming the ultimate assistive devices, allowing single switch access to a world of communication, environmental control, healthcare, entertainment, and other applications.

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