Agency unveils ‘Smart Home’ technology for people with disabilities

By: - August 29, 2023 3:00 am
A person demonstrates a cutting board made for people with hand mobility impairments.

Cathryn Tamney, assistive technologist at Bethany Children’s Health Center, demonstrates a cutting board made for people with hand-mobility impairments. (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood/Oklahoma Voice)

Oklahomans with limitations in their daily lives may qualify for free equipment to help them live more independently.

The enabling Smart Home technologies include voice-activated devices, remote-controlled appliances and mechanisms to increase mobility. Additional supports include gadgets to dispense medications and detect seizures.

The technologies can also be viewed online via Bethany Children’s Center, where tours are booked.

In Stillwater, tours are scheduled by emailing [email protected].

Oklahoma Department of Human Services officials unveiled two model demonstration sites on Aug. 11 at Bethany Children’s Health Center in Oklahoma City, and on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater. The homes are designed to demonstrate how the latest innovations can benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.

Sidna Trimmell, executive director for Oklahoma Statewide Independent Living Council, said she has been following the progress of the program.

“As always, we are excited to see advancements in anything for people with disabilities,” Trimmell told Oklahoma Voice. “Accessible, state-of-the-art housing is exciting for everyone who devotes their lives to independent living.”

The children’s health center offers pediatric rehabilitation and resources for families with patients who have long-term health complications, and physical and cognitive limitations.

Cathryn Tamney, assistive technologist at Bethany Children’s Health Center, uses a pot-stabilizing tool. The technology enables people with limited range of motion in their hands or arms to cook independently. (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood/Oklahoma Voice)

“The Oklahoma Statewide Independent Living Council loves seeing the advocacy from so many people who are devoted to improving the lives of people with disabilities, of all ages, beginning to pay off,” Trimmell said.

The cost of enabling technology ranges anywhere from $30 to $4,000, DHS officials said. The agency used $125,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to create the demonstration sites.

Thousands of families in the state are on the waiting list for developmental disability support services and have been waiting for years — over a decade in some cases, though the Department of Human Services is pushing to assist those families and clear the list over the next year.

The program is crucial for people with limitations and their caregivers, said Miranda Hutchison, a business analyst for Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Services.

“We are committed to improving the lives of DDS waitlist families and want to connect them to these tools that streamline daily tasks and reduce the burden on caregivers,” Hutchison said in a statement. “However, remote support and assistive and enabling technologies can be game-changing resources for all Oklahomans.”

Residents who receive services through Developmental Disabilities Services — or those who are on the waitlist — may qualify for the free technology and can contact their case managers to learn more. Many of the technologies are also available for private purchase, officials said.


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Mindy Ragan Wood
Mindy Ragan Wood

Mindy covers the legislature for Oklahoma Voice. Her areas of focus include infrastructure, municipal government policies, and human services with an emphasis on the needs of intellectually vulnerable and physically challenged adults.