University of Montana Rural Institute

MonTECH – Assistive Technology Tools and Services

    My Experience Building an Accessible Smart Home: Part One, Accessible Design

    By Scott Thomas

    Almost exactly two years ago, we moved from a small inaccessible apartment into an accessible 1,200 square foot home we built. We were fortunate to have someone work with us to design the home. The accessible design aspect went smoothly, making the home smart is another story.

    Let’s talk design first, then attempt to tackle the smart home dynamic in part two.

    Living in the inaccessible apartment was challenging, but helped us to determine what areas we needed to focus on in our design. The first thing that we noticed was that we needed more space. Moving around in a bulky power chair is difficult in small spaces, especially when a caretaker needs to fit too.

    The first area we focused on was the bathroom. The bathroom was our most important and most difficult design challenge. I assumed I could just Google accessible bathrooms and I would be done. Boy was I wrong. It turns out that definitions of accessible vary greatly, which now makes sense. There are a multitude of disability types, and what works for me might not work for someone else. With this in mind we skipped a Google design, and instead came up with one of our own.

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    Back on the Root: Accessible Rafting

    Floating the river

    By Scott Thomas

    A couple hundred yards down river a beautiful bald eagle scooped a small fish out of the bend, then gently soared up river over our heads. Once the eagle had vanished into the distance I returned my gaze to the mesmerizing water below. Crystal clear, shimmering river rocks, schools of fish darting through the shallows. A perspective only attainable when one is sitting on the water itself. This was my recent experience, me and my 350lb power wheelchair floating the Bitterroot River on an accessible raft. Hard to believe it’s possible, but it is.

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Programs and Support:

Montana Adaptive Equipment Program

MAEP provides positioning, seating, mobility, recreation and some ADL equipment to Montanans with qualifying developmental disabilities. This grant-funded program may be able to loan adaptive equipment (AE) to children, teens and adults who have a qualifying developmental disability (see eligibility form) and are unable to acquire the AE by other means or need to trial equipment prior to purchase. Our clinical coordinator is available to assist families, therapists, and family support specialists in selecting the best equipment to meet each person’s specific needs.

Montana Assistive Technology Program

MATP provides AT information and services in education, employment, community living, and telecommunications. The mission is to enhance the independence, productivity, integration, and inclusion of individuals with disabilities through consumer responsiveness as defined in the AT act.

Other Programs and Projects 

MonTECH oversees various assistive technology (AT) programs and is continually seeking to expand the AT services and supports available to Montanans. Click here to view other projects and programs offered through MonTECH.