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Inclusive Technology: 5 Smart Devices That Increase Independence for People With Disabilities

smart phone controlling colored philips hue lights in home

Philips Hue Lights (photo: Engadget.com)

For people with physical disabilities, smart technology is more than just a convenience; it can be the key to increased independence. Today, smart technology is available for almost every aspect of our lives. It has been integrated into homes, vehicles, and mobile phones – and it seems new technologies become available everyday.

Here is some common smart technology that’s available:

1. Smart Speakers

Devices such as the Amazon EchoEcho Spot, and Echo Dot act as virtual assistants, making it possible for you to use your voice to control certain devices in your home. Those with limited hand mobility can now turn on the television, change the channel, and create a shopping list with a few words.

Devices like Alexa and the Apple Home app let you do more than just control devices; you can set up automated scenes as well. These give you the option of controlling multiple devices at once.

2. Smart Lights

The Philips Hue Light Bulbs, for example, can be controlled by the use of your smartphone and their compatibility with Alexa and Google Home allows you to control your lights by voice command as well. It is now possible to adjust brightness, schedule when the lights go on and off or even change their color. So, these cool lights not only improve independence for folks with limited mobility, but they can also change to suit your mood.

3. Smart Plugs

The VOCOlinc power strips make it possible for you to switch off or on appliances that are plugged into the socket. This is done either by a speaker or phone. This proves helpful, especially since most sockets are low and often difficult to reach.

4. Smart Doorbells

Doorbells today such as the Ring Doorbell come fitted with motion-sensor cameras that display footage of whoever is at your door on your phone’s screen. This provides the added security of knowing who is at the door before opening it. Others have the option of letting you speak to whoever is at the door through your phone.

5. Smart Locks

sebastian-scholz-nuki-IJkSskfEqrM-unsplash smart devices

Smartphone held at the door to auto-unlock it.

If you have visitors, you can give them access to your home without having to open the door. You also have the option of doing away with having to lock and unlock the deadbolt or fumble with keys.

The August Smart Lock, for instance, is a device that is attached to your door’s deadbolt and contains a motor that turns the deadbolt. Using either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you can control the lock on your door. It is also compatible with Alexa, Google Home, and HomeKit, allowing you to operate the lock on your door with a simple voice command.

You are also able to grant people access to your home by sending an invite to their phone. This gives them access to your home but on your schedule. It notifies you each time the door is unlocked or locked and also records who entered your home and when. This could be really helpful to let in caretakers or visitors.

…And There’s More!

Smart devices do not just end there; there is also the option of getting a robotic vacuum cleaner like the Roomba 675 to help keep your home clean. A smart ceiling fan or wifi-controlled thermostat can help regulate your home’s temperature. Smart devices and their implementation in smart homes are continuously giving those with disabilities more independence than ever before.

Speaking of technology that increases independence, did you know we provide more than just wheelchair accessible vehicles at AMS Vans? We also offer adaptive driving aids, powered transfer seats and much more! Learn more here.

road sign that says are you covered

Tips on Getting the Best Insurance Coverage for Your Accessible Vehicle

In case you are wondering if car insurance works differently for accessible vehicles, you are not alone. Luckily, we’re here to offer some tips on the process.

If you are a driver with a disability, the focus of your insurance is substantially similar to that of standard car insurance; accidents. The protection afforded to your wheelchair van mainly varies according to the coverage you select.

Points to Note hand holding a car in a bubble to represent car insurance

The only stipulation needed to drive in public is that you can drive safely, regardless of disability; and if you passed your driver’s test, then the state considers it safe for you to drive. Before looking at premiums, it helps to know what insurance companies base those premiums on.

Insurance companies are not allowed to base their premiums on a driver’s disability. They do, however; base their premiums on several other factors, including the following.

  • Risk analysis – Moody’s Risk Analysis is a tool some companies use to measure the level of risk among drivers and determine insurance rates.
  • Credit history – This helps companies determine whether the driver can pay their premiums on time while also estimate the likelihood of the driver dropping their policy.
  • Driving record – Your driving record is vital for determining your risk while on the road.
  • Marriage status – Your marital status might be another factor insurance companies look at while determining your rates.
  • Age – On average, people aged between 18 and 25 often have high rates, so if you are within this age bracket, don’t be surprised if your rates are a bit high.
  • Criminal record – Some companies might run a criminal background if they feel it necessary.

The best thing to do when getting insurance for your accessible vehicle is to research and compare options, and consult insurance representatives. It is not necessary for you to share your disability, but doing so gives them more information about your current status and might enable them to recommend better quotes for you.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted in 1990, it is illegal for anyone to discriminate in any way, against persons with disabilities; this includes car insurance companies that charge higher rates due to disabilities. Click To Tweet

When Applying

When applying for insurance, be sure to disclose your vehicle’s modifications because different types of changes can differently affect your rates. Be sure you get coverage for the adaptive equipment so it’s covered in case of an accident.

