Accessing Potential Through Assistive Technology
Gifting Guide Day 14: Smart Microwaves

Yes, there actually are smart microwaves that can be operated hands free!

I had to see it to believe it myself, but there are now a number of microwaves that can be controlled via voice commands with Alexa or Google Home. No more searching and trying to find the correct buttons.

These microwaves require the user to place the food in the microwave, but then they can do the rest by stating something similar to, “Alexa heat for 20 seconds.” There are also a number of presets available to make the process go even smoother, but I know sometimes presets are more trouble than they are worth. One GE model allows the user to scan the barcode of a frozen meal, and the microwave knows what settings to use. An Amazon smart oven offers convection and air frying capabilities.

Of course, before purchasing any smart microwave, it would be beneficial to look into reviews and features. I am not able to recommend any specific one, but I am providing a couple of resources below that may help in your decision making.

Top 8 Smart Microwaves– Only the first four are voice controlled

The Best Microwaves for Blind Person and Visually Impaired – this article is almost two years old, so keep that in mind when considering their valuable information

Holiday Gifting Guide Day 13: Bidet Seat
Alpha JX Bidet Toilet Seat with remote control installed in a bathroom

A bidet is a specialized bathroom fixture for cleaning yourself after using a toilet. While popular throughout the world, bidet fixtures still see limited use in the United States. Bidets may be a separate bathroom fixture that looks like a small wash basin next to a commode or may be a bidet toilet seat or a handheld bidet wand.

Bidets greatly aid in cleaning your backside after elimination, especially for people who have difficulty using toilet paper. Handheld bidet wands are the least expensive option, and require the user to manually clean their posterior. Cost of a bidet wand ranges from $50 to $150.

Bidet toilet seats are more expensive, but can do the job automatically, and this is typically what our rehabilitation engineers recommend when doing bathroom modifications. Bidet toilet seats cost from $300 to $1000+ depending on options. Reasonably priced models around $400 have features such as heated water, heater seat, different washing functions, automatic washing, heated air drying, remote controls, and may even have a night light around the rim. More expensive models have motorized lids and advanced cleaning functions.

I like to have hands-on experience with any assistive technology that I recommend, and so I purchased an Alpha JX  Bidet Toilet Seat for a round bowl, cost around $340, a few years ago from . This device has all of the must have features at a reasonable price. Based on experience, I have the following suggestions and observations. The bidet seat is larger than a standard toilet seat, making the opening smaller. If at all possible, I would recommend only installing a bidet seat on an elongated the toilet. The seats for round bowl toilets are smaller than most people are used to, but this may be a benefit for smaller users.  The heated water is a must have, and the automatic cleaning feature is highly recommended. I would recommend a seat with a remote control for anyone with mobility problems, as the remote can be placed or secures somewhere easily accessible. People like the heated seat, especially when the weather is cold. A quick, pre wipe for people with soft stool is recommended for a more complete clean. Be sure to measure the space from the toilet seat bolt holes to the back of the tank before ordering; as I mentioned before the bidet seat is larger than a standard toilet seat and may not fit all toilets. It takes longer to use the bidet seat than toilet paper alone, as the dry function may take a minute or two to cycle through. So bring some good reading material! Over all, bidet seats, especially when combine with a sheet or two of toilet paper, will result in better clean. And they make a huge difference in independence for people who are unable to reach to clean themselves at all.

 For a more detailed description and tips on using a bidet seat, visit

Gifting Guide Day 12: Robotic Vacuums

As someone who spent a few summers as a professional cleaner, I now avoid it whenever possible. When the first Roomba robotic vacuum came out, I was skeptical but intrigued. I bought my first one in 2007. It was a Roomba 560, the third generation, and many of the kinks of earlier models had been fixed. I have been impressed, as that vacuum is still going strong. I’ve replaced the brushes, filters, and battery, but it still works as well as when I bought it. Over the years, I’ve added to my fleet of cleaning robots, including two Scoobas (robo mops) and a Samsung PowerBot9000. The Samsung is a better cleaner, but it has some problems charging, and getting reasonably priced parts is impossible.

