Changing our environments with assistive tech

Charisse Holder

Charisse Holder is our occupational therapist on the Assistive Technology project at Hill House in Sandbach. She tells us the importance of considering the environment when introducing new assistive technology into a residential / care home.

Resident using a stylus at Hill House

What is the definition of environment? It is the surroundings or conditions that we live or operate in. This could be work, home, or the community. Leonard Cheshire’s ‘possibility with disability’ campaign highlights the importance of the environment. In my role as an occupational therapist, I see how the environment impacts a person’s daily activities or ‘occupations’.

Our physical environment

At Hill House, we’re introducing Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. We’re also getting smart home technology as part of our assistive technology project. The aim is to positively impact the environment for individuals who live and work within it.

The first step is working on how people receive new technology. Research shows that many people stop using technology that is on offer. Some people have difficulty accessing devices. Some find them too complicated to use, and others rely on help to use them.

There is also a lot to consider on how the new technology interacts with the environment you are using it in. A device mounted to a wheelchair with the wrong type of mount is not useful if it prevents you from doing other tasks in your day-to-day activities. 

Thank goodness for technology in assisting me to search worldwide for the right products for the right job! Technology needs to slot into your established daily routines. At Hill House, we assess and consider the environment. We ensure the technology is accessible. Then it becomes a positive part of our daily life!

Why support from others is also part of our environment

Many people rely on support to achieve what they want to do. This support from others is also part of our environment. In Leonard Cheshire, you will hear ‘active support’ talked about a lot. It is about looking for potential in every moment when working with customers. Support is not about doing everything for a person. 

It is finding an opportunity for someone to take part in the activity for themselves. Support is empowering others to have a go and enable choice. This is relevant to both staff and customers when introducing assistive technology. At Hill House, the assistive technology project team provide support to staff and residents. We want them to have the confidence to use the devices to their full potential. The aim is to reduce reliance on this support over time.

Changes to any familiar environment can be daunting for us at times. This is particularly true with the introduction of new technology. We will make mistakes, and things will go wrong. The assistive technology team at Hill House learn something new every day. It is exciting to learn together!