Smart Homes to Improve Quality of Life of Disabled


Background Information

Technological improvement has had a significant influence of the daily way of life not just for in communication, commuting, entertainment, but also going further into education and information outreach. Historically, the challenges of accessing information, education, knowledge, and entertainment, core components measuring quality of life, was limited to people who would access the source physically (Bigonnesse et al., 2018; Agree, 2014). However, technology has significantly bridged this, and levelling, although not entirely, the playing field. Survey conducted by Gibson et al. (2012), indicated that older generation says technology largely influenced their interconnections with youth, feeling livelier, and more knowledgeable. Another research taken on a global scale showed that technology has helped people in combating mental health and wellbeing by offering emotional gains and sharing with both medical professions and being to communicate freely with other who have undergone similar situation. In one survey, 78% of the parents indicated being able to connect with the children who are away for education or work help them feel emotionally connected while, in the United State of America (US), 83% of the working parents noted being easily able to connect with their children make them feel safe and secure while at work (PEW, 2015). Moreover, more than 55% of people surveyed in the US indicated feeling confident on influence of the technology on the general wellbeing of the society both through interconnectedness among people, sharing issues and personal problems, and collaborative solution on social problems. Whatsapp In the United Kingdom (UK) perspective, survey show positive effects of technological advances on the wellbeing of people generally. Employees across the UK indicated positive influence ranging from flexible working conditions such working from home, improved communication effectiveness, reducing stress associated with commuting to work, enhance feedback mechanism, and improved employee voice (Taylor, 2015). Although smart technology covers a very wide scope ranging from social media, healthcare, communication, travelling (touring), banking, and working, effect on the larger wellbeing and by extension quality of life show a positive impact. Robust evidence exist indicating potential influence of smart homes in enhancing quality of life, wellbeing, and health both physical and mental of the people. Influence of emerging technology on people wellbeing highlighting health and fitness (source Google, 2020 Technological influence on employee wellbeing in the UK (Statista, 2019

However, the question remains to be seen is whether the same can be said for the people living with disability. Technological advancement held by smart homes such connectivity of devices and dwellers (parents-children, and keeping an eye on pets) as well as being able to monitor and control security but little talked about the wellbeing and quality of life of the people living with disability. Currently, technologies such as Amazon echo, smart lock, smart doorbell, smart thermostat, and smart lighting have increasingly become necessary for the disabled and elderly. As pointed by REF, for them, these devices are not novel but becoming assistive aiding in maintaining and functions of day-to-day tasks. Additionally, smart devices enhancing mobility, voice control, and safety have been seen as drivers of empowerment and independence of disabled people.

Research questions

This research into ways smart home improve quality of life for the disabled will be based on the following research questions.

How has technological advancement influenced the way of life of the people living with disability?

How has development in smart homes impacted the wellbeing and quality of life for the people living with disability?

Research objectives

  • To review critically literature on influence of technology advancement on people’s quality of life
  • To investigate the effect of technology on wellbeing and quality of life of the people living with disability
  • To investigate ways improvement in smart home technology has influenced quality of life of people living with disability
  • To appraise data collected from primary and secondary source highlighting ways people living with disability have been impacted with smart homes technology

