Tag Archives: accessibility

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.

Gaming Companies Making Efforts to Create More Inclusive Games for People with Disabilities

Boy is playing inclusive games on mini computer

More than half of the sixty million people living with disabilities turn to the world of gaming to meet the need for friendship, belonging and self-esteem. According to Mark Barlet, founder of AbleGamers, gaming is a way for them to free themselves from their disability. They can present themselves in a manner that has fewer stigmas.

The reality is, there is a huge market for accessible gaming for people with disabilities and with the advancement of technology, the options are growing. More than ever, developers are considering people of all abilities as they create their virtual experiences. 

PC is the Most Flexible 

While there may be objections amongst the disability community, developers believe that in terms of gaming platforms, the most flexible is the PC (Personal Computer). This is due to the many plug-and-play devices that can be used. While consoles offer more cutting edge games, they are often not suitable due to their closed systems.

There are, however, initiatives meant to make the inclusive games more accessible to a broader range of people, with everyone playing an equally important role; from the developers to the caregivers. This article looks at the initiatives being put in place and how they have helped more and more people with disabilities get into the world of gaming.

man playing video game with hand controls

AMS Vans’ Dallas Crum tests out some hand controls connected to a driving game.

Game Design

Game engines are the tools used in the creation of video games. More and more developers have understood why the element of inclusion should be considered from the beginning; at the game design level. This has been the case recently with specific game engines already encouraging accessibility. An example such as Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, which enables developers to see the appearance of their game with various forms of color blindness, allows developers the opportunity of addressing disability in their game design.

Accessibility Features

Certain major brand consoles have also joined in on the push for more inclusive games. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 accessibility features allow the player to redesign the controller layout to one that would suit their needs.

There is also the Xbox Co-pilot option found on Xbox One. This feature allows a player to pair a second handset to the first one which allows the player to recruit a friend or caregiver to help with certain buttons or with multi-tasking.

With the increased popularity of Virtual Reality, it has opened another alternative to how gamers can enjoy the different products. However, there is still a way to go. Virtual Reality Headsets can be bulky and when they require head movement, that can be a challenge for some individuals. The opportunity they present for vast and diverse experiences for a user with limited mobility, though, can’t be ignored.

man wearing virtual reality headset

Virtual reality could be the future for gaming for people with disabilities.

Disability-Friendly Companies

Companies such as Special Effect are creating inclusive games and developing all new ways to enable people to play. Furthermore, they are crafted on a case-by-case basis to meet the specific person’s needs.

AbleGamers develop solutions that game developers can implement to make their products more accessible. Remappable keys; which would allow users to reconfigure controls, color-blind options and closed captioning are a few recommended solutions. Tutorials are essential for players with cognitive disabilities since they will allow players to learn the game without fear of failure.

AbleGamers educate content creators, hardware and software developers on how to develop accessible games. On top of that, they also teach and support caregivers on the advantages gaming has to those with disabilities. Events such as Accessibility Arcades help show disabled gamers the technology that helps them enjoy gaming like everyone else.

According to statistics, there are roughly thirty-three and a half million of gamers with disabilities in the United States, two-thirds of them being male. Click To Tweet

Find More Inclusive Games

Able gaming can be fun for people of all ages and abilities! The more accessible gaming is made, the more inclusive it will be. For more information on how this is being made possible, head on to AbleGamers.

Speaking of accessible equipment, we install a variety of hand controls for wheelchair accessible vehicles at AMS Vans! You can read about some of the options we offer here.

7 Spring Maintenance Tips for Your Accessible Vehicle

For most people, the arrival of spring means merely taking off their snow tires. It is, however, much more than that. A harsh winter can take its toll on your vehicle. Here are just a few tips on how to not only get your accessible vehicle ready for spring but also repair the damage that might have been done by the harsh winter conditions.

Minibus accessible vehicle for physically disabled people.

Minibus with wheelchair accessibility.

1. Vehicle Spring Cleaning

Winter can be tough on all vehicles. Your vehicle has been through a lot. From salt and brine to the potholes. Road salt helps against ice, but it causes a lot of damage to cars. It can even cause brake failures. Salt-filled brine coats your vehicle’s underbody, and if left unattended, it will begin to erode. It is therefore recommended to take your car for an undercarriage wash.

2. Check Accessible Features

Pay attention to the door, ramp, and kneeler. Ensure the sliding door is free of debris. Fix any exposed, frayed, or damaged wiring on the sliding door. If your vehicle has a folding ramp or an in-floor ramp, spray hinges with a silicon-based lubricant. Ensure you can operate them without any issue. Contact AMS Vans service department to find out how to have your ramp, hand controls, and other accessible features serviced.

3. Check the Brakes and Tires

During winter, the vehicle usually deals with a lot of slippery conditions. In addition to that, the bumps from snow and ice will cause vibrations that loosen the alignment over time. Wheel alignment extends your tires’ life, steering control, vehicle performance and improves fuel efficiency.

When removing your snow tires, also check for feathering. If the feathering is too bad, it may require replacing of your tires. Ensure proper inflation of your warm weather tires. The impurities picked up from gritted roads might clog the brakes. Abrasions that usually appear in winter could lead to bodywork rust. Ensure you have your chassis checked during service.

4. Check A/C

To get ready for the heat, you should double check the air conditioning as well. Turn the AC on and make sure that max chill effect is achieved. Look out for any strange odors or noises coming from the system.

