In The Living Room
Environmental Control Systems
What is an Environmental Control System?
An Environmental Control System enables anyone to control their environment by operating a wide range of domestic appliances and other household functions. Such systems can enhance the abilities of people with disabilities and older people, enabling them to have their own independence, reducing their reliance on other people or other services. Not only is such a situation of benefit to all involved, evidence has shown that this independence can greatly enhance the morale of the user and their relationships with family and friends.
Environmental Control Systems are usually operated by remote control using infrared and/or radio signals. The remote control can operate a variety of household devices and may be operated by direct access or by scanning through a menu. A variety of switches can be used if required, and determined by the users abilities eg switches operated by hand, foot, head, arm or chin, or pneumatic switches operated by sucking or blowing. Some systems can even be controlled entirely by voice. Systems are usually set up to give feedback indicating when the users command has been received and enacted which is very important for the user. It is worth remembering that an Environmental Control System which offers control over a comprehensive range of devices from a number of locations using a variety of alternative access methods will be more likely to meet a users changing needs and preferences.
What can be controlled?
Almost any device or function can be controlled. For instance, the control of door locks, intercoms and alarm systems can be set up to provide both independence and personal security for the user. Access, which is extremely important for independence, can be controlled with the use of an Environmental Control System to manipulate door openers, window openers, or a lift.
The control of a hands-free telephone, or nurse call and paging systems can be installed for personal safety and communication purposes. The control of power sockets, electric bed, page turner, chair, lights and curtains etc can add to the comfort of an individual, while the TV, video, stereo, etc can be easily controlled for entertainment purposes. Some Environmental Control Systems are controlled from a fixed position but most of the newer systems today can be managed from wherever required eg wheelchair or bed.
Research has shown that there are a number of key aspects to the successful and effective implementation of an Environmental Control System. Firstly, the user must be at the centre of the process of selection throughout. Individual differences and preferences will have a huge influence on the ultimate patterns of usage and adoption of the system by the user. It is more usual for a system to be selected when the user is at home (rather than in a rehabilitation setting) as the user will be more familiar with their own requirements and limitations.
Training is vital to ensure the system is fully functional and the user confident in controlling the various aspects of their environment as intended. Supplier support as well as family and carer support is equally important, particularly in the early stages as modification and adjustments will often be required. Reliability is essential too as the user must have confidence in the system and feel comfortable being dependant on it. Poor reliability is known to be a major cause of technology abandonment and as Environmental Control Systems are generally expensive solutions, choosing an appropriate system should always be done in consultation with experienced professionals.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a chair but comfort is obviously of great importance. If your movement is very restricted and it is difficult for you to change position and shift weight, then a chair that has adjustable features will be of help eg able to change the seat angle, back angle and/or leg rests. Such chairs are available in both manual or electrical versions.
The height of the chair is important to make it easier to stand up from the chair and to allow your feet to be supported on the floor or on footrests. Raisers can be fitted to chairs to raise the height. Ensure that they are suitable for your chair and that they are fitted correctly. For some activities such as food preparation in the kitchen, a perching stool may be the answer. A simple angled cushion can provide a tilt position in an ordinary chair for a good working position for activities such as writing at a desk or using a computer.
The seat depth is also important because if it is too long you will be pulled into a slouched position as your legs are lift upwards and if it is too short you will not have enough support. If all your weight is restricted to a small amount of space and you have restricted movement, then there is a risk of pressure sores developing. Pressure sores can also be caused by friction where the skin is moving against a force, which could be clothes or the surface of the chair. Visit Choosing a Chair and Chair Accessories for more information.
Ricability, UK - Consumer Reports
Ricability is an independent research charity in the UK. It publishes practical, actionable and unbiased guides for older and disabled consumers based on thorough professional research. All reports are based on independent research carried out by Ricability, including as appropriate user trials, technical tests, survey work or desk research. Its reports cover topics from the range of adaptations available for your car, to making your kitchen easier to use, to choosing a microwave oven that is easy to use. Though the guides and reports relate to the UK market, the products reviewd are typically globally branded goods available in Ireland and so much of the information is just as relevant to Irish consumers.
Some of Ricability's most recent and/or most popular reports include: