Your World Has Changed
When you or your loved one becomes disabled, the world changes around you. This post focuses on different disability technology that can help you overcome your disability. Or at least live more easily.
Some of the products here I own, some I have used, and others I want to try out. This is meant to give you an idea of the kinds of technology that’s out there.
Most of the larger (read: expensive) disability technology you can procure will help you get the device covered by insurance. 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! (Insert grinning emoji here)
Let’s dive in.
Kid Tested and Mother 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.
The SureHands Lift & Care Systems is a thoughtful redesign of the traditional patient lift often seen in hospitals.
Having used the system in my house for the past year has made a significant difference for me and my caregivers. Difficult transfers are a thing of the past.
Spanning the width of my bedroom and running into my 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 is a badly needed improvement. Sure there may be the need for a traditional sling, but SureHands offers that too.
Check out the video below to see the lift 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 guys. Fortunately, their sales guys are also highly technical, smart, and will be with the installers when the time comes.
I had the pleasure of working with Tom Buckney throughout the process. Since we were doing some home remodeling, he worked with our contractor and did a great job.
All in all, it’s been a good experience.
Tobii Dynavox Eye Tracking
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.
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 it’s more expensive counterparts, there is very little support for this device and the user interface is not meant as an AAC device. Also worth noting that the Microsoft team isn’t actively working on the software.
The second Tobii Dynavox device I used 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 and end-all to AAC devices. Last time I listen to sales without doing my homework first. What I also found out was the computer’s processor was almost seven years old and couldn’t keep up with the daily tasks I expected.
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, at no cost, many of the things you need.
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.
Finally, I settled on the PCEye Mini. This thing is a game-changer. Its USB connection to my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is infallible and with the mounting bracket, it stays calibrated and properly aligned no matter where I take it.
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. So 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 important ways, it’s time to panic.
The bidet is an indispensable technology anyone with a disability should have in their home. It takes a little getting used to, for anyone born in North America. But once you do, you will sing it’s praises to anyone who visits.
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. In case you don’t, you can always run an extension cord.
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 which no one should have to do!
Toto Portable Washlet
This thing deserves a Nobel Prize. I shit you not! I know, I know. My toilet humor is in the crapper.
When you have gotten used to the cleanliness that only a bidet can offer, you won’t want to go anywhere without one.
The fine folks at Toto have outdone themselves. Watch this review from Mashable.
As far as disability technology goes, there are several items that I am trying out over the next few months.
I’ve been looking forward to adding something like this to my Guide to Thrive for quite some time. EksoBiologics 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, however little you have, allowing you to perform normal tasks once again.
I am currently being evaluated for this by Myomo. The process is easy. One phone screen and one Skype eval. 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?”
The former is understandable, the latter made no sense. If this robot arm can improve my sex life, I’ll buy three.
Anyone stuck in a wheelchair for any period of time can tell you how much it sucks. Not being able to stretch your legs, or at least 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 allows the user to stand up, with mechanical assistance, for extended periods of time.
I am also being evaluated for this. The one I tried was made by EasyStand. Although it looked cumbersome, and it was a bit of a challenge to transfer from my wheelchair to the frame’s seat, it felt great to stand up without fear of losing my balance and hitting the ground.
I’ll end there with these brief reviews. If there are other disability technologies you found to improve your life, send me a note or leave a comment below.