Chapter 2: Literature review

Technology and Users Wellbeing

Ideally, every technological development and improvement has inherently been driven by need of changing and enhancing way people do things. According to Memon et al. (2014), beyond technological advancement in medical field leading to better medication, minimal invasive surgeries, better monitoring of the sick, and telemedicine, continuous development of technology has also seen limitations and restrictions experienced by people with disabilities such as mobility, communications, expression, and social participation reduced significantly. A study conducted by Jamwal et al. (2020) focusing on exploring smart homes and communication technology on people with disabilities and complex needs found impact on the flexibility, interconnectedness, participation, and access wider social aspects by these group of people attributable to technology. In addition to enhancing communication and engagement, technological advancement has been lauded to improve wellbeing in terms of emotional, functioning, supportive, and evaluative. Building description held by World Health Organisation (WHO, 2020), quality of life is a factors of such attributes as physical health, family, education, safety, freedom, social participation, emotional support, and sense of security among other things.  Ways technology has influenced various aspects of people lives Although ethical issues have been raised owing the vulnerability of the group, living with disability, the findings showed independence, participation in social aspects, and mobility been improved significantly. Taking a realistic perspective on the technology and disability, Frauenberger (2015) posited assistive technology offers functional needs but need for to exploring more on philosophical perspective. According to Desmond et al. (2018), assistive technology is a powerful tool towards enabling people to participative directly or indirectly to social, economic, and political affairs as well as leading life with low limitation and barriers. A study by Vacher et al. (2011), emerging smart homes intended to incorporate independence of elderly and people with disability by compensating some occupants’ disabilities. The principled concept of the smart homes is built around integration of sensors, actuators, monitors, and cameras operating with network that monitors constantly ongoing situation and offering accordingly assistive procedures (Chan et al., 2009; Wilson, Hargreaves, and Hauxwell-Baldwin, 2015; Majumder et al., 2017). Vimarlun and Wass (2014) found that smart homes present a huge potential for assisted living by being adaptive and flexible. Exploring effectiveness of smart technologies in intervention for people with cognitive impairment and physical disabilities, Layton and Steel (2019) found that although empirical studies on use of technology on care homes and applicability with people living with disability, little has been done on efficacy or touching on their wellbeing. The findings by Majumder et al. (2017) highlighted that although the technology has increasingly focused on improving physical functioning of the elderly and disabled, there have been less focus on monitoring and facilitating social interaction among these group of people. The argument raised on the difficulty of integration of platforms supporting participations and enhancing individual wellbeing due to such factors related to ethics consideration. Investigating home automation in empowering people with disability, Ghazal and Al-Khatib (2015) found that engineering the homes to aid in daily chores such as regulating thermostat, jump-starting fan, dishwashers, and switching on the lights has seen an enhanced mobility and accessibility. According to Hussein et al. (2014), principally, popularising the idea of smart homes among people living with disability aimed at reducing or eliminating the barriers and limitation to enjoyment of life. Adaptive homes that use intelligent systems geared around conceptualising dimensions of people with severe intellectual disability has shown a significant shift in culture of participation the people living with the problem that include more inclusivity and involvement in social activities (Hussein et al., 2014; Tassé et al., 2012). Investigating the influence incorporating smart devices in care home for elderly, the findings by Zimmermann et al. (2018) showed a despite initial negative perception of interconnectedness to devices due to aspects associated with technological-knowhow and security, performance expectancy, expert advice, and effort expectancy were found to relatively high. The positivity modelled around being able and its effectiveness in communication to care aids and relatives outweighed the negative for technology anxiety and perceived cost. In context of socially-assistive robot, Torta et al. (2014) highlighted that the devices acting as proactive interface and providing multimodal communication channels provides positive feelings to users. The findings by Papadopoulos & Koulouglioti (2018) and Das et al. (2015) showed trusts based on reliability, availability, and accessibility of such devices as humanoid robots and interconnectedness brought by smart home to outside world have a potential of engaging emotionally by elderly and persons living with disabilities. According to Liu et al. (2016), ability to configure emergency assistance features alerting family members at any time and instantly in case any security problem gives a sense of security. Currently, number of studies exists exploring the influence and potential held by technology in improving the lives either as a supporting physical functionality or as connectedness to wider world. However, little has been done on the impacted of such interconnected brought by smart homes has or will have on the emotionally wellbeing.

Chapter 3: Methodology

Research Approach

As highlighted by Sekaran and Bougie (2016), in conducting a research, one need a systematic plan mapping out the procedures and steps to followed in a manner that ensures a research questions are answered satisfactorily. Three approaches commonly used are inductive, deductive, and abductive. In inductive reasoning in a research is based on generating a conclusion or coming up with a theorised inferenced based on the data, patterns, themes, and findings of the research. Here, according to Jebb et al. (2017), a researcher moves from a generalised problem founded on research questions then collected data to answer the questions and achieve stipulated objectives. On the other hand, the deductive approach posit taking working from specific point such as existing theory or concept, then collecting data to prove or disprove its validity (Azungah, 2018). For this research, smart homes are relative emerging technology but number of studies has been conducting on influence human lifestyle. However, little has been done regarding the wellbeing and quality of life of people living with disabilities. As such, informed by research questions and objectives, this research will follow inductive reasoning to reach a conclusion based on data collected.

Research methods

As pointed by Brannen (2017), a research involving social participants can take either a shape of qualitative or quantitative research. In qualitative approach, the collection methods and subsequent findings are modelled to explore ideas and opinions in depth to provide an insight to the research problem. Whereas, quantitative research is grounded on presenting the data and findings statistically. According to Hennink, Hutter, and Bailey (2020) in this case, solution to the research problem is expressed numerically capturing the relation between core variables. Notably, in some situation, a research may opt to employ both approaches using quantitative approach to map out and set platform for a follow-up in depth qualitative research. In this case, the focus of the research will be to investigate the impact of the smart homes on the quality of life, measured on such factors as happiness and wellbeing of the people living with disabilities. As such, it will employ qualitative approach.

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Data collection and Ethical consideration

In data collection, 15 research participants who encompass mainly of the individual with installed smart home and living with disability or with a person will disability will be interviewed. Ethical issues of interviewing persons with disability will be taken into account that include, not interviewing persons with mental challenges. The participants will have to be physically disabled or living with as a guardian of a person with disability. In all cases, a consent letter capturing the details, extent, and use of data and information gathered will be given and signed before commencing data collection. The data collected will be tabulated before thematic analysed.


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