State-of-the-art home automation, that high-tech extravaganza, which takes charge of menial tasks such as turning on lights or opening doors and drawing blinds, is perceived as indulgence for the rich. But for people like Edgar Uebergang, it means much more than a toy in costly homes.
Mr Uebergang, a 35-year old quadriplegic, lives in an automated controlled house in Hamilton, whose automated features are controlled thru an iPhone app, which he operates via a mouth stick. The home utilizes wizardry gadgets seen only in movies but had never been applied to assist someone with special needs to be able to live an ordinary life before. Simple chores like the freedom to go outside unassisted, five years after the car accident which left him a quadriplegic, was not possible until now.
Uebergang is one of the few disabled patients enjoying these benefits. Costing $30,000 or more to retrofit a property or on top of the cost of building one from scratch. Currently, a disabled person who wants it, is faced with a complex and costly DIY project, like what Uebergang and his family did.
He credits mother Carol and the rest of his family, with making it a reality. “If it wasn’t for them I’d be in dire straits, I reckon,” he said.
“He was just lucky that I was able to support him. Not all parents can do that,” mother Carol says.
His story raises questions about whether accessibility to such life-changing technology should be made available for people with severe disabilities, dependent on family support and financial means for everything. Or whether this specialized housing should be merged into development and planning policies.
Di Winkler from the Summer Foundation, has this goal in mind, when two model apartments in Abbotsford were constructed, fitted with technology comparable to those utilized by Uebergang.
Despite the building staggering expenses, the pay-off will come in amplified independence, dignity, comfort and lifetime care savings, Ms Winkler contends. Researchers from Monash University are monitoring residents at the Abbotsford apartments to produce estimates of that lifetime saving.