ATLA has adopted a range of technologies to develop “smart homes.” These homes are equipped with devices that allow for tasks, typically performed by humans, to be automated by voice, touch, and sensors. ATLA’s first fully functioning smart home was developed in 2016 when they partnered with Alaska’s Developmental Disabilities Association. ATLA outfitted the home of a client, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. To further advance its work in this arena, ATLA received a $400,000 grant from the Independent Living Council and Department of Health for a pilot project. Through the pilot, ATLA staffers conducted assessments in about 40 homes for accessibility, medical management, tele-health, and assistive smart home technology, as well as performing installations. The hope is that data from the pilot project will support such practices being added to Medicaid waivers. Smart home technology has shown a lot of promise to increase quality of life and independence for individuals with disabilities. Adding smart home technology into their repertoire of services allows ATLA staffers to be creative when it comes to assessing each individual’s needs. They have provided smart home technology for people of varying needs, ages, and disabilities including deafness, blindness, mobility impairments, and cognitive impairments. Individuals who have PCAs are impacted by the use of this technology as it allows for them to be more independent in their home.
It is important to get buy-in from staff when adopting smart technology into your programs’ repertoire. It may have to begin with organizational leadership. Consider whether current employees will be trained on smart technology, or if new staff will be hired to work in this area. Organizational structure is also important to consider. ATLA is a nonprofit, which allows them to freely purchase smart technology for testing and training. This freedom allows ATLA to select the right technology, add it to their inventory, and incorporate new equipment into the array of possible items to provide to their clients. Other AT Act programs may experience more spending restrictions. When working with smart technology, it should be noted that these technologies can sometimes become antiquated, or may require updates and upgrades periodically. ATLA addresses this by letting their clients know that they may need to have someone in their personal network serve as a technical support to keep devices updated and functioning. Finally, consider whether this kind of technology is appropriate for a client in the first place; sometimes low-tech solutions may be more appropriate.