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Assistive technology

Assistive technology (or personalised technology) is a key part of support planning, and plays a role offering people ‘Just Enough Support’ to achieve a full life.

At its best, assistive technology can make a difference to people’s independence, increase privacy and dignity and help the people we support to gain control over their lives. It covers a huge range of technologies from simple automatic medicine dispensers and big button remote controls, to artificial intelligence, wearable health trackers and smart homes.

Assistive tech often leads to less need for regular staff checks, more autonomy at home, and greater mobility for people with physical disabilities.

Much assistive technology is about improving communication – from signing to objects of reference and eyegaze technology.

What are the benefits of assistive technology?

Assistive technology helps to safeguard the people we support, increasing people’s independence, privacy and dignity by enabling care to be delivered only when needed. It also helps people to make their own choices and decisions about their lives.

Sometimes assistive tech saves money. If so, a person’s personal budget can be reallocated to help them get more from life.

Colleagues report they can spend more time engaged in meaningful activities when the people we support are able to take more control over their own care. Assistive technology can also help colleagues feel safer when supporting individuals with challenging behaviour.

It also helps to deliver value for money for commissioners, supporting the sustainability of services as well as improving individual outcomes.

We are piloting ‘housing proactive,’ where a person engages with a device at a similar time each day to confirm they are ok and not in need of anything. If the person does not engage – typically by pushing a button – human contact can be initiated. Housing Proactive puts a person in control of their support and provides an early warning of potential issues.

What is telecare?

Telecare is a type of assistive technology. Telecare helps the people we support to manage risk and remain independent by means of wireless sensors placed around the home which detect problems such as smoke, gas, floods or a person falling or having an epileptic seizure. Sensors automatically raise a local, audible alarm, as well as alerting a support worker, ensuring the right help can be delivered at the right time 24 hours a day. Telecare gives the people we support control, enabling them to ask for help if they need it but minimising unnecessary disruption, such as night time checks and intrusive home carer visits.

We are exploring alternative ways in which a deaf person we support can take control of her own safety. For example, a wireless system linked to the smoke detectors will cause her bedroom light to turn on and her pillow to vibrate should the smoke alarm be triggered. This means she will be able to safely evacuate herself in an emergency and can live in her own home without compromising her safety.

What is self care?

‘Self-care’ is another form of assistive technology, consisting of products that reduce someone’s need for paid support such as automatic medication dispensers.

What support makes the most of assistive technology?

Active Support is best practice that enables people to be actively involved in meaningful activities regardless of ability, developing their engagement and skills, and ultimately reducing the need for paid support.

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Communications solutions

Much assistive technology is about improving communication – from signing to objects of reference and eyegaze technology. Dimensions has a detailed guide to these communications aids.

Brain in Hand

Some people we support use an assistive technology called ‘Brain in Hand’.  This aims to reduce the symptoms of anxiety that can sometimes be felt by people with autism in unfamiliar situations.

Individuals and their carers put diary activities into their phone and plan for any challenges that they may face. This ranges from small things like running out of milk, through to planning strategies for panic attacks or losing house keys. The technology then allows the individual to access their schedule and step by step solutions to any problem is on their phone; reminding them what they need to do in a situation whenever and wherever they need it.

Brain in Hand also includes mood traffic lights where the individual can monitor their anxiety throughout the day and help staff pre-empt when support may be required.

Is there assistive technology for staff and others too?

Yes. For example we have software available to support people with dyslexia (Dragon speech recognition and Read & Write Gold.) Approximately 10% of our workforce are dyslexic, so this is really important in ensuring we are an inclusive employer.

 

Our website also has ‘Browsealoud’ technology embedded into it (see the button at the top) which supports accessibility for people with a very wide range of additional needs.