User Reviewed Assistive Technology

Big Bite Eco Straws

User review - Big Bite Eco Straws. Functionality - 4 stars. Affordability - 4 stars. Maintenance - 4.5 stars. Aesthetics - 4 stars.Image description: Peer reviewed AT: Big bite expo silicone straws, with photo showing 6 multicoloured straws

As non-reusable soft plastics become at the forefront of current environmental concerns, people (including those with a disability) look toward reusable options. Australian business Big Bite Eco’s silicone straw design was reviewed first-hand by AT Chat’s assistive tech community.

General AT Comment:

  • I love how flexible this straw is making it easy to scrunch up and pop in my bag. This is a huge benefit over rigid metal straws. I also love the texture of the silicon but find the stream running down both sides of the straw annoying. All in all, really nice product.
  • Very easy to use, disassemble clean and re-assemble, very helpful for those of us with one less functional hand as it means we can drink without having to hold a drink at the same time.
  • The straws are quite thick but I guess they would need to be for cleaning purposes. Overall would take some getting used to a different feel of a silicone straw as opposed to a plastic one. Works better with cold drinks, not the best for a hot drink.
  • I think these straws are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. I love the colours and the feel. The detachable head is a brilliant idea but it would be great to have both bendy and straight options. I say this because when you use the straw without the detachable bendy head, the base of the straw is too big resulting in too much water coming up at once.
  • I love the straw. But due to its overall thickness putting it straight into a can, will probably cause it to wear over time. Also someone with poor or no hand dexterity would find it difficult to put in without assistance.
  • Straw could also be a bit longer. Maybe add another little attachment to the bottom of the straw. I love the straw other than that.

Your Top Tip!

  • Take the bendy part off the top of the straw and wash both bits while they are not joined for a good clean.
  • Remove the top section from its lower counterpart for best cleaning.
  • A great idea if you’re looking to replace your plastic straws and it’s quite a nice looking straw. It takes some getting used to but with increased used could be a good solution to replace plastic straws.
  • Make a straight tip option.
  • Don’t let disability be an excuse to not go eco. There are so many options out there for straws that there should be something for (almost) everyone.

Find more resources:

Want to talk to a health professional about the suitability of this product for you? Call the ILC helpline on 1300 885 886.


Apple HomePod

User review - Apple HomePod. Functionality - 2 stars. Affordability - 2.5 stars. Maintenance - 4.5 stars. Aesthetics - 4 stars. Peer Reviewed AT: Apple HomePod

Apple has recently launched its smart speaker HomePod which uses voice activation through “Siri”. See below how AT users rated its performance and functionality, along with their top tips.

General AT comments

  • I swear it understands about half of what I say.
  • While attractive, it doesn’t really function as it should. Besides the speaker, it really doesn’t follow my commands well or interface with the other things I have. A real letdown given I only use Apple products.
  • It’s a frustrating product, as the speakers are really good, but the functionality isn’t there. Siri can’t differentiate between different users voice (while Google Home and Alexa can], it also doesn’t interface well with non-Apple products like Spotify and Uber etc. hopefully this product will eventually get there with time.

Top tips from users

  • I sold mine and bought an Alexa. More capabilities than this. My tip is not to buy this!
  • Wait until they sort out the functionality of it. It has a lot of potential, just not this first version!
  • Certainly one to consider if you’re in the “Apple ecosystem” i.e. you already have an iPhone, Apple Music, use Siri – then it might be worth the consideration, just limit your expectations of what it can do. Also set your privacy on your phone (because it doesn’t recognize individual voices), people who share the HomePod could potentially access your phone. Enjoy playing music up loud on it, the speakers are ace!

Find more resources:

Want to talk to a health professional about the suitability of this product for you? Call the ILC helpline on 1300 885 886.


Amazon Echo and Dot

User review. Funtionality - 4.5 stars. Affordability = 4 stars. Maintenance - 4.5 stars. Aesthetics - 4 stars.Peer reviewed AT: Amazon Echo and Dot
More devices are entering the voice activated and controlled home automation arena. This month our AT User community reviews Amazon’s Echo and it’s smaller version, Dot.

General comments from users:

  • It only speaks English. It is sometimes hard to make Alexa understand what we want. Personally, Google Home is a little better.
  • For a person with ‘normal’ speech but no movement like myself, it’s a godsend. That being said, I do have to repeat commands quite often. I do ponder what data Amazon is collecting, it’s a concern.
  • For a person with slow speech due to Cerebral Palsy, I found Echo very frustrating to use. I bought an Echo Home to make phone calls. I had to repeat myself so much and she often called the wrong person. I got rid of it for this reason.
  • It was a gift and I use it as an alarm clock/timer mostly.