It is crucial that you request the details regarding the coverage you intend to apply for. When applying, also try to be as thorough as possible and ask all the questions, including the following. calculator, a pen and a list of numbers on a paper

Tips for the Best Insurance

Keeping this in mind, here are a few tips that will be sure to help you get the best insurance provider for your accessible vehicle.

  1. Look into the minimum requirements for your state.
  2. Keep your financial situation in mind; get a premium that is affordable and one that gives you adequate coverage.
  3. Review your driving record.
  4. If you have coverage already, look at how much you are paying and what is covered.
  5. Make a list of companies that interests you and get quotes from their websites or representatives.
  6. Contact them for further details about the coverage they offer.
  7. Ask about possible discounts and consider using the same company to combine coverage on multiple items (home, boat, etc.).
  8. Evaluate their reliability; read reviews, visit the website of your state’s insurance department. You could also talk to friends and family.
  9. After the last step, you probably have a shorter list; make one final review and pick the policy best for you.
  10. If you were previously covered, don’t forget to cancel your old policy.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has been helpful and will make getting insurance for your wheelchair van a lot less stressful. For more on accessible vehicles, feel free to visit our website.

Did you know that AMS Vans now offers one year of complimentary roadside assistance (including paratransit service) with the purchase of a mobility vehicle?! Learn more!

atlanta skyline

Go Out and Enjoy Summer: Eight Family-Friendly and Accessible Destinations in Atlanta

Did you know that the city of Atlanta was previously named Terminus because it was at the end of a railroad? No longer known as the last stop for trains, today’s Atlanta has lots of family-friendly venues, where your family can create fun memories this summer. All of these destinations are wheelchair accessible so that everyone can get out and enjoy what Atlanta has to offer!

1. Georgia Aquarium

The nation’s largest aquarium is home to four whale sharks, the sea’s largest fish. See them along with four manta rays and thousands of other sea creatures from an underwater perspective as you travel through a 100-foot tunnel. It’s all part of Ocean Voyager, one of the world’s largest aquatic exhibits. Aquanaut Adventures are another exciting reason to visit the aquarium. Each of the seven routes has seven adventures to take part in to learn more about aquatic life, marine science careers, and marine habitats. Staff members are trained to assist guests with mobility challenges who would like to have an experience with one of the aquarium’s touch pools.

a group of people looks at a giant fish tank at the Georgia aquarium

2. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Learning through play is the focus of The Children’s Museum of Atlanta. This summer the museum is hosting Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit. Visitors can explore the McStuffins Toy Hospital and enjoy taking care of the hospital’s toy patients. Also, permanent exhibits provide fun ways to learn about science, tools, food and much more. It is sure to be a good time and totally wheelchair accessible for kids and parents who roll.

3. Legoland Discovery Center

Meet your favorite Lego characters, take a Lego factory tour, and build as much as you like at Legoland Discovery Center. It’s a great place for an all-day outing. In fact, you can enjoy lunch in the on-site cafe, catch a movie in the 4D cinema, and see local buildings recreated in miniature.

4. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park

Explore important places in the life of the civil right leader and learn more about this important chapter in American history. The park’s visitor center has an exhibit called Children of Courage, which teaches little ones about the civil rights movement. The International World Peace Rose Garden, King’s birth home (second floor accessible by elevator chair lift), and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church that King co-pastored are some of the attractions at the site. Admission to the park is free.

5. Zoo Atlantazoo atlanta sign

While the pandas may be the zoo’s most famous residents, there’s a lot more to see and do at Zoo Atlanta. Observe a feeding, listen and ask questions at a keeper’s talk, or meet an ambassador animal. The zoo’s pathways are easy to roll on and keep an eye out for signs to designate special special wheelchair access.

6. Fernbank Science Center

See the actual Apollo 6 Command Module. Check out live poison dart frogs, turtles, snakes, spiders, and other animals. Catch a show in the Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium at Fernbank Science Center and come at night to take a look through the observatory’s telescope. Admission and parking are free at Fernbank Science Center. Planetarium shows have a nominal fee.

7. Atlanta Botanical Garden

The Piedmont Avenue location has 30 acres of beautiful outdoor gardensto explore. During summer, a nature-inspired story time takes place on Wednesday mornings in the children’s garden. Complimentary wheelchairs are available for rent on a first-come, first-serve basis.

8. SunTrust Park

Go, Braves! For baseball fans, enjoying a game at the ballpark is one of the great joys of summer. To ensure all guests have a great game day experience, there’s an Accessible Seating Department to help you find parking and seating. Call them at (404) 577-9100 (Option 5). Further, tickets purchased through that department come with a Welcome Kit and a Braves Exceptional Fan Credential.

sky view Atlanta Ferris wheel

With a variety of fun, wheelchair accessible things to do in Atlanta, it’s a great city to experience, whether you’re a local or a visitor! Top any night off with Skyview Atlanta – a 200-ft Ferris wheel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park – it’s wheelchair accessible!

Need to rent a wheelchair accessible vehicle for your Atlanta adventures? AMS Vans has got you covered! Give us a call at 800-775-8267!

5 Actors on Wheels Making Moves in Hollywood

The characters we see on film and TV are becoming more and more diverse. It’s not uncommon these days to see a character with a disability in a show or movie. In the past, though, most actors portraying those characters were played by actors without disabilities. But, thanks to the hard work and perseverance of many dedicated individuals, people with disabilities are taking their rightful place in Hollywood among the stars.

Here are some actors on wheels that have made a name for themselves in the entertainment biz.

1. Micah Fowler

actor micah fowler

Micah Fowler, Image: IMDB

What did you get for your eighteenth birthday? For Micah, he got a lead role in a TV series. The show Speechless is about JJ, a young adult living with cerebral palsy. It aims at giving viewers insights on the challenges faced by people, and specifically teens, with special needs. They tackle issues like dating, parenting, disability awareness, healthcare and more.

Born in 1998 in New Jersey, he started acting when he was five because of his older sister and best friend, Kelsey. He took the next step in his career after his sister booked a role on Broadway. This led him to roles in Blue’s CluesSesame Street, and the film Labor DayMicah is also an ambassador to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and devotes his time to the foundation’s efforts when not performing.

2. Teal Sherer

actress teal sherer

Teal Sherer, Image: IMDB

Teal went from taking theatre classes in college and working on school productions, to starring in the Emmy nominated film Warm Springs alongside Kathy Bates, and working closely with Kenneth Branagh as he prepared for his role of Franklin D. Roosevelt. She has appeared on TV on Survivor’s Remorse, The Guild, and more recently on NCIS: New Orleans. Also a dancer, Teal has performed with the Full Radius Dance Company and appeared on the NBC pilot of I’m with Stupid.

Teal is well-known in the disability community for her web series My Gimpy Life, which won the 2013 Best Female Comedy Performance at the Web Television Awards. She has also been featured in national commercials for clients including Liberty Mutual insurance, Disneyland (Cars Land) and Chrysler.

Next up for Teal, she’ll be starring in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Cost of Living in Vancouver, Canada! And, we’re sure much more!

3. Daryl ‘Chill’ Mitchell

actor daryl Chill Mitchell holding an award

Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, Image: NewMobility.com

Daryl ‘Chill’ Mitchell is without a doubt one of the most recognizable faces when it comes to actors who roll, with film and TV credits dating back to the 80’s. His staying power is a testament to his work ethic and likable personality – and we can expect to see Chill on the big screen for years to come.

Starting as a member of a hip hop group in the 1980’s, he saw further success in acting with roles in films like House Party, The Inside Man, Galaxy Quest and 10 Things I Hate About You, to name a few. He also made appearances in TV shows like The Cosby Show, Becker, Brothers and Desperate Housewives. Since 2014 he has had a role on NCIS: New Orleans and joined the cast of Fear The Walking Dead in 2018.

Chill has paved the way for so many other actors on wheels -and we’re really proud to have as a customer here at AMS Vans in Atlanta!

4. Ali Stroker

actress and Tony award winner Ali Stroker

Ali Stroker, Image: AliStroker.com

You may have heard Ali Stroker‘s name recently, as she just became the first performer in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award for her role of Ado Annie in the revival of the classic Broadway show Oklahoma!!

She has performed at the Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, earned a Barrymore Award nomination for her role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and was cast as Tamara in ABC’s show Ten Days in the Valley. A talented singer as well, Ali was a finalist on the second season of The Glee Project, and later appeared as a guest star on Glee in 2013. She played the role of Anna in Deaf West’s 2015 revival of Spring Awakening and appeared on the new Lethal Weapon TV series.

Being the first isn’t new to Ali Stroker. In fact, she became the first actress in a wheelchair to earn a degree in Fine Arts from New York University in 2009. Further, in 2015, she became the first performer in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway. If you have kids, you may have also seen her cameos on Sesame Street!

5. Santina Muha

actor and comedian Santina Muha

Santina Muha, Image: IMDB

Growing up in New Jersey as a member of an extended Italian family, humor has been a big part of Muha’s life. Paralyzed at the age of 6 after being involved in a car accident, she found that comedy would often ease the tension in a room. Santina grew up studying pop culture and learning from her favorite actors on TV – and from a young age, it was clear she was destined for stardom. Today she is a comic, actress, writer, storyteller and improviser currently plying her trade in Los Angeles.

Since joining UCB in 2013, Santina has contributed to their shows; hosting Rollin’ with my Homies, and writing and performing her one-woman show, That Girl in the Wheelchair. Not only is Santina raising awareness and dismantling stereotypes for people in wheelchairs through her comedy and writing, but she is also improving physical access to stages around UCB that have never been accessible before.

Santina is best known for her roles on Comedy Bang! Bang!One Day at a Time and starring opposite Joaquin Phoenix in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. Keep an eye out for this Jersey girl, because you’ll be seeing much more of her!

If you're an actor in a wheelchair, Hollywood is ready for you! With dedication and hard work, your dream can come to life! #actorswithdisabilities Click To Tweet