Well Used Samsung Powerbot and iRobot Roomba vacuums

While robotic vacuums are not as effective at cleaning as a push or canister vacuum, they are easy to use if you don’t have the time or ability to vacuum, and the way I see it, if you run the robot three times a week, your house will be much cleaner than if you only pull out the push vac once a month. Some of the higher-end models can even empty themselves.

One major caveat; if you have pets, you better be sure there hasn’t been an accident before the robot runs. It will make a mess and may damage the robot.

Some robots move methodically across the floor, leaving those nice straight vacuum lines (like my PowerBot). Others move randomly (like my Roomba) and leave a random pattern the carpet. There is no visual difference if you use on hard floors, but if you like lines, look for one that vacuums in a grid pattern.

Some vacuums have smartphone apps. I’ve never had one like that, but if you want to set your vacuum off from work, that might be a feature worth the price. Another feature is a scheduler. Before I had pets, I had the robot automatically vacuum a few times a day while working. Now that I have pets, that is a big no-no. Some robots work better on hard floors vs. carpet. Both the Samsung and Roomba I have worked fine on either surface. Another nice feature is side brushes. Side brushes will allow the robot to clean along the edge of the room and closer around furniture. My Roomba has side brushed, and my Samsung does not. There is a definite difference in that the side brushes definitely clean more area. I also like it when the vacuum can find its way back to the dock to recharge. Some robots, like the Roomba, need extra sensors (called a lighthouse) to find their ways back when it does multiple rooms. Another cool but pricy feature is automatic dust bin emptying into a docking station.  I never minded emptying the dust bin, but if you find it difficult to do every time it runs, auto empty may be worth the price.

As I can’t possibly buy and review every piece of technology out there, I maintain a subscription to Consumer Reports to get an unbiased opinion on what the best products are each year.

Robotic vacuums vary in price from $200 to $1000. But the more expensive devices don’t always clean better. Some of the best ones, according to CR, include the Eufy RoboVac 11, the LG Hom-Bot CR5765, the Samsung Powerbot Limited Edition Darth Vader and Storm Trooper editions(Really? Where is Gonk?), and the Samsung Powerbot SR20H9051, the Ecovacs Deebot M88, and the tried and true iRobot Roomba S9+. The prices on these robots run from $250 to $900, depending on features.

I highly recommend finding a good robotic vacuum. Just be sure to pick one that has the features you need.

Gifting Guide Day 7: Power the lights on and off without making a move

With today’s technology, someone can be sitting and never have to lift a finger to turn the lights on (or off).

Imagine getting into bed and realizing the kitchen lights are still on. For many, this is frustrating to walk back to the kitchen. For others, they have to get back into their wheelchair to return to the kitchen to flip the switch.

There are a number of safety features that may be automated, such as if a camera or motion sensor senses movement after a certain time, lights come on. When not home, lights can be set to to randomly go on and off. The lights can also be set to automatically come on at sunset or at a certain preferred time.

Philips Home Bridge with four bulbs in starter kit

This Hue Starter Pack includes the Hue bridge and bulbs to get started.

  • The Hue bridge plugs directly into router and utilizes the built in Zigbee network.
  • The Hue bridge allows up to 50 bulbs to be controlled via voice or smart device. Timers, routines, and more are able to be set on each of these bulbs.
  •  With an Amazon Alexa or Google Home device, you can use simple voice commands such as, ‘Alexa, dim the lights’, or,’ ‘Hey Google, turn on the table lamp’, to control your lights. Compatible devices include: Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation or newer, Amazon Echo Plus, Amazon Echo Show 5 or newer, Google Home Mini and Google Home Hub.
  • Up to 10 Hue bulbs may be controlled using Bluetooth without using the bridge, but there are a number of limitations. More info on this can be found here at Hue’s website. I highly recommend using the Hue Bridge.
  • The bulbs are guaranteed to last 3 years, so there is much less replacement of bulbs!
  • The bulbs and bridge are compatible with the Hue app that may be installed on any iOS or Android device. This app allows users to customize lighting for their needs and to control from outside of the home if needed.
  • There are a vast number of types of Hue bulbs available to fit the needs of your household.
  • How to set up the system

Wyze bulbs are a budget friendly option

Sengled bulbs have more compatibility and still a budget option

  • Sengled bulbs work with Apple HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Home.
  • These bulbs have an energy consumption tracking feature built into their app
  • These are another budget friendly option, at around $12 per bulb.
  • No hub or bridge is required, and setup is very quick. They connect directly to your home network.
  • These bulbs are missing most of the advanced features, but through the Alexa or Google Home, some may be able to be utilized.
  • These bulbs are more readily available than the Wyze bulbs.
  • These bulbs require the use of the Sengled Home app.
  • How to setup the system

Pro tip: Pick one and stick with it. It’s easier to have one system than bouncing back and forth.