5. Check Windshield and Wipers

Winter conditions can damage your windshield and wiper blades. Repair the wiper blades if you notice they are frayed or torn. Run them across your windshield, looking out for streaking or other signs of malfunction. To avoid a complete windshield replacement, repair the chips that might appear on your windscreen. Lastly, top up the washer fluid whose levels might be a bit low after a winter of clearing away the grime and salt deposits from your windshield.

6. Check Engine and All Fluids

Start the engine and listen for any abnormal noises; rattling, grinding or clicking. Check to make sure your oil level is topped up. Take the accessible vehicle for an oil change if you feel it’s necessary. Look at your coolant and brake fluid. If your brake fluid is low, it is a sign the brake pads could be worn down.

7. Check the Battery

Check the battery for corrosion on the terminals. Clean them off with a toothbrush, a little baking soda, and elbow grease. Disconnect it first. Checking the shape is more complicated since it requires a battery tester. Take the car to a garage to find out if the battery needs recharging or replacement.

Find More Tips for Your Accessible Vehicle

The better you take care of your car, the longer it will last. AMS Vans is committed to supporting our customers throughout the process. However, if you feel that it’s time for a new look for a new season, we’ve got you covered! Why not trade in your accessible vehicle for a newer model? We offer a wide range of new and used cars. Browse our inventory here.

How to Get a Handicap Parking Permit

The handicap parking system is an important public consideration. Anyone who has mobility or health limitations understands how important short walk distances are. Here at AMS Vans, we often discover that customers seeking vans for handicap situations don’t yet have their handicap parking permit or know how to get one. Handicap permits are not hard to get. You simply have to follow the right procedure with a qualifying condition or situation.

Today, we’re here to share how you can get your handicap parking permit temporarily or permanently.

Couple parked in handicapped parking space. Handicap parking permit.

Couple parked in handicapped parking space.

How Do Handicap Parking Permits Work?

The handicap parking permit gives you permission to park in spaces marked with blue and white as handicap spaces. They often have van unloading spaces designated next to them, and all handicap spaces prioritize shorter distances from your vehicle to your destination. Anyone with an eligible medical condition or physical limitation can work with their doctor to be approved for a permit. When you have a permit, vehicles you drive or ride in that display the permit will be able to park in these spaces.

Who Qualifies for a Handicap Parking Permit?

There are many conditions that allow someone to qualify for a handicap parking permit.  Needing a handicap space is considered to include people with visible mobility limitations and people with health problems that make long walks difficult or impossible. This means that far more conditions can qualify for a permit than most people expect. However eligible conditions vary state by state, so check your state handicap eligibility to be sure.

You can also get a handicap parking permit for a temporary condition. Those recovering from surgery or a recent leg injury, for example, can qualify for a temporary parking permit. Pregnant women can also get a handicap permit for the duration of their pregnancy.

The best way to know if you qualify is to talk to your doctor. They can tell your condition qualifies in your state. Here are the most commonly accepted conditions that will qualify for a handicap parking pass:

  • Leg Injuries, Loss, or Impairment
  • Loss or Impairment of Both Hands
  • Lung and Heart Disease
  • Post-Surgery Recovery
  • Arthritis
  • Severe Vision Problems
  • Inability to Walk Without an Assistive Device
  • Brain Injuries and Tumors
  • Chronic Pain
  • Seizures
  • Cancer Treatment
  • Short-Term Memory Loss

How to Apply for Your Handicap Parking Permit

Applying for your permit is a lot easier than you might think. There are usually very few hoops to jump through, you just have to fill out a little paperwork and get it submitted. If you qualify by state standards, your permit will be issued.

  • Verify with Your Doctor
  • Get an Application from the DMV
    • At the DMV
    • Online on the DMV website (print it)
    • From your doctor
  • Complete the Form with Your Information
  • Ask Your Doctor to Complete Their Portion of the Form
  • Submit the Application by Mail or in Person
  • Pay Fee If Required
  • Renew On Time
    • Renewal rate will depend on the nature of your condition
    • Temporary permits usually last 6 months, or until the date noted by your doctor

If you are going to travel out of state, you may want to apply for a temporary handicap parking permit issued to visitors.

Options for Displaying Your Handicap Parking Permit

There are a few different ways to display your permit, and you can choose whichever works best for you. The one everyone recognizes is the tag or placard. This is the tag that hangs on your rearview mirror when you park. Tags usually need to be renewed every 6 months to 2 years. They are also incredibly useful if you aren’t always in the same vehicle. A tag can be stowed in your bag and hung so that any vehicle you drive or ride in can park in handicap spots. Tags are also the most common for temporary handicap situations.

For a vehicle that is the primary transport of a handicap person, driver or passenger, a windshield sticker is a second option. Windshield stickers tend to have longer renewal cycles and don’t have to be hung and taken down. You can get a temporary sticker if you don’t want a tag, and simply remove it when you are well or your handicap passenger is riding with someone else.

Finally, there are license plates with permanent handicap symbols on them. These are usually for the primary vehicles of handicapped drivers. They ensure that your vehicle can always park in the handicap spots.

It should be noted that for vehicles with stickers or license plate permits, the permit is still only valid while the handicapped person is using the vehicle. The permit-holder can be a passenger or a driver, but they must be present for the permit to be valid.

Learn More About Receiving a Handicap Parking Permit

AMS Vans has been dedicated to helping handicap drivers and passengers for over 20 years, and having a handicap parking permit is an important part of that. Once you have your permit, look for the handicap spaces with van unloading areas so you’ll always have the room you need to get in and out of your vehicle. For more information about parking permits or finding the handicap transportation you need, contact us today. The AMS Vans team is here to help.