Technology can be a powerful ally in making every home accessible to all its residents at any stage of life.
If you've ever fumbled for the light switch with an armful of groceries, for example, you'll appreciate lighting activated by motion sensors. Portable versions, such as rechargeable LEDs, can be placed nearly anywhere; they might be used to illuminate a change in step elevation that could be difficult for some to navigate. Or when that same technology is employed in your faucets, even the littlest members of the household can wash up unassisted.
Some forms of technology allow everyone to be heard equally, such as through Internet-connected devices like Amazon's Echo or Google's Home. This "smart" technology assists users with all manner of tasks, from adjusting the volume on the television to controlling the thermostat. And because smart technology uses machine learning and artificial intelligence, with use over time, it becomes uniquely adapted to the individual.
Many newer products, including lots of home appliances, already come with smart technology built in, but workarounds exist for older things, too, says Jeremy Seda, North Idaho College's information technology accessibility coordinator.
"If I had my coffee maker and it wasn't a 'smart' device," says Seda, "then I'd get a smart plug and say 'Hey, Alexa, turn on my coffee maker.'"
Helping remove barriers to student learning is one part of his job, says Seda, who hosted the college's third annual event honoring Global Accessibility Awareness Day in May.
"Talking about accessibility is my passion," he says, noting that someday soon we can expect to see smart technology become the norm in many parts of our lives.