Comment below if you have some other smart bulbs you have found to work great in your home OR if you have any great tips on how to better use them with voice activation.


This list is provided for informational purposes only as APTAT does not endorse specific products or brands. When purchasing be sure to thoroughly research the product features to ensure it will meet your individual needs.

Gifting Guide Day 5: Make Your Entry Smart

Keeping Your Entry Secure But Accessible

One of the major issues I’ve encountered in the past when working with individuals who have difficulty answering their door is…how do we make it possible for frequent guests and caregivers to enter and exit the home but also keep the home secure? This isn’t an occasional problem for people with disabilities that require multiple caregivers or service providers to visit their home. Smart home technology has made it easier to keep an entry secure but also accessible to the homeowner, guests, or service providers. It prevents potential injury from trying to answer the door if the individual is unstable with mobility and also eliminates the need to give multiple people keys to their door.

When purchasing any smart entry device look for the following features to improve accessibility and safety:

  • Remote control of the door lock and alternative means of activation such as smart device control or voice control.
  • The ability to unlock the door manually in case the guest or caregiver does not use a smartphone or the wifi is down.
  • Look for devices that use Zigbee connectivity to avoid wifi connectivity issues.
  • The ability to view the doorbell camera quickly and easily on preferred device. Look for options that don’t require multi step activation of the video feed.

Smart Lock

  • For consumers with a mobility difficulty that makes it troublesome to answer a door I love recommending a smart lock that they can activate either by a remote, smart device, or voice.
  • Look for a smart lock that allows you to set up codes and visitor accounts through the app for guests or caregivers that visit frequently. This increases security because the app will notify you when the specific person opens your door. It’s also easy to delete the access when that person should no longer have entry to your home.
  • I suggest a door lock that also includes a keypad so if a guest does not own a smart phone they can enter their code to unlock the door.
  • If the door lock includes Zigbee connectivity like the Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt, it will eliminate potential issues with wifi connectivity.
  • PRO TIP: For individuals with difficulty opening a door, contact a DME to discuss the possibility of installing an automatic door opener. Making entry and exit through the door completely hands free!
video doorbell

Video Doorbell

  • Anytime you install a smart lock that will be activated remotely I highly recommending also installing a video doorbell so the user can see who is at the door before they unlock it.
  • Be sure to look for a doorbell camera that can stream the video feed to your preferred device platform. An example would be the Ring Video Doorbell which can work with multiple smart device operating systems as well as Alexa.

Video Feed Device

  • Investigate which device would be easiest to access with the individual’s preferred method. It doesn’t provide any benefit if the video is streamed to a device the user can’t activate!
  • One of the easiest methods I’ve found for a user to view a video feed is through the Amazon Alexa Show which can be activated directly and also by voice.

Do you have a favorite smart entry product that you’d like to share about? Comment below!

Did you enjoy this training module? Please complete our participant survey to help us with our federal reporting.

Follow us on social media to keep up with the latest on the Gifting Guide!

This list is provided for informational purposes only as APTAT does not endorse specific products or brands. When purchasing be sure to thoroughly research the product features to ensure it will meet your individual needs.

Gifting Guide Day 1: Smart Devices for Temperature Control

Stay the perfect temperature with these cool devices!

Temperature devices are great for someone with difficulty regulating their body temperature. But why would we want them to be smart controlled? Because they can be controlled by a smart device or voice to turn on/off or adjust temperature! Multiple control options are ideal features for someone with mobility issues, chronic pain or fatigue, vision impairment, and many other limitations.