Top Tips from users:

  • Excellent ‘Drop-in’ feature for use in an emergency to contact friends and family and significantly cheaper than an external contact.
  • The IFTTT (If This Than That) platform is our best friend with this kind of technology. Unfortunately it’s not always reliable.
  • I have several Echo dots scattered around the house so I can be anywhere in the house and it can hear my commands. I sync it with IFTTT to help me control my whole house.
  • Developers of Voice command devices – they should design a setting for stuttered speech.

Please find more resources below:

Find suppliers for this product on NED (ILCA National Equipment Database) here.
Want to talk to a health professional about the suitability of this product for you? Call the ILC helpline on 1300 885 886.


PENfriend 2 Labeller

PENfriend 2 Labeller PENfriend
Particularly useful for people with vision impairment, PENfriend is a digital voice labeller that plays a recorded auditory message to identify an object. The message plays when the user touches the end of the device to the supplied self-adhesive scannable labels. Read on for AT Users ratings, comments and top tips.

General comments from users:

  • Labels can be difficult to put on awkward surfaces and when battery is failing it becomes slow and intermittent. The only other hassle is having to have it handy and getting new labels when you aren’t sure which ones you have already used. Good clothes labels would also be a boon.
  • A very useful and helpful item which is easy to use. Because of its simplicity it is less likely to break down and I use it more than some of my complicated equipment. I would like the speech output to be clearer.
  • This is such a lovely easy way to label items! Great for home and office labeling. The headset jack is great in case you do not wish to disturb others.
  • A fantastic way for vision impaired people to locate and know what’s in the cupboard or items in the home.
  • Very useful

Top Tips from users:

  • I have organized clothing into colours and types in drawers which are labelled and if I want to move things around, I can simply rerecord the description.
  • Buy high quality batteries and they will last a long time without needing to be replaced.
  • It helps to have plenty of labels spare (as I tend to run out). Don’t just use it in your cupboard. I use it to label things throughout the house in places like the laundry and garage.
  • Great for labelling containers and boxes.

Please find more resources below:

Find suppliers for this product on NED (ILCA National Equipment Database) here.
Want to talk to a health professional about the suitability of this product for you? Call the ILC helpline on 1300 885 886.


Philips Hue Light Bulb

An interesting shift in home automation and universal design is the addition of smart lightbulbs. See what fellow AT users think of the popular range of Phillips Hue: the pros, cons and expert AT user tips to keep you out of the dark.

General comments from users:

    • The Hue app is pretty accessible and they work well with Siri, Google Home and Alexa. The bulbs are expensive but they last forever.
    • Has made my day-to-day life easier. Really good if you have light switches in hard to reach areas.
    • Very easy to use, as it can be controlled on either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. There is also on both IOS and android.
    • Of all the AT related devices I have that work with Voice First systems (Amazon Echo Devices), the Phillips Hue Lights have been the most stable.
    • It’s great to see something that is universally designed and can seemlessly be integrated into your current mobile devices. You can control everything remotely, it’s super affordable too!
    • I went Philips Hue globes because at that they were the only HomeKit (Apple) compatible globes on the market. This is definitely no longer true and there ARE other cheaper options I would have explored if I were starting now…as it is I just keep buying Hue globes because it’s simpler to stick to what I know.
    • Outside lights only come on when I come home at night, turning light on/off while I’m still in bed.
    • I wish the remote controls were easier to use and smaller!
    • Back up battery needs to be checked as part of a maintenance program to ensure the door works when power is out.
    • The process of installing them, especially if it’s a retro-fit of an existing door can be very difficult. You might be best starting afresh with a new frame. Obviously this can be very expensive. Once installed though, I haven’t had any major issues with maintenance in a 4 year period.

Top Tips from users:

  • Buy the starter kit, and set up Hue bridge correctly!
  • Make sure to get the correct bulbs that fit your lights.
  • Keep the app updated and play with the different functions for ones that work for you.
  • Set up the light bulbs in groups per room and light fixture.
  • Get the switches with the batteries (rectangular version) as opposed to the ones without (round shape). These latter ones use the pressure of pressing the button to generate the electricity to activate the switch. Many times you have to press it several times to work.
  • Look at the whole range, there’s different bulbs for different needs. You may not actually need the multi-coloured version (although fun, I rarely use it). It’s pretty affordable but there are value multi-packs available. You can get it to easily speak to your Google Home. I use IFTT app to facilitate it.
  • I found I hardly ever used the option for changing colour, so unless you specifically want it for something, I probably wouldn’t bother getting full colour globes. White-only ones are a ton cheaper
  • Research remote controls before installing and get a ups (battery backup) in case of power failures!
  • Make sure the back up battery is checked frequently.
  • Pay the extra money and get a back up battery installed. It’s worth it so you don’t get stuck in your house (particularly in an emergency).

Please find more resources below:

Find suppliers for this product on NED (ILCA National Equipment Database) here.
Want to talk to a health professional about the suitability of this product for you? Call the ILC helpline on 1300 885 886.


