Saturday, February 18, 2012

Light Controls

There are everyday tasks that we all perform without thinking about it that is very difficult for many individuals.  An example would be turning a lamp on and off.  

The fine motor skill needed to turn the switch could be severely impaired for an individual with Parkinson's disease or severe arthritis.  There a many reasons why it could be unsafe for an individual to attempt to get up and walk across the room just to turn a light on and off.  Getting up to turn on or off a light is not exercise but a necessity; if balance is an issue, it should not be attempted.  Think about the person that needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night but cannot access their lamp.  This individual might decide to walk to the bathroom in the dark, putting themselves in an unsafe situation, possibly falling and creating a debilitating injury.  Also imagine the individual that sits in the dark because there is no one available to turn their light on for them.  There can be many simple solutions for this problem.

Touch Lamps:

Purchasing a touch lamp can be a great solution for those individuals that can walk to their lamps.  For the person that does not want to change out their lamps, touch lamp modules can be purchased at a fairly low cost.  These modules would eliminate the need to turn the switch inside the lamp.  The user would have to touch any metal part of the lamp to turn it on and off.

X10 devices:

X10 devices have been around since the 1970's and enable the user to turn any device on and off through a simple remote.  This is performed through a radio frequency transceiver and appropriate module boxes.  

The lamps (or other basic on off devices) are plugged into a module box.  A transceiver is plugged into a different outlet in the same room.  The remote, module box, and transceiver are all placed on the same radio frequency code; each lamp or device has their own number for the remote use.  When the individual presses the corresponding number on the remote, it will turn the lamp (or fan, alarm, etc) on or off.  This allows the user to turn on their lights without having to get up.  This can enable independence for a wheelchair user or for an individual with balance problems that could not safely walk to the lamp.  There are many options for remotes, some controlling one device, others controlling up to 16.  For individuals with more significant disabilities, many power wheelchairs or environmental control units have X10 capability.

The Clapper:

I couldn't talk about light controls without talking about the Clapper.  Often, when I discuss light controls with individuals they reference the clapper (thanks to all the ads in the 1980's).  The Clapper is a sound switch that controls lamps.  When the user creates the clapping sound, it turns the light on or off.  This is another perfect example of an adaptABLE world.  Yes, these are still for sale, I found them easily on the internet.

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