When purchasing any temperature control device look for the following features to improve accessibility and safety:

  • Ability to control through wifi connected app. This allows a user to navigate through a smart device with their preferred access. It also allows for a caregiver to remotely control the device as needed.
  • Ability to control with your favorite smart home speaker which allows the user to control the device hands free by voice!
  • Safety features like timers, shut off, or app alerts.
Image of a folded blanket with controller and smart phone displaying the Sunbeam app

Sunbeam® LoftTec™ Wi-Fi Connected Heated Blanket.

  • Control the Heated Blanket from anywhere using the Sunbeam app, voice assistants, or wired digital controller. Great for when a caregiver needs to adjust the settings remotely!
  • Pair with the Wi-Fi-enabled Sunbeam app to power on, select heat settings, and preheat your bedding from anywhere.
  • Use with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice-enabled devices for easy use, even in the dark. Hands free control is great for accessibility!

Find out more and where to buy at Sunbeam.

Vornado OSCR37 AE 37″ Oscillating Tower Circulator with Alexa

  • Alexa-enabled circulator which allows hands free control
  • Oscillation on-demand prevents direct air flow to someone who may be sensitive.
  • 4 speed touch controls to suit many needs.
  • Quiet operation so those with sound sensitivity can still enjoy the device.

Find out more and where to buy at Vornado.

Atomi Smart Space Tower Heater

  • ETL Certified and with various built-in safety features, such as a tip-over safety switch, overheat protection, and cool-touch housing.
  • With built-in WiFi connectivity, you can control this space heater through an app, which also displays the unit’s status and room temperature so you can increase or decrease the heat as needed. Perfect controls for a caregiver that needs to check in remotely.
  • Use simple voice commands to turn your Smart Tower Heater on or off using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Find out more and where to buy at Atomi.

Ecobee 3 Lite Smart Thermostat

  • Control straight from the app or your smart home assistant. Hands free control!
  • Can be controlled remotely by a caregiver.
  • Can be programmed with a schedule to suit individual needs.
  • Smart room sensors available to make sure the temperature in your room is just right!

Find out more and where to buy at Ecobee.

Do you have a favorite temperature control product that you’d like to share about? Comment below!

Did you enjoy this training module? Please complete our participant survey to help us with our federal reporting.

Follow us on social media to keep up with the latest on the Gifting Guide!

This list is provided for informational purposes only as APTAT does not endorse specific products or brands. When purchasing be sure to thoroughly research the product features to ensure it will meet your individual needs.

Crown Side Up!

Written By: Michael Papp
Posted: 10/6/2021

Tips for Installing Ramp Decks

We frequently revisit old wheelchair ramp and landing installations to replace rotten-out deck boards. The combination of heat and moisture in the south is especially tough on wood. Ramps that are painted or have an opaque stain or sealant will hold up much longer, but you can do a simple thing when you build a ramp to increase the life of the decking significantly: Install the boards crown side up!

Image of deck board installed on ramp that is cupping, or bending upward.
Boards that are installed crown side down will cup, encouraging water to sit on the wood longer, causing it to rot out faster.

The crown is the curvature of the board that you will see when looking down its narrow edge. Lumber from freshly cut wood will cup toward the bark side as it dries. Cut lumber that is kiln-dried, then milled to its final size, will cup away from the bark side.

When building a ramp, you will most likely use plain-sawn kill-dried lumber, such as 5/4 (Five Quarter) deck board, which will tend to form a cup or crown. In the photo above, the board was cut from the tree’s center, as you can see the round rings in the wood grain. The wood is cupping away from the center of the tree toward the bark side.

Illustration of 3 pieces of lumber viewed from the end: One flat, one installed bending down, and one installed bending upward.
Kiln dried plane sawn lumber fresh from the mill is flat. Lumber will cup over time when exposed to weather. Lumber installed crown side up will shed water. Lumber installed cup side up with hold water and rot faster.

When boards are installed crown side down, like the board in the photo, it will warp over time to hold water on the deck surface longer, which encourages rot. An installer that takes the time to glance at the end of each board before securing it can install the crown side up. If the board cups, it will encourage water to drain off the surface, prolonging the life of your ramp. Boards with grain almost vertical through the wood (quartersawn) are more stable and installed either side up.

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