Dorma Automatic Doors

Image descriptor: Review for Dorma Automatic Doors. Functionaility - 4.5 stars, affordability - 3 stars, maintenance - 3 stars, aesthetics - 3.5 stars.Dorma Automatic Doors

 

 

 

 

Automatic door systems help people to effortlessly open doors while offer different solutions for multiple users to safely access a person’s home. We explored Dorma automatic door systems with our AT Community who reviewed and gave their top tips on using them.

General comments from users:

  • I wish the remote controls were easier to use and smaller!
  • Back up battery needs to be checked as part of a maintenance program to ensure the door works when the power is out
  • The process of installing them, especially if it’s a retro-fit of an existing door can be very difficult. You might be best starting afresh with a new frame. Obviously this can be very expensive. Once installed though, I haven’t had any major issues with maintenance in a 4 year period.

Top Tips from users:

  • Research remote controls before installing and get a ups (battery backup) in case of power failures!
  • Make sure the back up battery is checked frequently
  • Pay the extra money and get a back up battery installed. It’s worth it so you don’t get stuck in your house (particularly in an emergency)

Please find more resources below:

Find suppliers for this product on NED (ILCA National Equipment Database) here.
Want to talk to a health professional about the suitability of this product for you? Call the ILC helpline on 1300 885 886.


Google Home

User review - Google Home: Functionality: 4.5 stars Affordability: 3.5 stars Maintenance: 4.5 Aesthetics: 4.25

Image description: Google Home device

 

 

 

 

Voice activated home automation is becoming increasingly popular. We ask our AT community what they think of Google Home. Google Home can be linked to smart devices to enable hands-free voice control over compatible appliances, environmental control units and smart devices using the trigger phrase “Okay Google”.

General comments from users:

  • This is a fantastic device that can do everything from tell you the weather to control your home via voice. A smartphone is required to set it up, the device must be connected to Wifi and power at all times to work, and you will most likely need smart devices to control things like your music, lights, and climate. I did am experiment to see if the Google Home would work with commands given by synthesized speech as part of my Assistive Technology Mentor profile and am happy to say that this works.
  • We have the GH mini. It’s a little soap bubble of fun! Much like a bubble though, it pop and disappears when placed under too much pressure. Best not to expect real AT from this toy.
  • Easy to use, pretty affordable in the scheme of things and all of its functionality. Look forward to the next generation and it becoming even better.
  • We have both the Google home and the Home mini. Very easy to set up and work well with other 3rd party apps such as IFTTT. As more and more compatible hardware is released the Google home hardware will make life to much easier. One advantage of having multiple Google home units is they link together very easily and you can broadcast a message to all Google homes. Makes it much easier than yelling??

Top Tips from users:

  • Put this in a place you are not likely to have your hands in very often and leave it. The top of the device has touch sensitive controls so if in an area with a lot of hand traffic you may find the volume changed and muted quite often.
  • Don’t expect revolutionary AT from this yet. Treat it like a pet and it will entertain you and keep you company for now. It’s worth having, if you believe it has greater potential.
  • Possibly not good for people who are deaf or have expressive difficulties.
  • I love how you can use Google home app to create your own personalised commands. I say “Hey Google. Let’s rock,” and it plays the rock FM on tune in radio. Make sure your unit it set in a place that can hear easily away from other speakers.

Please find more resources below:


Smart Drive MX2 – Wheelchair Power Conversion

Smart Drive MX2 wheelchair power conversion

 

 

 

A power assist device that can be attached to a manual wheelchair to provide additional propulsion. The single unit power pack is controlled via a wireless Bluetooth bracelet which is worn by the user. The battery is built in to the single unit making it compact to fit to rigid and folding manual wheelchairs. An attendant control button is available as an accessory.

General comments from users:

  • Very helpful
  • Mine is very new so not quite used to it yet
  • The main issue is utility – they are best suited to indoor use on flat ground but are often sold for community access on challenging / uneven / sloping terrain. The new control mechanisms are better. Applying & removing the motor section is hard on the shoulders if attempting to do so while sitting in the wheelchair.
  • The SmartDrive is the best invention since sliced bread (at least in wheelchair land).
  • The bracket comes loose alot, sometimes the drive falls off. It is also hard to stop if you have poor hand function/reflexes.
  • I have the mx2 + from funding. Without the help from funding I don’t think I would be able to afford it on my own.

Top Tips from users:

  • Great option for manual wheelchair users who need some assistance with long distances but don’t want a full size power chair.
  • Consider an electric wheelchair if you use wheelchair taxis or vans, or power wheels instead if you can afford them. If you like mall shopping but get tired with propulsion this is a more affordable option
  • If you think SmartDrive is expensive. Realise this; of all the SmartDrives I have sold over the years whenever they needed a repair it has been covered under warranty! Even after the warranty had run out.
  • Tighten the bracket regularly
  • Install the app on your phone and check for software updates. Also try training mode until you get the hang of it.

Please find more resources below: