CEDIA Member of Excellence Alan Matthews has been making huge strides in accessibility for the home technology industry over the past several years.
Matthews owns the England-based integration business Automated Spaces, which focuses on smart home, home cinemas, and independent living technologies. After hearing about the Policy Connect – Smarter Homes for Independent Living Report at a CEDIA Tech Summit in early 2022, he decided to focus more of his business efforts on independent living technologies. In fact, it has since become a major pillar of the business.
CEDIA’s involvement in the new guidance interested him because he was a CEDIA Member of Excellence. The report offered new advice about what the government-provided disabled facilities grant (DFG) funds could be used for, which he knew was a big deal. “If the disabled facilities grant changed, the delivery guidance for local authorities also changed.” Suddenly, the DFG could be used for many elements traditional smart home installers were already installing.
Some of the most important changes Matthews noticed in the DFG guidance:
- Controlling sources of power, light, and heat
- Smart Lighting
- Smart thermostats
- Smart hubs
- Remotely controlled power sockets
- Automated light switches
- Improving digital connectivity within a dwelling to support assistive technologies
An Immediate Impact
After this momentous realization, Matthews began speaking to local councils and home improvement agencies (HIAs). They had also just become aware of the DFG updates.
Before the Policy Connect Report recommendations, Matthews explains, the HIAs were limited in what they could recommend. “Now with the updated guidance, all of a sudden, they have many more options that can be delivered into the home and provide benefits for people.”
Since the initial conversations, the HIAs have been talking to architects about these updates, as well. The good news traveled quickly: “It’s really positive and encouraging that we’re seeing the central government update has already trickled down to local government.”
To really help these community partners understand how the technology could be used in a home, Matthews arranged a series of visits to Automated Spaces’ smart home show house. He says, “It’s a real house, kitted out with all of the technology inside” that allowed him to “demonstrate a wide array of use-case scenarios around independent living technology.” Seeing how the technology functions in a realistic home setting “brings it to life.” It’s then easier for people to understand how they might use it in their own homes.
A Year Later
In the year since Matthews initially ramped up his efforts to include independent living technologies as a primary part of his business, many exciting things have happened.
- The National Body for Disabled Facilities Grants and Home Improvement Agencies in England, Foundations, invited Matthews to speak about assistive technology at two regional DFG Roadshows. Home Improvement Agencies attend these events, which is a great opportunity for them to see what this technology can do.
- Matthews has hosted a number of tours at the Automated Spaces show home with demonstrations to home improvement agencies, local councils, housing associations, and independent living occupational therapy providers.
- Automated Spaces has been charged with creating an overall independent living solution for a local architect’s client project. The architect contacted Matthews’ company after touring the show house — the architect’s client and their occupational therapist also toured the home.
- The business is in early-stage discussions with a group of Care Homes to create a demonstration room in a residential care home setting. Matthews visited a care home to provide an in-person technology demonstration, particularly focusing on TV, radio, light, and curtain control. The care home was impressed with the potential capabilities and has since begun exploring setting up a demonstration room in one of their three care homes to gently introduce residents to the technology.
What You Need to Know About Integrated Tech & Accessibility
Matthews is changing how smart home technology is seen, particularly in his home country England. Automated Spaces became a CEDIA Member of Excellence and won awards during 2022. Matthews won the 2023 Education Volunteer of the Year award.
For integrators, he emphasizes the importance of taking time to read the updated guidance. Once you understand the changes, reach out to your local care providers, home improvement agencies, and occupational therapists to start having conversations with them. “They’re very keen to understand,” he says. If you have a showroom, use it to help the caregivers and community partners in your area understand the good you can do with the technology you’re already installing.
This work can drastically improve quality of life, which is what the industry is all about.